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So, uh, What’s Wrong With the Packers?

Yesterday was just a devastating football day for me, you guys.

The Packers blew an 18-point halftime lead to drop to 2-3. The Bears and Vikings both won CONVINCINGLY (against crap teams, but still…) to rise to 4-1. I went 0-3 on my wagers and am scared to even count up how I did on my overall picks. My fantasy scored the 2nd-highest in a 10-team league but will still most likely lose to that of a Bears fan. There have been worse Packers losses, but I’m struggling to think of worse total days.

Here’s how I coped:

I spent last night TERRIFIED that Jay Glazer was going to tweet, “Sources in the Packers organization fear severe high ankle sprain for BJ Raji, pending further tests. Could miss significant time.”

Thankfully, news on Raji didn’t trickle out until this morning, and it doesn’t appear to be catastrophic.

***

TJ Lang’s tweet says it all:

Not to give the defense a complete pass – it was they who gave up 27 points in the second half to a rookie quarterback and perpetually uncovered Reggie Wayne yesterday – but I feel that in totality, they’ve played well enough each week for the Packers to win. (It’s also really hard to quantify when they were essentially forbidden from legally covering receivers and rushing the passer against Seattle and Indianapolis.)

Here’s what’s been going wrong on offense:

1. Aaron Rodgers just isn’t as sharp.

I’ll first acknowledge that he is always under pressure, his receivers are less open, and drops are HEAVILY disrupting the flow of the offense (more on these later).

That being said, ARodg just doesn’t seem as locked in as he’s been for the last two years. He’s missing some throws and making some mistakes that we’re not accustomed to. He threw six interceptions all of last season; this year, he already has four. Picks where you say to yourself, “Man, Rodgers only makes a throw that bad like twice a year,” are happening with scary frequency. Yesterday, he overthrew a wide open Jordy Nelson on a 3rd-and-6 play that would have been a touchdown nine times out of 10 last season.

This obviously isn’t a Blaine Gabbert or Matt Cassel situation. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t suck. He just hasn’t been surgically precise like we expect him to be.

The BEST thing that could happen for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers? Heaps of “AARON RODGERS IS OVERRATED” and “WAS THE PACKERS 2010 SUPER BOWL RUN A FLUKE?” columns. ARodg is at his best when he’s proving the haters wrong. He’s great at responding to adversity.

I’m sure noted troll Skip Bayless has already said something absurd but at this point he’s the boy who cried wolf. We need more legit people to start saying crap like that. Lemme know if it’s happening.

2. Jordy Nelson is not making as many plays.

Last year, he averaged 18.6 yards per reception and scored 15 touchdowns. This season, he’s averaging 12.6 ypc and has only scored once. Especially with Greg Jennings hampered and/or out with a nagging groin injury, Nelson needs to step up.

3. Drops are disrupting the offensive flow.

As opposing defenses focus on preventing big plays, they dare the Packers to sustain drives all the way up the field. Too often, these drives are getting halted by big drops. Supposedly, Jermichael Finley only has three this season but it feels like there have been 48 and they’ve all been on third down. Donald Driver has a couple as well. I’m a HUGE fan of both Finley and Driver, but they need to do a better job holding onto the ball.

4. The offensive line is getting Aaron Rodgers KILLED.

Rodgers has been sacked 21 times so far this season, which puts him on pace for 67 over 16 games. He was sacked 36 times last season and 31 times in 2010.

Bryan Bulaga has been the biggest matador but the entire line shares the blame. This has to improve immediately for Rodgers’ physical health and my mental health.

***

Can it get better? Yes. Will it? I don’t know, but I obviously hope so. For the Packers to control their own destiny for Playoff seeding and even participation, it has to get better sooner than later. There’s NOTHING worse than clutching the remote, praying for the crappy Lions to beat the Bears Week 17. Better to win games now and leave no doubt.

Next Sunday night at Houston – who thus far has probably been the best team in the NFL – isn’t quite must-win territory but we’re getting pretty close.

The offense has worked best this season when Randall Cobb is getting the ball. He’s leading all wide receivers in target conversion rate, having caught 22 of the 25 balls thrown his way. Every time he touches the ball is a potential touchdown.

Hopefully, Greg Jennings will get healthy and Jordy Nelson will regain some of last year’s form.

The sacks and the drops have to stop. If that happens, Rodgers’ precision will return.

***

A lot of my emotions are tied to whether the Packers win football games. Many would say too much. It’s not necessarily rational but it’s the way things are.

More than usual, this season has been a rollercoaster. Week 1, the Packers got outplayed and lost close to a great 49ers team. Week 2, we EVISCERATED the Bears. Week 3, the team beat the Seahawks but the official record shows a loss. Week 4, Green Bay nearly blew a tremendous first half in the second against the Saints. Yesterday, we did blow a tremendous first half in the second against the Colts.

And so I spent a day physically sick to my stomach, unable to focus on anything other than where it all went wrong. I was sad. I tossed and turned in my sleep. I am worried.

But I’m not jumping ship.

I consume an unfathomable amount of Packers coverage and it’s always strange to see the visceral anger that some “fans” have towards the team’s players, coaches, and management. This team won a Super Bowl two years ago and went 15-1 last year. It deserves some benefit of the doubt.

Every week, Aaron Nagler writes his initial gut reactions to that day’s game on the Packer blog CheeseheadTV. After losses, some reader comments are utterly headscratching:

(I can’t quite bring myself to look but I’m sure the comments on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Green Bay Press Gazette are also a sewer.)

And

And

And

Really?!

As I said, I get very worked up over these games. They affect my overall happiness for weeks and months at a time. This isn’t constructive criticism, though.

These comments just cannot be written by people who lead happy lives. Football players and coaches are well-compensated and deserve some level of scrutiny but we’re all on the same team. The odds that “random anonymous Internet commenter” performs his job at a higher level relative to the rest of the world than Mason Crosby or especially Mike McCarthy are INCREDIBLY low. I know I don’t. I don’t know if I ever will.

We spend from February through early September waiting for next year. As gutwrenching as it’s been, this one’s still salvageable.

Go. Pack. Go.

 

 


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