The Green Bay Packers have won three straight games after an embarrassing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers almost derailed their season. The Packers sit at 7-4, in prime position for a wild card berth. There are a lot of things to like about the team, right now.
But we’re pessimists and therefore, we can’t quite ignore the obvious negatives of this Green Bay Packers team.
We fully expect the Packers to make the playoffs. They might even win one game, depending on who they play (like, say, the winner of the lackluster NFC East), but the Packers won’t do anything more than that. They’re simply not as complete as the New Orleans Saints or Minnesota Vikings.
It’s apparent then, that these are the things that will doom the Packers at the end of the season.
Red zone offense
The Packers score a lot of points, there’s no doubt about that. They rank fourth in the league with 26.9 points per game, but think of how many points they could have scored if they were a little more efficient in the red zone.
The Packers are 20 of 38 in the red zone, meaning they score a touchdown 52.6 percent of the time inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. That ranks 13th in the league. It’s not terrible, but the league’s fifth-ranked offense should be better.
Against Detroit, the Packers were two-for-four in the red zone – and this was against the 31st-ranked defense in the league. That’s simply not acceptable and it simply isn’t going to get it done in the long run.
The kicking game
Forget for a moment that punter Jeremy Kapinos has twice been called out publicly by Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who’s said Kapinos needs to punt better. Kapinos will never be a great punter. He has a decent leg, but can’t master the directional or finesse parts of the game.
The real reason for worry is kicker Mason Crosby. Crosby was drafted for his big leg and ability to kick in cold weather. After an impressive rookie season, Crosby seems to have regressed.
This season, he’s hit 77 percent of his field goals, which ranks him 25th in the league.
Crosby missed a 43-yarder on Thursday. He’s missed several kicks over 50 yards, this season. Crosby has been long enough on all of his tries, but he seems to have misplaced his accuracy.
You have to wonder whether the Packers’ coaching staff has lost confidence in Crosby. Against Detroit, McCarthy passed up the opportunity for a 49-yard field goal, instead opting to go for a fourth-and-3 with a 13-7 lead. The Packers failed to pick up the first down.
Personally, I haven’t had much confidence in Crosby since he had the 38-yarder that would have beaten the Chicago Bears last December blocked.
With the game on the line, Crosby isn’t the guy you want on the field.
This is nothing new, but the Packers are dead last in the league, averaging 7.9 penalties per game.
It makes absolutely no sense, but the Packers commit more penalties at home than they do on the road, where crowd noise is typically a factor. At home, the Packers average nine penalties a game. On the road, they average 6.6.
How can this be? Well, lack of discipline is one explanation. Or, perhaps it’s just plain stupidity.
I’m not sure how else to explain Atari Bigby’s obvious, blatant block in the back on Thursday. Bigby was blocking on a punt return. His man beat him down the sideline. Bigby’s solution? Push him in the back right in front of an official.
That’s to say nothing of the illegal block penalties racked up by Quinn Johnson and Brandon Underwood, or the illegal hands to the face penalty registered by Brady Poppinga.
Having the youngest team in the league, the Packers are bound to have some mental lapses, but this team has them week after week. There has been virtually no improvement in this area as the season has progressed, despite promises from the coaching staff that there would be.
It’s one thing to have a false start because an offensive lineman can’t hear the snap count in an opponent’s stadium. It’s another thing entirely to make a completely obvious illegal block.
The latter says you’re simply a moron, and the Packers seem to have a lot of those lying around.
Inconsistent running game
One week Ryan Grant is average. The next week he’s a world beater. The next week he’s downright terrible.
After coming off a week in which he gouged the San Francisco 49ers for 129 yards and a 6.1 yard average, Grant shit the bed against the Detroit Lions. He gained 61 yards on 20 carries, an average of 3.1 yards per carry.
What’s even more puzzling is the 49ers defense is sixth in the league against the run. The Lions are 19th.
If the Packers have to count solely on the pass the rest of the season, they’re going to be in a lot of trouble. An NFL team doesn’t win cold weather games by throwing the ball 40 times.
Unfortunately, the Packers never know which Ryan Grant is going to show up.
Anytime Bush is on the field, he’s a liability and with Al Harris lost for the season, Bush is going to be on the field quite a bit.
If you were wondering why 49ers quarterback Alex Smith finished with 227 yards after throwing for only five in the first half of last week’s game, part of the reason is Bush was on the field for much of the second half.
Bush is athletic and fast, but he has an almost uncanny knack of not knowing where the football is. Lack of awareness isn’t the best trait to have if you’re a cornerback.
If you watched the San Francisco game, a prime Bush example was on display. Bush had tight end Vernon Davis covered fairly well, but Smith threw him the ball anyway. All Bush had to do was turn his head and he probably would have been able to knock the ball down. Of course, Bush did no such thing and Davis caught the ball for a 29-yard gain.
By my count, Bush was beaten three times against Detroit – a team that has only one receiver worth noting in Calvin Johnson. With games coming up against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Arizona, expect Bush to be exposed even further. Those teams rank 15th, fifth and fourth in the NFL in passing.
If the Packers make it out of the first round of the playoffs, they’ll face either New Orleans or Minnesota, the sixth and ninth rated passing teams in the NFL.
That doesn’t bode well for Bush or the Packers.