While Matt LaFleur picked up right where he left off last season, the six other new NFL head coaches of 2019 still aren’t doing well – their combined record in 2020 is 8-15-1. Things would be even worse for them, except that Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians, a head coach previously for Arizona (2013-17), has ridden his new quarterback, Tom Brady, to a 3-1 record…As for the Class of 2020, Matt Rhule (CAR) is 2-2; Ron Rivera (WSH) and Mike McCarthy (DAL) are 1-3; Joe Judge (NYG) is 0-4; the one happy exception is Kevin Stefanski (CLE), who has started out 3-1. Additionally, after only four winless games this season, the Houston Texans just let go of its head coach and GM, Bill O’Brien…The hiring of Matt LaFleur is likely the most impactful – and best – decision the Packers organization has made in decades.
As a team, the Packers are off to a great statistical start in 2020. Going back to 2000, the 4-0 start has been matched only in 2015, 2011, and 2007…Green Bay leads the NFL in points scored, averaging 38 per game. They are second in yards per game (445.5), and fourth overall in both average rushing yardage (150.8) and passing yardage (294.3). They are the only team without a giveaway on the year, and they are tied for sixth as to turnover differential (+3).
Individually, QB Rodgers is second to Russell Wilson at passer rating (128.4). A-Rod is tied for fewest interceptions (0), with two other regular QBs: Derek Carr (LV) and Patrick Mahomes (KC). He’s second in TDs (13), and fifth in passing yardage. He’s also moved up to tenth in completion percentage (70.5%) – a far cry from his 21st place (62.0%) in 2019.
Aaron Jones is second to Dalvin Cook in rushing yardage (374), though he’s only in a 4-way tie for eighth in number of attempts. He’s also tied for second in rushing TDs (4), tied for fifth in rushing first downs (17), and he’s 6th best in rushing average (5.8 yards)…Allen Lazard is fifth in catch average (19.5 yds.) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling is ninth (17.5 yds)…Robert Tonyan is tied with Mike Evans for the most receiving TDs (5)…Davante Adams is in eighth place in receiving yards per game (96.0) and Allen Lazard is 12th (84.7).
On the defense, Za’Darius Smith is tied with the Browns’ Myles Garett for most sacks (5)…A couple ex-Packers rank high in tackles: Blake Martinez (NYG) is tied for second (43) and Josh Jones (JAX) is in tenth place (36).
As to special teams, Mason Crosby has yet to miss a field goal in eight tries. Maybe the most remarkable stat is that punter J.K. Scott has only punted six times in four games – not enough to even qualify for the ESPN punting chart.
On October 6, the Packers announced that Lambeau Field won’t host any fans on November 1 (versus the Vikings) or indefinitely. The announcement went on to relate that the team “will not be able to welcome fans until COVID-19 infections significantly decrease.” I’m upset.
After missing two games with an ankle injury, promising Green Bay rookie tight end Josiah Duguara injured his knee in the final minutes of the team’s win over the Falcons. It has since been disclosed as an ACL injury, thereby ending his season.
Pro Bowl edge rusher Za’Darius Smith was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week following his 3-sack performance against the Falcons. Though this “Smith brother” is having another stellar season, Preston Smith has been all but invisible, with eight tackles, one-half sack, and no QB hits.
Coach LaFleur clearly stated his intent to not overuse running back Aaron Jones, so as to keep him fresh for the games’ final offensive drives – and throughout the long season. The coach has delivered on this strategy. After 4 games, Aaron Jones has rushed from 15 to 18 times each outing, and he’s been targeted as a receiver 4 to 8 times per game (23 throws, 15 completions) by the QB. The improved play by Jamaal Williams has helped make this approach work out well.
One of the team’s goals this season was to improve on their third down conversion rate. I felt that anything over 50 percent would be fine, and sure enough the Packers have converted 23 out of 45 times. They’ve been very consistent, with their only below 50% outing being against the Saints, when they converted five out of eleven times.