Green Bay Packers

Thursday Morning Ramblings: The Best Offense in Football Takes the Road

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After two weeks of play, the Green Bay Packers have the best offense in football.

That’s right. Savor it. 

It doesn’t feel like so long ago that the Packers struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball, even with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. It frequently felt as though the team was unable to gel when the offense was on the field; the growing pains of year one in a new offense were real.

But in year two, it’s as though a switch suddenly flipped. Here are a few fun facts:

  • The Packers lead the league in total offense (1010 yards) and total scoring (85 pts).
  • The Packers are just the fourth team in NFL history to have more than 1,000 yards and 80 points after two weeks, joining the ‘98 49ers, the ‘91 Bills and the ‘19 Ravens. 
  • The Packers and those Bills are the only two teams in NFL history to have more than 1,000 yards and at least 85 points after two weeks.
  • The last two times an NFL team started with back-to-back 40 point games, those teams made the Super Bowl (‘13 Broncos, ‘09 Saints).

The rarity of what the Packers have accomplished after just two weeks cannot be understated. This is one of the best offensive starts a team has had in NFL history.

Of course, it’s a long season. But this is a bit reminiscent of the last historic Packers offense, in 2011. Not only did that Packers team get off to a hot start, but it did so after an unusual offseason that saw little in the way of training activities, and an abbreviated training camp due to the lockout that season. Defenses that year never really caught up to the offenses, and Aaron Rodgers feasted all year long, registering perhaps the single-finest season in league history for a quarterback.

The  Green Bay Packers already had an edge over many other teams simply due to the sheer number of starters they had returning; that continuity is huge given the offseason that just happened. But it’s looking as though the team has really found its comfort zone in Matt LaFleur’s offense, and that LaFleur himself has really found his game planning and play calling rhythm.

If the Packers come out and make yet another offensive statement on the road against the Saints in their first primetime action of the season, it’ll be a major statement that will put the rest of the league on notice. 

Greg Jennings shows growth in the booth

I know Greg Jennings is essentially canceled for Packer fans, and I understand that. But for the last couple weeks, when fans learned Jennings would be part of the crew announcing the Packers’ forthcoming game, the reactions tended to be rather over-the-top in their negativity.

The little bit of Jennings I heard in the booth last year was definitely rough, but then when you add in Jennings’ real-life crusade against Aaron Rodgers, it just wasn’t a particularly appealing booth setup for Packer fans.

Ultimately, though, I think Jennings showed a lot of growth in the role. While he’s definitely not an A-tier analyst, he managed to blend in with the more seasoned announcers he was working with in Chris Myers and Brock Huard. There were no really memorable gaffes or awkward moments, and he certainly didn’t display any bias against the Packers. In fact, he spent much of the pregame on Sunday proclaiming Davante Adams to be the best wide receiver in the NFL. 

I’m not particularly a fan of Jennings at this point, but none of that has to do with his booth persona; I think he’s shown he belongs there, and he deserves commendation for his marked improvement over last season.

One guy to watch this week

While the offense is getting all the headlines this week (and deservedly so), this week I’m actually more interested to see what the Packers do on the defensive side of the ball.

There was a time when the entire Saints offense flowed through Drew Brees. Now, though, Brees is over 40 and long past his prime, and it’s versatile running back Alvin Kamara who is the most important figure in the unit.

Control Kamara, and you can control the football game. Any time you have a major backfield weapon, you look at your interior linebackers as the most important figures in stopping them. So with that in mind, this week I’m closely watching Christian Kirksey to see how he’s able to manage the pressure of dealing with such a versatile back.

One of the main gripes Packer fans had with Blake Martinez was his inability to handle versatile players and get out in coverage. Kirksey was brought in as Martinez’s replacement (and ostensible upgrade). The work he puts in this week, including how he deals with Kamara, will be one of the more intriguing aspects of the game to watch. 

So far, you’ve got to feel good about the contributions Kirksey has made. But this will be the team’s toughest test yet, and it comes in prime time. The spotlight will be on.

Thursday night prediction

Thursday Night Football: bringing you such gems as Browns vs. Bengals and Dolphins vs. Jaguars. Browns/Bengals actually turned out to be a reasonably entertaining game… so what can we expect from this one?

The Jaguars have been surprisingly competitive so far this season, after many assumed their offseason moves meant they were content to tank. While they don’t have much to speak of in the way of defense, their offense has been surprisingly effective. The team gave the Tennessee Titans, a final four playoff team from a year ago, a good run for their money. 

The Dolphins, meanwhile, really pushed the Bills in week two, after a poor start to the season against New England. There’s a chance this could be a pretty competitive matchup.

Right now, I like the way Jacksonville has shown up in its first two weeks, and I’ll take them at home to pull off a victory to bring them to a surprising 2-1. 

Two Minutes’ Hate: New Orleans Saints

The Saints are a uniquely hateable franchise. Never before has a team been so relentlessly shoved down the nation’s throats as the team to root for despite being so utterly unlikeable in every aspect.

There’s the quarterback, Drew Brees, the ultimate stat padder, Matthew Stafford with a worse arm in a better franchise, who for a decade and a half has been the posterboy for the Saints.

Has there ever been a Hall of Fame caliber player who’s had more excuses made for them? Aaron Rodgers frequently gets excoriated by critics for not having more than one ring, and the Packers get lambasted for “wasting his prime,” but the Saints have accomplished far less with a quarterback many believe to hold similar stature to Rodgers among the all-time greats.

In fact, they had a losing record three years in a row with a Brees at the peak of his powers. For whatever reason, though, the national media never gives a second’s thought to why Brees has spent most of his career failing to live up to expectations.

The game against the Vikings in the playoffs this past year perfectly encapsulated the Brees legacy. All the gaudy stats ring hollow when the man frequently comes up small in big moments. He and his team were embarrassed in front of their own fans against an inferior opponent, despite the pundits all telling us they were going to coast to the Super Bowl. 

The only thing more hollow than Brees’ volume stats is the apology statement he put out after making meathead comments on the anthem protests… during the height of the biggest protests of racial injustices seen in decades.

Then you’ve got Sean Payton, who was suspended a year for allowing the Saints’ infamous, illegal bounty system to happen under his watch. A man who somehow still manages to crack a top 5 spot in coach rankings each year despite having only made it past the divisional round once since the team’s 2009 Super Bowl win, and only making the playoffs about 50 percent of the time since that season.

If Mike McCarthy was carried by Aaron Rodgers, then Sean Payton owes every single ounce of his “offensive genius” reputation to Drew Brees. 

You think the Bountygate scandal was bad? What about the team’s ownership, which allegedly provided significant aid to the New Orleans diocese of the Catholic church in covering up abuses committed by its priests? How the hell did this get swept under the rug? How did the NFL just decide that this was a non-issue? 

Finally, there are the fans. In an NFL landscape of fandom that also features Vikings and Seahawks fans, Saints fans might be the most annoying and hateable of them all.

This is a fanbase that still, to this day, believes they were somehow the victims of a smear campaign with Bountygate, and some sort of conspiracy theory to get Payton ejected for a season. A fanbase that bitched so loud and so hard over a (truly awful) missed call in the conference championship that they managed to get the league to change the rules to allow review of pass interference… which lasted a single season.

Remember watching football in 2019, and how infuriating it was when officials would simply refuse to overturn blatantly wrong PI-related calls? Yeah, you can thank Saints fans and their bottomless victim complex for that. 

Somehow, this fanbase has it in its head that they and they alone have been the victims of awful officiating, and not only that, but that the NFL has a personal vendetta against this team for… reasons? This, the same team the league and the national media have shoved down our throats since Brees and Payton arrived in town as being the “good guys bringing success to an underdog franchise.”

The sheer amount of self-righteousness that oozes from this franchise and its fans when it has been complicit in some truly awful scandals is infuriating and I cheer for this team to lose every single game it plays.

Also, the Superdome sucks ass. Cry about it.

Packers 30, Saints 24

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