Green Bay Packers

Thursday Morning Ramblings: We Have Ourselves a Contender, Folks

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The Green Bay Packers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Also, why you should hate the Atlanta Falcons. It’s TMR for Week 4.

The game in New Orleans wasn’t always pretty. The defense got gashed again, and showed off some impressively awful tackling.

But in the end, the Green Bay Packers emerged from the Superdome victorious, and came back to Wisconsin sporting a 3-0 record.

With 122 points scored after three weeks of football, the Packers have the best offense in the sport. In week four they get a Falcons team that has given up 38 points to Seattle, 40 to Dallas and 30(!) to the Mitch Trubisky/Nick Foles Chicago Bears. You can expect this offense to drop a whole lot more points this coming week.

We’re going to talk about the defense in the moment, but any time you have an offense functioning at this level, you have to consider the team a championship contender. The only quarterback I’d say has been performing at a higher level than Aaron Rodgers at this point is Russell Wilson, who’s been playing out of his mind, but Rodgers is also putting together an MVP-caliber season here in the early going.

In this age of high-octane offenses, the Packers could very well ride theirs all the way to a Super Bowl berth.

How much cause for concern is there with the defense?

The old adage, of course, has always been that offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. The Packers’ defense has given fans plenty of cause for concern after three weeks of play. But has it been bad enough to dampen potential championship enthusiasm?

There’s no denying the fact that the Packers’ run defense has been suspect at best, and that the team is thin up front. After getting sliced up by the 49ers in the NFC Championship game, the Packers took approximately zero steps to address their run game in the offseason. They swapped out Blake Martinez for Christian Kirksey (which, so far, has been a wash) and brought back all the same defensive linemen (Kenny Clark and a bunch of average role players). 

The Packers have allowed just the 19th-most rushing yards in the league, but the fourth-most yards per carry. What this would indicate is that when the Packers start getting into games where their offense doesn’t dominate the whole time, we could see the same results as those San Francisco matchups from a year ago all over again. 

The same is true with passing offense. In terms of volume stats, the Packers rank in the middle of the pack (15th-most yards allowed), but have allowed the fifth-highest yards per attempt.

Basically, the Packers have been able to cover up some of their defensive woes by having an offense so effective and efficient that they’ve been able to keep time of possession in their favor (averaging more than 35 minutes TOP per game). They’re getting just enough stops out of their defense that they can keep their offense on the field and maintain control of the scoreboard.

Advanced metrics showcase the efficiency of the Packers’ offense: they rank right near the top in DVOA. It’s a different story on defense, where the Packers rank right near the bottom. Their overall efficiency, however, is among the best in the league.

Ultimately, if the Packers keep up their offensive output, then there really isn’t much concern over the defense. However, it can’t be expected that the Packers will continue to produce at such an historic rate for an entire season. At some point, the defense will need to improve at least a little bit to improve confidence in the team’s championship hopes, especially if the Packers will have to survive another date with the 49ers, the Wilson-lead Seahawks or the defending champion Chiefs to earn their fifth Lombardi Trophy.

One guy to watch this week

The Falcons are capable of putting up some big offensive numbers, so once again it’s going to be the defense that’s under the microscope. Whether or not Julio Jones plays, it’s going to be a big test for the Packers’ secondary to match up with the Falcons’ aerial attack.

We know what Jaire Alexander and Kevin King are capable of on the outside. I’m not as worried about them. I am, however, particularly interested in the safety play.

Darnell Savage has not yet taken a big second-year leap, and Adrian Amos almost looks like a completely different player in 2020 than he was in 2019. If the Packers’ safety play doesn’t improve this week, the Falcons could put up some major numbers in the passing game.

It’s Amos in particular who needs to improve his play over the first several weeks–he’s being paid handsomely to be a leader in the secondary. In 2019 he showed his ability to be a force on the ball and to make an impact all over the field. He needs to return to that standard of play in 2020 if the Green Bay Packers’ defense is going to be able to hold up to strong opposing offenses.

So I’m watching the safeties, and Amos in particular.

Thursday night prediction

Welcome back to another dumpster fire edition of Thursday Night Football! We’ve got possibly the two worst teams in the league squaring off in a battle for true futility, the Broncos and the Jets, the kind of game that could have been the first football action after the pandemic and viewers still wouldn’t have tuned in.

There’s not a whole lot to this one, folks. The Broncos are bad, but the Jets and Adam Gase are historically bad. At least Jets fans can take solace in knowing that because they have some extra time before their week five game, the team can fire Adam Gase after they get slaughtered in primetime and not have to face nearly as much of a time crunch in getting up to speed with their interim coach as they normally would.

Broncos 24, Jets 6

Two Minutes’ Hate: Atlanta Falcons

Spending too much time hating on the Falcons seems downright mean after the Falcons’ pair of consecutive heartbreaking fourth-quarter collapses. But who am I to resist?

The Falcons managed to make history this past week. Over the last 20 years, not a single team in the NFL has managed to blow multiple 15-point fourth-quarter leads in a single season.

The Falcons just did it in back-to-back weeks. And somehow, their coach still has a job.

This is a sign of organizational gutlessness and weakness, one that dates back to the team’s all-time embarrassing collapse in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots, and one that permeates everything about the team.

Simply put, this is a franchise of losers. There are no championships, no truly iconic players of the past that are remembered primarily for being Falcons. The most success this franchise has ever had has come within the past decade, and it’s capped off by the most heartbreaking Super Bowl loss of all time.

It’s also a team that should be easy to cheer for, given its franchise history of ineptitude, and yet they’re so inept that I actually found myself cheering for them to blow their lead to the Bears this past weekend just for the sheer hilarity of it.

This is where I must also point out how infuriating it is that a franchise as historically un-clutch and victory-averse as the Falcons should be captained by a quarterback nicknamed “Matty Ice,” presumably for his ice-cold nature in big-time moments, when in actuality he’s a noodle-armed tier two player for the position on his best day who’s somehow managed to start 12-plus seasons in the league as a “top 10” kind of guy without any real memorable, signature moments. 

Is there a blander star player in the league? Even Ryan’s MVP season was just sorta… whatever. Yeah, the numbers were great, but was there a single person in the world who was like “I just have to watch and see what Matt Ryan does next!” 

For a guy with a snazzy nickname that’s been hammered into our brains for more than a decade, he lacks any real appeal, both as a player and as a personality. Am I really supposed to watch this dude struggle to chuck the ball more than 30 yards through the air and be like “hell yeah, this is awesome?”

If Matt Ryan were a food, he’d be plain oatmeal with skim milk.

He’s Chad Pennington with a better marketing gimmick and an all-time great wide receiver.

Speaking of that receiver, it must suck for fans to know that Julio Jones, the greatest Falcon to ever put on a uniform, will never win a ring. Sooner or later fans are going to start cheering the guy to be traded just so he can play for a non-snakebitten franchise and actually have a shot at a championship.

The Falcons can score, but their defense is a sieve. They’ll probably keep it interesting but, let’s be real, Dan Quinn is still the head coach, and this team is allergic to victory.

 

Green Bay Packers 41, Atlanta Falcons 27

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