No two teams with the same record are ever completely alike. This year, that’s the case with the Green Bay Packers and other 4-1 teams like the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams.
While the Bills have dominated teams and the Rams have shown their flashes of greatness, Green Bay has zigzagged around to get to 4-1. The Packers have taken an unorthodox path to their record. But the rest of the league should be put on notice for what they could look like once they refine some of their flaws.
Let’s start with the offense.
On one hand, they’ve put up at least 25 points in the last four games, which is a solid benchmark. On the other hand, they’ve put together a makeshift offensive line due to injuries, Rodgers has relied heavily on Davante Adams, and they just generally haven’t gotten in sync yet.
The offensive line has been stout, given that they’ve been without David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins and missed rookie center Josh Myers in Week 5. There are only so many injuries one unit can withstand before the boat starts to leak a little. Given the circumstances, they’ve been tremendous.
Circumstances aside, Rodgers has been scrambling a lot more in the first five weeks of this season than he did in the first five weeks of his first two years in Matt LaFleur’s system. The reigning MVP has been sacked 11 times through five games, which is on pace for 37.4 on the year. That would shatter his mark of 20 sacks last year and would be the most he’s endured in the LaFleur era. But Green Bay is 4-1 even when it hasn’t all been clicking. In a way, that makes the start of the year even more impressive.
Rodgers, for his part, has taken a more aggressive approach and is trying to thread the needle more than in past seasons.
In 2018, Rodgers started all 16 games and threw only two interceptions. In 2019, he made 16 starts and threw four interceptions. Last year, he had 16 starts for a third consecutive year and only five interceptions.
These numbers are absurdly low, but Rodgers has always been known for taking care of the ball and being able to make impossible-seeming passes.
This year Rodgers already has three interceptions so far. This isn’t cause for alarm; he’s just made more foot-on-the-gas decisions.
The defense was a disaster in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, but that has proven to be an anomaly. Since then, the Packers have ripped off four straight victories, and the defense is getting better by the week. Still, Joe Barry’s bunch has some lopsided numbers.
The Packers are now the only team in the NFL to give up a touchdown every single time the opponent makes it into the red zone. It’s an unfathomable number to digest. Green Bay’s defense has given up 13 touchdowns on 13 red zone drives. Per Matt Schneidman of The Athletic, Green Bay stands alone and not in a good way.
On defense, the Packers entered Sunday as one of only two teams in the NFL (Carolina was the other) to allow a touchdown on every single red zone trip by an opponent this season. The Bengals scored touchdowns on both red zone trips Sunday, making it 13 straight opponent red zone visits in which the Packers have allowed a touchdown.
The Panthers allowed two touchdowns on four Eagles red zone trips Sunday, so the Packers stand alone with the NFL’s worst red zone defense. Last year, they ranked 13th in the NFL in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on 59.7% of opponents’ red zone visits.
While the defense has improved, those numbers are flat-out unsustainable for a team that has dreams of winning the Super Bowl. It is cringeworthy not to hold a single team to even a field goal attempt when they are inside the red zone through five weeks. Yet, Green Bay is 4-1.
A slew of injuries has led to some of their problems finding and keeping a groove. Za’Darius Smith is on injured reserve, and it’s anyone’s guess as to when or if he will be back this year. The same stands for superstar cornerback Jaire Alexander. Those are Green Bay’s two best defensive players, two All-Pros, on the shelf for an indefinite amount of time. Yet, the Packers’ defense has still forced at least two turnovers in each of the last four games.
Teams that are also 4-1 like the Bills have been smacking their opponents around. They beat the Miami Dolphins by 35, the Washington Football Team by 22, the Houston Texans by 40, and they just went into Kansas City and clubbed the Chiefs, 38-20.
The Rams are also 4-1 and have done it with an offense that has put up 20 or more points in every game, is second in passing yards per pop, and is eighth in points per game (28.2).
For the Packers, it hasn’t been pretty. They’ve needed two game-winners from Mason Crosby, and they are still trying to get healthy at a lot of positions where they’re missing key players. Nobody doubts that Green Bay is a good team. The fact that they have gotten to this point with their record, especially after the debacle of Week 1, is nothing short of incredible. The rest of the league should be on notice for when things finally start clicking.