After a humbling loss to start the season, the Green Bay Packers have rebounded with remarkable resilience, winning three consecutive games, two of them by double digits. They have once again found themselves near the top of nearly every single power ranking list. Those who mocked the team after Week 1 have been reminded that the Pack aren’t anything to mess around with.
That in itself should be applauded. After a tumultuous and drama-filled offseason, it’s brilliant that Green Bay has pulled it together and is now sitting atop the division.
Yet while small victories should be cherished, it’s essential to look at the bigger picture. Green Bay is about to play three consecutive opponents in the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, and the Washington Football Team, who are far from elite. Despite their 3-1 record, the Bengals have barely escaped from some bottom-feeder teams and are young on all sides of the ball. The Bears have graced headlines with perhaps the least attractive quarterback situation in the league, and Washington is without starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
To borrow a phrase, it’s time to get greedy.
“You have a chance to come out here and sweep a series, something that we’ve been looking to try to get one here,” Paul Molitor once said about his 2018 ballclub that was looking to finish a road trip on a high note. “When you get the opportunities, you want to get greedy.”
Greed and winning were not two words that applied much to the 2018 Minnesota Twins. They finished the season with a 74-84 record, and Molitor was relieved of his managerial duties at the end of the season.
How does this relate to the Green Bay Packers?
No, Matt LeFleur isn’t in danger of losing his job, the Packers won’t tally double-digits in the L column, and it’s unlikely that Aaron Rodgers will be swapping a football for a baseball glove. However, Molitor’s quote resonates: When you’ve got a hot streak going, don’t take your foot off the gas.
Some may see this stretch as a time to play it safe as the Packers prep for higher-caliber opponents later in the season. I can guarantee that LeFleur, his staff, and the Packers’ roster are not those people.
Sure, folks in Vegas will most likely list the Pack as comfortable favorites in each of these three games. Yet sports psychology is a funny thing, and chances are good that Green Bay will feel even more pressure in this stretch given their favorable matchups.
Next Sunday’s showdown will allow the Packers’ defense to hone in on a red-hot Joe Burrow and rock-solid Joe Mixon. Conversely, the Bengals have a solid defense of their own, allowing an average of 17.7 points per game (fourth-best in the NFL). The Packers will likely attack Cincinnati with their dual-threat offense, which has evolved since Week 1.
Chicago and Washington certainly don’t look as good on paper as the Bengals. Even so, don’t expect to see backups or third-stringers in the game unless it’s garbage time in a blowout. After a rocky debut, Justin Fields showed flickers of promise last week, and any team coached by Riverboat Ron Rivera has the potential to erupt.
That being said, Green Bay will be living by Molitor’s philosophy during this three-game stretch. Consistency is vital in the NFL. Good teams can occasionally upset opponents yet will often fall in games they were supposed to easily win. However, great teams find ways to upset tough opponents but also make sure that they dominate all the lesser teams.
The pressure is on the Packers these next three weeks. They’ve already overcome the adversity of an ugly start and appear to be improving consistently. This stretch could serve as a make-or-break, though. If Green Bay goes into each game with the same mental approach that they’d carry against a top-tier opponent, there’s a good chance that victories will follow. Yet, ultimately, NFL football is NFL football. If the Packers come out sloppy and play tight, there’s a good chance they could not only lose multiple games but the confidence that has trailblazed them to where they currently sit.
Aaron Rodgers has been a cornerstone of playing sound, clean football for a long time. That won’t cut it for the next three weeks. If the Packers are serious about a deep playoff run, they’ll need the entire roster to lock in, focus on what they can control, and play loose, aggressive football.