Green Bay Packers

Finding The Packers' Blueprint For the NFC

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Through the first quarter of the season, the Green Bay Packers are currently the sixth seed in the NFC and the second seed in the NFC North behind the Minnesota Vikings.

It’s not an awful position to be in, all things considered. Green Bay is one of four 3-1 teams in the conference. Only the Philadelphia Eagles remain undefeated. The NFC West and South leaders — the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sworn Packer enemies — sit at 2-2.

The 2022 season is still relatively young. But sample sizes are leveling out, and the genuine contenders are becoming clear. A top seed in the NFC is still in the cards for Green Bay. They haven’t consistently looked like a championship team, but no one in the NFC really has. What advantages do the Packers have over the conference, and what changes can they make to stay relevant in January?

Before the season, Los Angeles Rams and Buccaneers were Green Bay’s presumptive rivals in the conference. (And you can never count out the 49ers.) All three teams sit at 2-2, and the Packers have already beaten Tampa.

These teams have a few things in common: inconsistent quarterback play, beat-up offensive lines, and bad injury luck. Matt Stafford has been much worse than Jared Goff this year, Brady has been missing his best weapons, and Jimmy G is Jimmy G. All three teams have struggled to generate big plays this season, though Tampa and San Francisco have higher offensive ANY/A value.

But the Bucs and Niners both have solid defenses helping keep their middling offenses afloat. Despite what fantasy football fanatics might lead you to believe, a balanced team is the key to victory in the NFL. The Packers have had the league’s best offense multiple times, but that didn’t stop special teams and defense from making me cry.

That’s why the top teams in the NFC are the balanced ones. The Philadelphia Eagles are the top seed not only because Jalen Hurts took a massive leap this season but also because of their high-powered defense and trench play. The Dallas Cowboys are 3-1 despite losing Dak Prescott in Week 1, thanks to a stellar defense led by Micah Parsons and Cooper Rush playing good enough football to win.

The NFL has been more balanced this year, as many top offenses appear to be struggling. While the Kansas City Chiefs lead the NFL in offensive EPA, the next four teams are the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, and Seattle Seahawks. Sans the Chiefs, these aren’t teams known for great QB play or a traditionally dominant offense. The Ringer’s Steven Ruiz said of these QBs, “They’re role players in offenses designed to make their jobs as easy as possible, whether it’s with a strong running game, a QB-friendly passing game, good play-calling, or all of the above.” It’s been an atypical year for offenses league-wide.

What does that mean for the Packers? Based on the above data, we can see that Green Bay has some advantages over its peers.

One is that, while Aaron Rodgers might not quite be playing to his usual standard yet, neither are any of the other star quarterbacks in the NFC. Rodgers is still generating big-pass plays with his rebuilt receiving core, while Stafford and Brady haven’t been the same. Having the back-to-back MVP is a boon other teams can’t claim.

The Packers also have offensive line depth most other teams crave. Tampa, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have lost vital pieces through retirements and injuries. Meanwhile, Green Bay just got two starters back. While Elgton Jenkins has struggled at right tackle, Bakhtiari looks better weekly. Offensive line injuries were a big reason the Packers haven’t made the Super Bowl in the last two seasons, so getting healthier while other teams lose depth is a big deal.

Even with these advantages and the entire NFC appearing less powerful than the AFC, the Packers still have a lot to fix. The Eagles look like a bonafide Super Bowl contender. Hurts took a big leap. A.J. Brown has been a fantastic addition. Their run game can carry the offense when needed, as we saw against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and guys in both trenches are getting the work done. The Cowboys aren’t far behind, even with a backup QB. Even the New York Giants are 3-1.

The Packers need to work out the issues on offense to stay relevant. The team is uncharacteristically turnover prone, and the rookies are making rookie mistakes. You can still win that way facing third-string QBs, but you won’t go far in the postseason making fixable mistakes. This season has made it clear Rodgers and Co. do their best work when playing within the rhythm of LaFleur’s offense, and all parties need to recall that.

They also need to figure out their best offensive line setup. Green Bay tends to be stubborn and overthink the decision of who their best five are. Jenkins may be best at guard after all, and that’s okay. But the Packers must consider a new alignment soon to let their ideal five build chemistry.

Even though it’s good in spots and filled to the brim with talented players, Joe Barry’s defense has been wildly inconsistent. The run defense is bad enough right now to cause flashbacks of the 2019 NFC Championship game. We all saw how that movie played out. Joe Barry must adapt to the teams he plays and be more fluid with his personnel groupings.

Green Bay’s issues look fixable from the outside. The problem is more in execution and chemistry than a lack of talent. It’s a long season, and the Packers don’t get a bye until Week 14. If they stay relatively healthy, they still have one of the most talented rosters in the conference. And there’s a clear path to winning the division, even if they currently sit behind Minnesota, which is a weird team and nearly impossible to predict. The Packers must find their blueprint to success and make the necessary changes to hang with the conference’s best teams in January.

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Photo Credit: Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Apc Pack Vs Patriots 25515 100222wag

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