Green Bay Packers

Green Bay’s Next Four Games Present A Golden Opportunity

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers won two of their first three games. That more or less lines up with the expectations during pre-season prognosticating. It did seem more likely that the Packers would beat the Minnesota Vikings and lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The specific results were switched, but their record coming out of September is still right where most fans and analysts thought it would be. Now the Packers are going to have a relatively easy sequence of four games before facing a brutal stretch, and that’s why the next month is critical for Green Bay.

New England Patriots

Green Bay’s first October game is against the Patriots next Sunday. They are generally a competitive team under head coach Bill Belichick, but they have faced offensive adversities with the new coaching staff. Josh McDaniels left in the offseason to coach the Las Vegas Raiders. Therefore, Belichick opted to split the work between two long-time assistants, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, who had basically no experience coaching offenses.

That decision has resulted in a stagnant unit. For instance, the Patriots are last in motion at the time of the snap. The team has scored less than 20 points in two of their first three games. Moreover, starting quarterback Mac Jones suffered a high ankle sprain, and veteran backup Brian Hoyer will probably be the starter in Lambeau Field on Sunday.

How to beat the Patriots: New England has been progressively better on offense, scoring seven, 17, and 26 points in the first three weeks. Even with some problems, the team is 11th in offensive DVOA. But the unit is almost certainly doomed to fall without Mac Jones.

Hoyer, 36, is an older quarterback without much mobility. It’s a perfect game for the Packers to apply extra pressure and use more man coverage. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry used the same concepts against the Buccaneers.

New York Giants

The following week, the Packers travel to London to make their first international regular-season game in franchise history. They will face the Giants at Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium. New York started the season with a surprising win against the Tennessee Titans and a victory over the Carolina Panthers. However, those weren’t sustainable results, and the team lost to a Dallas Cowboys squad without Dak Prescott on Monday Night Football. While Brian Daboll is a promising head coach, the Giants just started a rebuilding process and are not yet ready to compete with the best teams in the NFC.

How to beat the Giants: New York’s defense has been good under former Baltimore Ravens DC Don Martindale, but the offense has yet to produce at a high level in the passing game. Running back Saquon Barkley has been the biggest weapon, so Green Bay’s job will be to limit what he can do in the passing game and force the Giants to make longer drives, increasing the chances of quarterback Daniel Jones making mistakes.

New York Jets

After coming back to the United States, the Packers will face the Jets at Lambeau Field. Starting quarterback Zach Wilson might be back from a torn meniscus and a bone bruise to his right knee, but even if so, he has yet to show why he was the second-overall pick of last year’s draft.

The Jets are 1-2 with veteran backup Joe Flacco. Their only win was an improbable comeback against the Cleveland Browns. The start of their season has been an AFC North tour, and the Jets have lost to the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals. Before playing the Packers, they still have games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Miami Dolphins. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they travel to Wisconsin with a 1-4 record – especially because they’ve dealt with a series of offensive tackle injuries.

How to beat the Jets: Wilson was the worst quarterback last season in most categories, but it’s hard to know how much he has developed since. Meanwhile, the defense has been the biggest issue for the Jets, even though Robert Saleh is a defensive-minded head coach. It’s a perfect game for the Packers to explore New York’s fragile secondary and give the young receivers more opportunities to shine.

Washington Commanders

The last one of this stretch is an away game against Washington, who started the season beating the Jacksonville Jaguars but have lost to the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles since. Carson Wentz had two decent games before struggling to move the ball against his old team.

The Commanders are not a bad team. The defensive line has a lot of talent, and the offense looks much improved compared to last season, but the Packers are still favorites.

How to beat the Commanders: Washington’s offense had been relatively good until the game against the Eagles but couldn’t operate against a better unit. Wentz has been more conservative to avoid turnovers, so the Packers can use their traditional approach with softer zones to limit big plays.

The defense is the biggest problem in Washington, and the 29th in defensive DVOA looks realistic. Against the Lions, for instance, the Commanders allowed 6.25 yards per running back run. It might be a good day to feed Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.

Things get harder after that

The schedule gets much more challenging for Green Bay after this series of games. The Packers travel to Western New York to face the Buffalo Bills, arguably the best team in the NFL, to finish the month of October.

Then there’s a third consecutive away game. The Packers will face the NFC North rival Detroit Lions,  one of the most improved teams this season. Besides already being competitive, the Lions might have rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams back from injury by November.

Later, the Packers have two winnable but not easy home games in a row. The first will be an emotional one against the Dallas Cowboys. It will be the first time former Packers head coach Mike McCarthy comes back to Lambeau Field after Green Bay fired him in 2018. It’s also his first matchup against quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and their relationship was severely scrutinized at the end of McCarthy’s tenure. Then the Packers have a short week before facing the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football.

The Packers also still have to play the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, and Detroit Lions.

According to EDS Football, the Packers have the third-most difficult remaining schedule based on the current winning percentage of opponents. The sequence is harrowing, especially starting against the Bills in late October, and the Packers will need to be at their best.

The next four games are not highly winnable. The next month will be an important opportunity for Green Bay to establish their identity on defense, integrate the rookie wide receivers, and find the best version of their offensive line with David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins back from knee injuries.

There are no sure wins in the NFL, but the Packers need to take advantage of this part of the schedule, or the playoff picture will be blurry.

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