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Packers Must Prove They are Contenders Against Lions

The spread might be two touchdowns and they might be playing at home, coming off a bye week against a team that has not won in Green Bay in almost two decades, but the Packers’ matchup on Sunday against the Detroit Lions will tell Packer Nation and the rest of the league just what to expect the rest of the season.

On one hand, the Packers could come out with a chip on their shoulder after their embarrassing loss to the Vikings on national television by taking it to the lowly 1-4 Lions. On the other hand, they could struggle once again to look solid in all aspects of the game and leave more question marks than answers.

It would be short of a miracle if the Lions pulled out a victory on Sunday, but that can not be the focus for the Packers this week.  While a team never wants to guarantee a victory or come into a game thinking they have the game already won, Week Six means a lot more than one game in the standings for the Packers.

Adjustments are sure to have been made during the bye week and now it is time to put them to the test.  A simple win by two touchdowns might not be enough to convince the rest of the league, or the Packers themselves, that they are contenders this season.

Inconsistencies on the offensive line, another round of lackluster defensive packages, and rhythm issues between Aaron Rodgers and the receivers have led the Packers to an unimpressive 2-2 record through five weeks of the NFL season.

While the Packers are in no way, shape, or form out of the playoff race just a quarter of the way through their schedule, it hasn’t been what a lot of people expected.  A big off-season included the future of the defense, B.J. Raji, drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, a new and enthusiastic defensive coordinator come in and revamp the defense, and expectations through the roof for Aaron Rodgers.

The pre-season gave even more hope to fans and Super Bowl predictions were being thrown around the TV and internet from NFL analysts alike.  If the offense could continue their point binges, the already outstanding defense would just be an added bonus.

It’s natural for Packers fans to expect big things from our team.  We’ve been spoiled with one of the most stable franchises in all of sports, the greatest stadium in professional sports, and a title within the last fifteen years.  We saw the greatest quarterback of all-time call Green Bay home for 17 years and put us back on the map and, unlike many situations, the transition of Hall of Fame quarterback-to-replacement has been steady so far.

With a favorable schedule coming up that also includes a chance to take down the division leading Minnesota Vikings, it’s time for the Packers to go for it all.  Changes on the offensive line have been made including the signing of veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher, who will provide good depth, the offense is going back to the drawing board and looking to throw more short passes, and the defense will make adjustments so as to not continue giving up the big play.

Injuries that hurt the Packers will be fewer going forward as players at key positions had the chance to gain extra rest with the bye week.  With all of these factors combined, there are no more excuses for the Packers.  Ted Thompson, like him or not, built this team from within and expected big things when the pieces came together.  It’s clear that this time is now and if results do not come soon, changes will be made.

There’s no reason that the Packers should not be one of the top teams in the NFC at the midpoint of the season in four weeks.  It all starts against the Lions, who will more than likely be without their top two offensive players in Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

The Packers will no doubt play to win and will not call off the dogs if a blowout ensues, but look for them to work out the kinks that they have struggled with all season.  Expect a heavy dose of blitzes on Daunte Culpepper and on offense, look for Rodgers to complete passes early and often so he can find a good rhythm.

No matter how big the win is, no one will crown the Packers leaders of the NFC after this week.  But what better way to start building momentum than at home against a division rival?  The 2-2 record is not bad but at the same time is a reality check to the Packers that nothing will come easy this season.

The best part is that no one is calling out coaches or players in the media.  It would be easy for Greg Jennings to demand the ball more (he did, but in half-joking form), or Aaron Rodgers to ask for competent pass blocking every once in a while.  How easily could Charles Woodson ask for more blitz schemes so that he isn’t asked to cover his receiver for seven seconds?

Call it optimism, homerism, or false hope, but the Packers are destined for greatness this season.  They will need to play better than .500 and need to make adjustments, but there is enough talent on this team that booking plane tickets to Miami is not out of the question.  The question is whether or not they can harness it and turn it into consistency on the field.  Time to see if they can.


October 16, 2009 - Posted by | Football, Green Bay Packers, NFL | ,

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