Sep. 26, 2016
Are the Packers the most dangerous team in the NFL?
That is what Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the Packers started the 2014 season 1-2 and when the team was a mess offensively. He wasn’t lying when he said everything was going to be okay. The Packers ended up finishing the 2014 regular season going 11-2 and went all the way to the NFC Conference Championship Game.
“We can run the table”
That is what Rodgers told Packers fans when the team was sitting 4-6 and just lost to the Washington Redskins to extend the team’s losing streak to four games. The Packers still have two games left to play, but so far Rodgers has been right, again. Instead of the Packers extending their four-game losing streak, the team is now in the middle of a four-game winning streak and sits at an 8-6 record and controls its destiny to win the NFC North.
The Packers still have to finish the season on a six-game winning streak, beating the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions, to reach the playoffs. It’s no guarantee that it happens, but right now the Packers are the most dangerous team in the NFL and may be sleeper picks for the Super Bowl if the right things happen.
Anytime a team has a quarterback like Rodgers, that team is going to have a chance to win any game. Rodgers is a future Hall of Famer and has the highest career passer rating in NFL history at 103.7. 2015 was the worst season of his career. He finishing the season with a 92.7 passer rating, the worst of his career since becoming the starter. However, the struggles could be blamed on lack of quality receivers and virtually no running game.
When Rodgers and the team struggled earlier this season, some thought the MVP quarterback may no longer be MVP-caliber. In Rodgers’ first nine games this season, he had a passer rating over 100 only twice and and three games under 80. Since then, Rodgers has turned it on, putting up passer rating numbers such as 115.0, 116.7, 108.9 and 150.8
Part of the Packers’ success has been due to the resurgence of Rodgers in recent weeks. Rodgers had been missing throws he used to be able to do in his sleep and made many mental mistakes, but has seemed to have fixed those problems and is as accurate as he was when he won MVP’s in 2011 and 2014. However, Rodgers is only part of the reason the Packers are so dangerous now.
Another large reason for the Packers recent success is the breakout of Ty Montgomery. Montgomery was drafted by the Packers in 2015 as a wide receiver. However, due to an ankle injury last season, he missed most of the year and only played six games.
Now healthy, Montgomery is showing how skillful he is, but instead at running back. When running back Eddie Lacy was placed on the injured reserved early in the season, it left the Packers without a quality running back. James Starks filled the role, but was not succeeding as the primary back. As a result, the Packers moved Montgomery to running back and it’s been their best decision this season.
His total season stats won’t blow anyone away. He only has 390 yards and three touchdowns, but that is mainly due to lack of usage most of the season. With Starks now injured, most of the running back duties are Montgomery’s. Last game against the Chicago Bears was his best yet, running for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries.
When Montgomery runs, it does not look like someone who has just recently started playing the position. His vision is incredible and he has the patience to wait for holes to be created. His rushing numbers are a small sample size, but for the year he is averaging an incredible 6.5 yards per carry, the highest of anyone with 60 or more carries. His success in the backfield has helped open up the offense for the Packers. Teams now must respect the Packers’ run game, which has allowed more successful play action looks for Rodgers.
The offense is the lethal part of the Packers, but the defense is starting to hold its own now, too. The defense is not great by any means, but has gone from terrible to around average. Some of it was due to players not performing as well as expected, but injuries also played a role. At one point the Packers defense had double-digit defensive players on the injury report. It got so bad that for some time Green Bay had to play safety Morgan Burnett at linebacker because all the other linebackers were injured.
During Green Bay’s four-game losing streak, the defense gave up 38.25 points per game. Since then, the defense has allowed 15.75 points per game. The defense is much healthier than it was earlier in the season and players like Ha-Ha Clinton Dix have had a bounce-back second half of the season. The defense is still banged up and even a completely healthy defense won’t carry this team, but it doesn’t need to. As long as it is not giving up 24+ points each game, the Packers will be in great shape.
Things are coming together at the perfect time for the Packers. Rodgers is back to MVP-caliber play and Green Bay may have found its running back of the future in Montgomery. With the rest of the team, specifically the defense, getting healthier, the Packers are a scary team for the rest of the NFL.