The Stakes Went Up

Yesterday, I wrote about how there is a lot of football still to play this year and that is true. However, I don’t want to belittle the Aaron Rodgers INTs Training Campimportance of the Packers getting back on track…and fast. The Packers’ loss to the Denver Broncos was a loss to an AFC team which is better than a loss to an NFC team, much less (heaven forbid) a loss to an NFC North team. But the Carolina Panters are a different story.

The Panthers get to hunker down at home to take on the Packers and with the Packers’ loss to the Broncos…the stakes went up. Not only are the Packers trying to stay on top of the NFC (how important is homefield advantage going to be in this year’s playoffs!) but with the Vikings’ win against the Bears (or Bears failure to win…however you see it), the Packers have a team nipping at their heels in the NFC North once again. The Vikings seem to be a team on the rise, though I don’t put too much stock in their win against the Bears…I watched that game, it was not impressive. But if I was being honest…the loss to the Broncos almost makes me feel like the Packers have been in denial of their own struggles for the first part of the year…consider this.

Going into the Broncos game, and I mean before the Broncos game started…the Broncos seemed like a team that had been begging to lose for a long time. Peyton Manning was throwing more INT’s than TD’s and the defense seemed to be all that was keeping them alive and in games. They didn’t have a run game, they couldn’t score, and they couldn’t keep drives alive.

Compare that to after the Broncos game (or even after the first series through the whole rest of the game) and it seemed like the Packers were the team that had been begging to lose and fate finally caught up with them. Aaron Rodgers was out of sync with receivers who couldn’t get open. We lost the run game after about two plays in the first series…and the defense couldn’t hold up against a Peyton Manning who out-played Aaron Rodgers (yes, he did).

So the Packers need to get the offense going and get back the mean streak on defense. It is all well and good to hear Aaron Rodgers say that the team is 6-1. Yes, 6-1 is a good record. But keep in mind that in the NFL, all records are relative. The record of the Packers has to stand in comparison to other records in the NFC North (first) and NFC overall as well. This year has seen more undefeated teams for more weeks than ever before and this makes the relative record of 6-1 seem a lot less dominant than in years past.

Take for example the NFC South, a division that just last year had the same Carolina Panthers go to the playoffs with a losing record (7-8-1) and still win the game against the Cardinals, a team who this year has only two losses and looks to be headed to the playoffs again. The South has the undefeated Panthers (hopefully, the clock is ticking on that undefeated record) but also has the Atlanta Falcons in division, who only have two losses. So the Panthers, like the Packers, have a team nipping at their heels. This means that the homefield in this game could be an important factor. More importantly for Packers fans, the need for the Packers to overcome the loss to the Broncos, get the offense back on track, and become once again dominant on defense becomes all the more urgent.

The Packers’ game against the Panthers this Sunday may have a ripple effect that changes:

  1. The race in the NFC North, possibly bringing the Packers and (gasp) Vikings to a tie
  2. The race in the NFC overall which in turn
  3. Makes a difference in the homefield advantage picture (which may be paramount) for the playoffs

On the other hand, if the Packers can win this game, they will put the Panthers back into a tie with the head-to-head (in case of tie at the end of the year) going to the Packers. Also, it will make the Atlanta Falcons lick their chops, knowing that the Panthers are within reach. If, at the same time, the Vikings lose to the rams (a distinct possiblility in my opinion), they can put more distance between them and the next team below them in the North.

I feel like this game against the Panthers is the one in which we see where the arrow is pointed when it comes to the 2015 Packers. If the offense doesn’t get going…it’s gonna be a long day. If the defense doesn’t get mean…it’s gonna be a long day. So far the most consistent unit on this Packers team has been the special teams, which isn’t on the field that much. Special teams is the only unit that Mike McCarthy thought has a relatively good night in the game against the Broncos…ouch!

Here’s to the Packers hitting their stride and getting it done in a game that just seems to grow in importance all the time. The Packers are not going to panic…but they do need to do something. Now is the time.

Go Pack!

The Stakes Went Up
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