Wednesday, October 01, 2003

First Quarter review. How excited can you get about a 2-2 team? There is reason to be optimistic about the Packers because their offense has played better than a 2-2 team although their defense hasn't. The special teams got a blocked punt against Chicago, but otherwise hasn't been a difference maker.

Offense: The Packers are scoring 26.8 points/game (6th in the league) but on only 331.8 yards/game (12th). But points are more important than yards any day and Dallas with 388.7 yards/game (1st) would probably swap offensive stats with the Packers because they only score 21.7 points/game (14th). The five teams ahead of the Packers in points/game (Kansas City, Indianapolis, Seattle, Denver, and Minnesota) are all unbeaten, so the Packers are keeping good company. Carolina is the only unbeaten team without a top offense, but don't give all the credit to their great defense, because their offense is rushing for 162 yards/game (3rd) and deserves credit too. The Packers are running the ball effectively for 128.8 yards/game (12th). Football thinks the Packers offense is only the 11th best offense so far and Brett Favre's league leading 7 interceptions is probably the biggest negative in their ranking. Favre's interceptions have been very costly (game ending interception in the end zone vs. Arizona) but despite all the turnovers, the offense has remained very productive. The Packers came into this season with three linemen coming back from major injuries (Chad Clifton, Marco Rivera, and Mark Tauscher) and Rivera is the only player to miss any time this season. All the members of the offensive line have played great this season and have allowed a league low one sack this season. My first quarter MVP is the Packers' offensive line.

Defense: It has played like a 2-2 defense, allowing 19.8 points/game (15th) and 336.3 yards/game (24th). They have created some turnovers by catching 7 interceptions (tied for 6th) and forcing 3 fumbles (tied with many teams for 10th). Football has this defense ranked at 18th. They are not very good against the run allowing 118 yards/game (23rd) and below average on passes allowing 218.3 yards/game (18th). This is better than the 124.9 yards/game allowed on the ground in 2002, but a drop off from the 186.7 yards/game allowed against the pass in 2002. I had expected the pass defense to improve this year with the addition of Al Harris, but this unit has regressed. The only consistant pressure generated by the pass rush was during the game with Chicago and that was done by constant blitzing. Cledius Hunt and Joe Johnson have pass rushing ability and past performance, but they need to improve in 2003. The defense is healthy, with the exception of Gilbert Brown playing through his torn muscle injury, and should improve as players such as Hannibal Navies, Nick Barnett and Antuan Edwards become more confident in their new positions. Ed Donatell's defense got better last year until injuries depleted it, so I would expect it to continue to improve as long as they remain healthy in 2003.

Special teams: Josh Bidwell has an unremarkable punting average of 40.6 (21st), but the Packers only allow 5.2 yards/return (6th). Ryan Longwell's kickoffs average a lowly 61.1 yards/kick (28th), but he hasn't missed a field goal or extra point all year (ask Tampa Bay how important it is to make all your field goals and extra points). Antoino Chapman is averaging 23.4 yards/kick off return (16th) and 9.4 yards/punt return (15th), but he has shown great speed and has seemed near to breaking threw on more than one occasion. The blocked punt against Chicago and Longwell's perfection make this unit a positive one that hasn't lost them any games, but hasn't won them any games either.

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