Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Mid season review. Although the Packers' record, 4-4, indicates that they are an average team, only the special teams can be considered NFL average.

The offense has been outstanding: 3rd in the NFL with 365.8 yards/game and 3rd in the NFL with 28.8 points/game. The balance between the running game (154.3 yards/game) and the passing game (211.5 yards/game) is outstanding. Stopping Ahman Green from running should be the focus of every opposing defense, but only St. Louis has really shut down the running game all season. I think this is Brett Favre's best season. He doesn't have numbers comparable to his MVP seasons, but ever since the first half disaster in week 1 vs. Minnesota, he has made few mistakes and he has been very consistent. Favre often struggled at certain places in the past; Minnesota, Dallas and Tampa, but this season it hasn't mattered where he has played, and he has spread the ball around and moved the offense down the field.

The defense had a disappointing first half season: 30th in the NFL with 357.9 yards/game and 24th in the NFL with 24.1 points/game. They have had problems in pass coverage, generating a pass rush, creating turnovers, and getting off the field (teams are 46% on 3rd down against the Packers). The pass coverage was good against a great pass offense in Minnesota last week and might have turned a corner with the return of Antuan Edwards from injury and the promotion of Michael Hawthorne to the nickel cornerback. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Cletdius Hunt have not played up to their big offseason contracts, but neither of them are hurt and it wouldn't be surprising to see both of them have a big second half season. Nick Barnett has had an outstanding rookie season at middle linebacker, but he appeared hurt at the end of the Minnesota game. The Packers have to find a way to generate a consistant pass rush with a four man rush. The nose tackle position is a concern with Gilbert Brown playing through an injury and backup Rod Walker having problems with a bad knee, but the Packers picked up Grady Jackson this week to provide some depth. Unfortunately Minnesota was 6 for 12 on 3rd down last week and the Packers forced no turnovers.

Special teams had one bright spot, Ryan Longwell, who has not missed a field goal or extra point all season long. The punt return and kickoff return blocking seems to be getting worse as Antonio Chapman has seem less effective on returns in recent weeks. Still they are playing better than last year, but they can't let the special team unit regress.

The next two games are favorable for the Packers. They play Philadelphia at Lambeau and although Philadelphia has won three in a row they are not a dominant team, and the injuries are starting to pile up for them. Then the Packers travel to Tampa, where Favre has often struggled but I don't expect him to struggle in Tampa this year. Tampa has followed each win with a loss every game this season. Last week Tampa lost, this week at Carolina they should win, then they should have the corresponding loss to the Packers in Tampa in the following week. Added bonus: Tampa is 1-3 at home this year.

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