Monday, December 26, 2016

Packers (9-6) Build Big Lead, Fade In 4th Quarter, Beat Vikings in Lambeau, 38-25

The talk that QB Aaron Rodgers is in the mix for MVP is nice but it ignores his mid-season slump and a couple early season games when he couldn't stop fumbling the football. Though he's finishing up the 2016 season on a hot streak.

Over the past few games, with the return of TE Jared Cook from injury and the elevation of Ty Montgomery to starter at running back, the offense has transformed from good to great. A few weeks ago, I knew they needed to find some threat of a running game to open up the passing game, and Montgomery has provided a legitimate rushing threat that defenses have to consider. The return of Cook, as a hybrid WR/TE who always has a few inches height advantage over any defender, has been an additional wrinkle. But it's really been the effective running game that's allowed some wide open spaces for Jordy Nelson downfield.
The injuries are starting to pile up (RT Bryan Bulaga and CB Ladarius Gunter both left the game early) though they are something that every NFL team is dealing with at this point. The real problem is that the cornerbacks aren't getting any better.

CB Damarious Randall was benched last week but he ended up playing a lot after Gunter was injured. It looks like his confidence (or his knowledge of the defensive schemes) are shot. He spent a lot of time looking around at his teammates after a Viking receiver (usually WR Adam Thielen) torched him. Unfortunately CB Quinten Rollins is just as ineffective, more because of bad technique (getting turned around by a receiver or not enough recovery speed). To be fair, CB Micah Hyde gave up a late touchdown reception too. Other than giving the undrafted rookies a shot (which isn't a good option at all) or moving a safety or two to cornerback (again, not a good idea this late in the season), there's not much to do other than stick with those top three cornerbacks.

And that is the biggest issue going forward. They still need to beat the Lions next week. Then how can these cornerbacks possibly hold up over a four game playoff run to the Super Bowl? Every contender has some significant weakness but being bad against any NFL passing attack is a big problem. I'm enjoying the current winning streak and looking forward to a big game next week against the Lions, but anything afterwards would just be gravy. This defense doesn't look good enough to hold up for a playoff run.

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