CONSISTENCY IS KEY: Packers start 3-5 for first time since 2006

Offense, defense have yet to play 60-minute game
Luke Reimer

The 2022-23 NFL season has been a season of firsts for the Green Bay Packers, though those firsts may be counterproductive.

For the first time in Aaron Rodgers’ 18-year career, he was a double-digit underdog on Sunday. For the first time in Matt LaFleur’s head coaching career, he lost two regular season games in a row, then three and finally four in a row. This was also Rodgers’ first loss in the prime-time television slot in his last 13 starts at night.

These firsts are obviously not what a team looking to contend for a Super Bowl wanted from its first eight games. Much like the last couple of weeks, the Packers are in uncharted territory and are now two games below .500. The 3-5 record is the first time the Packers have had that record since 2006 — in Brett Favre’s penultimate season in Green Bay.

Inconsistency is just one of the problems that are currently plaguing the team. This season, Green Bay has gotten wins because of its offense — Chicago and New England — and because of its defense — Tampa Bay — but those two entities have yet to come together in a single game.

“We had too many momentum swings, I think,” said Rodgers, recapping the loss to Buffalo. “We couldn’t answer back when we needed to.”

The rush defense is quickly becoming an achilles heel for the team, as the Packers currently rank 29th in yards given up on the ground per game. That problem may not soon be fixed either, as against Buffalo, Quay Walker was ejected after an altercation on the sideline and De’Vondre Campbell left the game with a knee injury, leaving Eric Wilson and Isaiah McDuffie in unfamiliar territory.

Opponents are gaining 141.3 yards per game on the ground, something that may not subside, as Green Bay is looking ahead to games against Detroit, Dallas, Tennessee, Philadelphia and Chicago — all teams that average over 131 yards rushing per game.

Injuries didn’t only affect the defensive side of the ball in this game, as rookie wide receiver Christian Watson was forced out of the game with a concussion. Receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are currently injured and Sammy Watkins has a long injury past, that Green Bay may not want to rely on.

“Yeah, that’s football,” said LaFleur on Watson’s injury. “You have to be able to adjust.”

The silver lining in this though is that with three contributors down on offense, the Packers were forced to rely on Aaron Jones — something that LaFleur has been questioned about all year. While almost having to be forced to use a Pro Bowl running back is a spot of concern for Green Bay, the results more than paid off for a stagnant offense. This obviously didn’t help Green Bay win the game, but it did provide the team with energy and big plays, something any middle-of-the-pack team requires.

Immediately establishing a run game often pays dividends for teams in the form of setting up deep passes with play-action. With Jones averaging 5.9 yards per carry, defenses have to respect Green Bay’s run game. Additions to the offense may help, but consistently using a run game should open other areas of the field up.

“I think that we have to find that balance,” said LaFleur, on Green Bay’s ability to get the run game going. “I was super proud of our ability to come off of the football — I thought that everybody was blocking hard. I thought Aaron (Rodgers) did a good job of getting us in and out of looks. I also think that we have to be able to mix it up a little bit.”

Green Bay currently sits four back in the loss column to the Minnesota Vikings in the division. In fact, the Packers are last in the NFC North in points scored.

There is no sugarcoating it, the Packers have a problem, whether it be players, staff or the front office — something is not working this year. Finding a team identity and becoming consistent in what they do should be a starting spot for this team that is looking to turn its season around.