Packers starting to gain steam

Weren’t the Green Bay Packer supposedly dead in the water just a few weeks ago? At least that’s what the blogosphere felt like after their third loss of the season. I suppose there’s nothing like getting shellacked on a Sunday night to help right the ship.

We all know what happened in New Orleans. A hamstring strain later, and the Packers looked like a JV squad getting beat up on national television. The bye could not occur at a better time.

Self-scouting, gut check, manning up. Whatever you want to call it, it happened. The Packers have not been the same since, and suddenly Vegas has them as the 4:1 favorite to take it all.

Even last week, the pundits were starting to look at the Packers not as playoffs dark horse, but rather the the favored child. I was paging through last week’s Sports Illustrated while I was at the dentist yesterday, and even there the Packers were the #1 NFC seed, beating Philly in the championship game to move on to Arizona in February.

Philly? If that’s the case, bring it on! I’d love to see a redux of this past week at Lambeau in prime time. If the Eagles are the other supposed NFC contender, the Packer proved they are no match for a Green Bay team on the rise.

But that’s just it. The Packer are a team on the rise. The playoffs a month and a half a way. Whether or not peaking at the right time is a real thing, there’s no mistake the team is playing a different type of football than they did the first half of the season.

The offense is unforgiving and punishing. It’s absolutely unheard of for a team to outscore its opponents by the margin they have the past few weeks. Take way opposing teams’ garbage time scoring, and the margin is over a hundred points. And Packers weren’t running up the score. The Eagles, Bears, Panther and Vikings have not been able to stop them.

No one has had an answer for Aaron Rodgers and his receivers. The Packers’ QB is making an argument for the league MVP in what appears to be one of the best seasons of his life with a cast of youngters not named Driver, Jennings or even Finley.  Another MVP and a ring or two, and he may be the greatest quarterback ever.

And the defense isn’t shabby either.

Perhaps this is where the the self-scout had the most effect. Maybe it was switching to the NASCAR formation. Or maybe it was making a concerted effort to put the absolutely best 11 defenders on the field and moving people out of their comfort zone to play to their strengths and not merely their position name.

Whatever it was, the defense is no longer the worst in the league. Peppers is proving he has something left in the tank and has taken an INT to the house twice. Opening up opportunities for Clay Matthews to reach the QB using Guion as the battering ram to make a hole has pumped new life into the pass rush. And then there’s the simple fact that the Packers are not afraid to bench players this year if they can’t get the job done. Brad Jones was starting at the beginning of the season and has been demoted to a special teams player.

The Capers defense is no longer afraid of change. It’s willing to try new schemes and reinvent itself when the same old defense wouldn’t cut it.

The team is becoming the complete package. The past couple of years, the team has reached the playoffs solely on the strength of Rodgers’ accuracy and cannon of an arm. This year, they are becoming a more balanced team where the defense is starting to hold up its end of the bargain.

The last third of the season isn’t going to be easy. This week could be a trap game. Teams are putting targets on Green Bay’s back. Yes, the Packers destroyed Minnesota in their first meeting. But Sunday will be in their house. And the Packers need to prove they can remain this dominant on the road.

Yet if there is any credence to momentum and heating up at the right time, then the Green Bay Packer are starting to pick up the pace in the last few laps of this race to the playoffs.

If the defense can continue to improve and the team remains healthy, they are poised to be a force of nature in December and hopefully beyond.

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Kelly Hodgson is a writer for PackersTalk.com and you can listen to her as a Co-Host of Out of the Pocket. You can also follow Kelly on Twitter at @ceallaigh_k

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