Fresh off a 26-11 beatdown at the hands of the Chargers, Green Bay returns home as a 5.5-point favorite against Carolina in Week 10 as per MyTopSportsbooks. Concerningly, the Packers’ defense was exposed by a lackluster LAC run game and now has to face a Panthers team that ranks 11th in rushing efficiency (19 spots higher than the Chargers). Meanwhile, Green Bay’s pass-oriented attack will be facing Carolina’s 3rd-ranked passing defense. All in all, this shapes up as a bad matchup for the Packers. Expect the point spread to move slightly in the visitor’s favor as game day approaches.
Special teams, the third phase of NFL play, has not been very good for the Packers – especially in the return game. Earlier this season, the Green Bay Packers made the decision to move on from receiver/return-man Trevor Davis as they traded him to the Oakland Raiders for a sixth round draft pick. Davis had an underwhelming career with the Packers as he struggled to get snaps on offense and was often criticized for his decision-making as a return-man
However since he was traded, the receiving core has had sporadic production and in Davante Adams’ absence, running back Aaron Jones has been Aaron Rodgers’ top receiving target and the return game has been, well, the Green Bay Packers’ return game.
Once Davis was traded, undrafted rookie Darrius Shepherd took over and the results, to put it simply, weren’t good. On kick returns, Shepherd would average just 16.3 yards per return and the Packers’ offense rarely started drives past the 25-yard line. In fact, opposing teams would intentionally kick the ball shy of the end zone, knowing Green Bay couldn’t get the ball to the 25-yard line and oftentimes not even to the 20.
In the punt return game, Shepherd would only return two punt attempts and totaled -9 yards with a crucial fumble against Detroit that could have cost the Packers the game. Fearing another mistake, Shepherd became even more conservative and in his 13 total punt return attempts, 11 were fair catches. Instead of being a weapon, the return game has been a liability.
And for as much grief as Davis had received, he did give the Packers play-making ability in the return game. Although in 2018 Davis was sidelined for much of the season with injuries, in 2017 he would finish third in average yards per punt return and seventh in average yards per kick return.
Since being traded, Davis has fared particularly well as a punt returner with an average of 26.9 yards per punt return, including a long of 52. The Packers have since moved of from Shepherd for Tremon Smith but I think it’s clear that they’d be better off with Davis in the return game.
Moving on to the offense, as I previously mentioned, Davis rarely saw the field under former head coach Mike McCarthy but this summer under coach Matt LaFleur, he put together the best training camp and preseason of his career. Now, this isn’t to say that if he was still with the Packers he’d be a game-changing receiver for this offense, but he would be another option for Rodgers and a weapon for the creative LaFleur to design plays around.
In Oakland, Davis has only had eight targets but he’s caught seven of them for 83 yards while also having three rushing attempts, one of which he took 60 yards for a touchdown.
During his tenure with the Packers, Davis took a lot of flack from fans – and at times deservedly so – but as Green Bay is in a position to win the NFC North and make a Super Bowl push, it’s hard to deny that he wouldn’t help this team with his skill set if he were still here.