If the NFL season ended today, the #2 seeded Green Bay Packers would host the #7 seed Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. There are still four games left, a full quarter of the season, but the Packers are in good shape to finish as one of the top-seeded teams in the NFC. The NFC North is all but won and could be clinched this week.
Unlike the AFC, where it’s the Kansas City Chiefs’ conference to lose, the NFC is a melee of qualified teams looking for the top spot. Despite a poor matchup earlier in the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there is no reason to think the Packers can’t hang with any team in the NFC. The current 1 seed, the New Orleans Saints, have already lost to the Packers once this season.
In fact, there is only one true enemy that could lead to the downfall of the Green Bay Packers this postseason: themselves. The Packers are their own worst enemy, but if they can fix their mental errors, this team can hang with anyone.
For the most part this season, the Packers’ offense has been earthshattering. Rodgers is playing at an MVP level while Davante Adams looks like the Offensive Player of the Year. While the offense does its job, the defense usually does its job in the end, doing just enough to protect the offense’s lead. Special teams, well, the less said the better.
But when things don’t go according to plan, all three phases tend to meltdown at once. The loss to the Colts is a perfect example of offense, defense, and special teams all collapsing at once. The other team always comes to play, and their efforts can’t be discounted, but the Packers truly had the game in the first half and had a full team collapse in the second half.
As good as this offense is, at times it can sputter. The Packers’ core of young receivers outside of Adams will have its valleys, and sometimes LaFleur’s love of runs on second-and-long will lead nowhere.
On the defensive side, Pettine needs to let his scheme adapt and put his players in the right spots to succeed. Being 90 yards off the line of scrimmage on a third-and-short and using three-man rushes on goal line time after time won’t stop the powerful offenses the Packers will face in the playoffs. Luckily, the defense IS making adjustments. Two games in a row against bad quarterbacks help, but Pettine did simplify his defense after a discussion with the players. The defense has plenty of individual talent; if they can put it all together and not give up touchdowns on fourth-and-long, they stand a chance.
Special teams remains an issue. The NFL has four total punt return TDs, and the Packers have given up two of them. The unit kept in the Eagles in a game that was truly never that close. Luckily, the Packers saw an opportunity to fix the return game and signed Tavon Austin. With Tyler Ervin going on IR, this decision looks even better.
In the Packers’ worst games this year, there has been a lack of energy and a lack of fight when the chips are down. Thankfully, the energy level is back, and all of these issues are fixable. Every team has it’s flaws, and the Packers’ flaws are very manageable. No team in the NFC is perfect, and the Packers are in an excellent spot to control their own destiny. This is a special team with a few manageable self-inflicted wounds. They can go as far as any team at the top of this conference.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.