The Packers announced to the entire NFC that they are a force to be reckoned with an impressive 36-28 win against the ultra-talented Rams. This was the closest the Packers have gotten to playing a complete game and were only a few mistakes away from that. The performance on Sunday of both the offense and defense was championship worthy. If special teams can build on the positives (3 field goals and a forced fumble on a punt) and throw out the negatives (missed field goal and muffed punt) then the Packers are a terrifying team heading into the final stretch of the regular season. After the much needed bye week, the Packers are going to need some key players to step in the coming months to achieve their mission to earn a Super Bowl berth.
As this season has progressed, it’s become clear AJ Dillon is one of the keys to making this offense hum. Whether it’s pancaking would-be tacklers or making shoestring catches, Dillon has shown exactly why the Packers picked him in the second round. He has quickly cemented himself into the lineup and has given the Packers almost unlimited options to utilize him creatively in their offense.
Particularly as the weather turns, Dillon will be leaned on to set the tone for the offense. Combined with the speed and explosiveness of Aaron Jones, the Packers running game will punish defenses for choosing to try to slow down the passing game. Additionally, they will be able to help protect a lead against the top of the NFC in the playoffs by picking up the tough first downs in the fourth quarter. This will be absolutely critical to any championship run.
In his second season, the highs and lows for Kris Barnes are evident. When he trusts his eyes and plays with instincts, the Packers get performances from him like Kansas City. On the other hand, when he begins to question what he’s seeing he hesitates and becomes easy pickings for opposing offenses, highlighted by his performance in Minnesota. This isn’t uncommon of young players, but the Packers defense can ascend to another level if he can stabilize his play.
The Packers’ defense is truly at its best when they can play in with two inside linebackers. Do-everything backer De’vontre Campbell needs a consistent partner in crime. If Barnes can be that, then it allows Joe Barry to unleash Campbell in creative ways, such as blitzing or playing robber. Combined, this dynamic duo can lock down the middle of the field and sow chaos in opposing offenses.
The Packers special teams desperately needs Amari Rodgers to grow up in a hurry. He needs to forget the start to his NFL career, where he has looked indecisive, and every part of a rookie fielding punts. He has especially had a difficult time in decision making, often fielding punts he shouldn’t and not fielding ones should. Twelve weeks into the season, there are no rookies anymore.
The bye week can and should be a hard reset for Rodgers, where he can start fresh. With the offense starting to hum, the Packers need a returner that will be at least a net-neutral, if not a positive. As the weather turns, field position is going to become more and more important. With the playoffs around the corner, Amari is going to need to really step up and provide that consistency, otherwise the Packers must find someone who can.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.