This season, the Packers have been outscored in 1st quarters by a total score of 71-34. That is an alarming and surprising stat for a team that has the best record in the NFL. The Packers are winning despite bad 1st quarters. There have been nine games where the Packers have scored zero points in the first quarter. That is tied for the most in the NFL with… the Detroit Lions.
However, it is a sign of a good team to make adjustments and rally back from these early deficits to win games. The Packers point differential in the first quarter this season is –37, then in the next three quarters it is +93. So that part of it is encouraging, but Green Bay cannot expect to keep this trend going through the playoffs. I would expect teams like Tampa Bay, Dallas, LA, Arizona, and San Francisco to be capable of holding early leads in important playoff games.
Some people think this is because of Aaron Rodgers’ lack of practice during the week while he deals with his toe injury. That could hold some truth to it, as it takes him a quarter to get eased into the game and slowly figure out defenses. What I have seen is that the offense has looked terrible in the initial script of the game. This is handful of plays that are pre-planned out by Coach LaFleur and OC Nathaniel Hackett, with the help of Aaron Rodgers. There have been too many 3-and-outs on the first drives of games for the Packers this year.
Once the Packers settle into games and make adjustments, they dominate their opponent. We saw that on Sunday in Baltimore, as the Packers clinched the NFC North despite a late comeback attempt by the Ravens. When you see the Packers settling into the game and getting the offense rolling, they are really getting back to their identity. They are running the Matt LaFleur offense. This is the perfect mixture of the run game, RPO’s, quick passing game, screens, and play action to set up big plays down the field.
If Green Bay can start to put four full quarters together in games down the stretch, they should be the favorites at least in the NFC, possibly in the NFL. With the defense making plays and being opportunistic under the helm of Joe Barry, I would take the Packers over anyone.