The Green Bay Packers are heading into the bye week with more questions than answers. Thought to be contenders to win the NFC North, the Packers may have to refine their goals to just make the postseason as a Wild Card. With a 2-3 record, things are looking less than ideal for the Pack, particularly after a disappointing loss on Sunday Night Football to the Las Vegas Raiders.
The bye week is a golden opportunity for the Packers to pause, reassess, and strategize, giving them a chance to iron out the kinks both on and off the field. Coach Matt LaFleur also could see his job in jeopardy should things fail to turn around after the bye week. Here are the top four priorities the Packers should be focusing on during their downtime.
Undeniably, the Packers’ first-half offensive conundrum is a pressing concern. In their last three games, they have combined to score just six points and no touchdowns in the first half. With an average of just 5.2 offensive points in the first half over the course of the season thus far, the Packers are tied for 29th in the NFL. This trend of starting slow and playing from behind is not sustainable and needs immediate attention.
Coach LaFleur, while perplexed, must delve deep to identify the root cause during the bye week. Whether it’s the play-calling, execution, or a lack of early aggression, figuring out this first-half scoring issue must be a priority to avoid the constant game of catch-up.
It was refreshing to see Love rush for a 26-yard gain on the opening drive against the Raiders last week. Unfortunately, those instances have been extremely few and far between. Enhancing mobility for Love should be another priority the Packers need to address during the bye week. Love has shown potential while on the move, including spotting wide receiver Christian Watson for a massive 77-yard gain when he rolled out of the pocket. These instances highlight the potential benefits of moving Love around. While this strategy might prove challenging against top-tier edge rushers like the Raiders’ Maxx Crosby versus less formidable defenders, this could offer an advantage.
Shifting the pocket could help to disorient defenses, provide Love with more time, and prevent pass rushers from zeroing in on Green Bay’s offensive line. In short, it’s a tactic that could offer Love more opportunities to make decisive, game-changing plays. He has the legs; let him use them.
The return of Aaron Jones is another key priority during the bye week. His absence due to a hamstring injury was palpably felt against the Raiders. Jones is a vital piece of the engine that drives the Packers’ offense, both in the running and passing game. A.J. Dillon stepped up nicely, recording his greatest single-game offensive EPA per run total of the season, yet Jones brings a different level of dynamism. His potential return against the Broncos could be a game-changer.
Christian Watson is another weapon that Green Bay needs at full strength. Watson missed the first three games due to a hamstring injury and was on a limited snap count in Week 4 in their blowout loss to the Lions. While he saw more playing time in Week 5, he still wasn’t 100%. The bye week should allow him to heal up and be the force that he was his rookie season when he caught seven touchdowns over the season’s final two months, including a memorable 63-yard catch and run score from Love against the Eagles where he flew by the defenders. Watson’s ability to make the big play and stretch the field is something the Packers need desperately right now and will definitely help Jones and the run game.
There have been moments of brilliance for the defensive line, with commendable performances against the Bears, Saints, and Raiders. However, inconsistent execution, particularly against the run, has led to losses against teams like the Falcons and Lions. Key players like De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, and Darnell Savage Jr. have been absent due to injuries, and their return is crucial for a stronger, more resilient defense.
Moreover, the possible reintegration of cornerback Eric Stokes could provide a much-needed boost. Between the bye week and the upcoming games, the Packers need to improve their defensive coordination and fortify their run defense. The goal should be consistency in performance, minimizing breakdowns, and closing all loopholes opponents could exploit.
The Packers must capitalize on the bye week to address these key issues. The Detroit Lions may have an early stranglehold on the division, but the Packers are by no means out of the NFC North race if they can make some fixes. While there are always areas for improvement, addressing these concerns could give them the edge they need to bounce back and improve the Green Bay Packers odds of securing a playoff spot.
As Packers fans, we can only hope the team uses this bye week to its fullest potential and returns stronger than ever.