The Packers are looking to bounce back in a big way this week, at home against an inferior Bengals club. The Bengals are 0-2 and have yet to score a touchdown. However, it is the Packers that need to make some plays, to prove to themselves, their fan base and the rest of the league that they are a true contender this season. Here are three keys to success at Lambeau on Sunday.
RETURNING TO FUNDAMENTALS
Once again, mistakes killed the Packers in Atlanta. You can’t win against good teams on the road turning the ball over, dropping passes and committing penalties. The Packers must frankly — in Mike McCarthy speak — focus on the fundamentals. Successfully running the ball is a great way to get back to the basics. The Bengals are giving up over 160 rushing yards a game so far this season. It will be important for Ty Montgomery and company to see some success early in the running game to take some pressure off of the rest of the team, both offensively and defensively. Montgomery has been great so far this season, both running the ball out of the back field and creating mismatches all over the field in the passing game. If the run game is able to get going, that in turn slows down the pass rush, led by All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins. The hit Atkins laid on Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson last Thursday looked incredibly painful and I am not interested in seeing Aaron Rodgers take a hit like that. Ever.
Speaking of Rodgers, he uncharacteristically turned the ball over twice last week. In addition to that, he seemed to be playing a bit antsy in the pocket — hard to blame him with two back-ups protecting the edges on the offensive line — and made several errant and off-balance throws. He is the Packers best player, and it’s important for him to play smarter and more fundamentally sound in order for the Packers to have any chance of winning.
KEVIN KING AND JOSH JONES
Early in the game last week, the Falcons were once again scorching the Packers secondary. It did not take long for rookie Kevin King to get inserted into the line-up. The rookie held up well, against Julio Jones and the other wide receiver threats in Atlanta. It was a positive sign for the Packers as both Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins continue to look out-matched against any worthy passing offense. McCarthy stated earlier this week that King played well enough to earn more playing time. This weekend is a good test for the rookie, with an opportunity to line up against six time pro-bowler AJ Green.
When Kentrell Brice went down during the game last week, rookie Josh Jones was also able to see some snaps. The passing defense appeared to improve with Jones and King inserted into the line-up. However it is hard to say as during the second half of the game, the Falcons were up by two or more scores for the duration and certainly didn’t need to play as aggressively as they did in the first half. This week will be a good litmus test for both Jones and King. We need them both to play well as they are essential pieces for the future of the Packers secondary.
Here we are again, talking about injuries. Less then three weeks into the season and injuries are piling up and greatly impacting the Packers. It was just a couple hours before kickoff on Sunday that word began to spread that both tackles, David Bakhtiari and Brian Bulaga would be inactive for the game. That left two unproven back-ups charged with protecting Rodgers from Vic Beasley and company. It was a devastating blow to an already thin offensive line. However, that was just the beginning of the cringe-worthy news throughout the course of the game as the Packers went on to lose Mike Daniels, Jordy Nelson, Kentrell Brice, Jahri Evans, and Randall Cobb.
The coaches and players can preach “next man up” all they want, but when you are missing four of your best five playmakers, wins are going to be hard to come by. It is essential to escape this week with not only a win, but also no more significant injuries.
There’s plenty to talk about regarding the Bengals — they fired their offensive coordinator this week, both Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton once again find themselves on the proverbial hot seat, their defense is one of the worst in the league against the run, AJ Green is still a game-changing wide receiver, they are the only team in the league Rodgers has never beaten. But all of that doesn’t matter this week. The Packers are in a precarious position, once again coming off a bad loss at the hands of Atlanta. They must be better this week, offensively and defensively, and they will be counting on some rookies on both sides of the ball to help elevate the team. If the team plays fundamentally sound ball, the Packers should win this game. However, it will not be easy. Key injuries on both sides of the ball will make things much more difficult than it should be for the Packers.
Packers – 23