By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The NFL math is pretty basic.
Green Bay’s defense much-improved, offense surprisingly has room to grow
Tickets and game packages available now for home and road games!
» Go to the game and more!
Win all of your home games, split on the road and at 12-4 you’re likely to own a division title, a first-round bye and a home game. The Packers (3-1) are on their way with home victories over the Seahawks, Bengals and Bears.
There is another popular mathematical formula.
Divide the NFL’s 16-game season into four quarters, win three out of four games in each quarter, and finish 12-4 (see above).
Again, the Packers are all good.
That isn’t to say they can’t be better. In fact, they must be better if they’re going to win the NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
Here is the Packers’ first quarter report card:
A-plus: Super Bowl strong.
A: NFC title contender.
A-minus: One win – maybe more – in postseason.
B-plus: NFC North Championship.
B: Wild-card probable.
B-minus: Last wild-card in.
C-plus: Just short of playoffs.
C: 8-8 is likely.
C-minus: Inconsistency is a killer.
D-plus and lower: We’re talking the NFL’s cellar dwellers.
FRONT OFFICE (B-plus)
GM Ted Thompson and his staff worked the roster effectively from free agency, through the draft and into the season. The offseason signings of CB Davon House, DL Ricky Jean Francois G Jahri Evans and TEs Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks were critical. So were the late additions of LB Ahmad Brooks and DE Quinton Dial.
The 2017 draft class’s early returns are promising.
Second-round picks CB Kevin King and S Josh Jones have been impressive while DL Montravius Adams and LB Vince Biegel remain injured incompletes. The RB trio of Jamaal Williams (knee), Aaron Jones (minimal playing time) and Devante Mays (no playing time) keep this area mostly unknown.
Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy out-coached Seattle’s Pete Carroll and tap-danced his way around an offensive tackle crisis and defeat the Bengals and Bears. McCarthy was especially brilliant when he moved started Lucas Patrick at LG and moved Lane Taylor to LT against the Bears. Then he pounded away behind the guard tandem with Ty Montgomery. It turned a liability into a positive and it helped forge an early lead.
Injuries have contributed to the offense’s inconsistency even if McCarthy’s ingenuity has helped mitigate the damage. The Packers’ offense can endure only so many hits at tackle. David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga need to stay healthy here on out.
Aaron Rodgers has been his brilliant self.
The perennial Pro Bowl quarterback has hit on 107 of 160 pass attempts (66.9 percent) for 1,146 yards and a 100.7 rating. He also has 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Rodgers has been sacked 15 times and is on a bone-jarring pace. That has got to stop beginning Sunday at Dallas.
Ty Montgomery has been injured early and often.
He has to find a way to stay on the field long enough to contribute in a meaningful way. His numbers are OK but only if you combine his rush attempts (46 for 152 yards) and his receptions (18 for 129). He has three touchdowns but his 3.3 yards-per-carry average is abysmal.
Aaron Jones (13 for 49) showed burst, while Jamaal Williams brought next to nothing before being injured.
The running game remains a problem to be sure.
The receiving corps is as deep and talented as expected.
Randall Cobb (19-189 and 1 TD), Jordy Nelson (17 for 206 and 5 TDs), Davante Adams (16-219 and 2 TDs) and Geronimo Allison (9-146) are dynamic. Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis have been solid on special teams.
Tight end Martellus Bennett (17-141) has been OK and Lance Kendricks (5-70 and 1 TD) needs to be utilized more.
The offensive line merely needs to get healthy and stay that way.
LB Blake Martinez leads with 25 tackles, including 19 solo, and one sack. He has shown a big leap from Year 1 to Year 2.
The safety quartet of Morgan Burnett (23 tackles) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Josh Jones and Kentrell Brice has been fantastic.
Jones is a tackling machine who can play pass defense.
Coordinator Dom Capers has been inventive when it comes to moving these key chess pieces.
Cornerbacks Kevin King, Quinten Rollins and especially Josh Hawkins have been strong. Damarious Randall needs to pick up the pace, and Davon House needs to stay healthy.
The defensive line is A-OK when healthy.
Mike Daniels has been missed and his return is greatly anticipated. Dean Lowry, Kenny Clark and Quinton Dial have been very good at the point of attack while applying pressure.
Ahmad Brooks appears to be a wise addition.
Clay Matthews has 2 ½ sacks, while Nick Perry (1 ½) needs to get back on the field. Kyler Fackrell needs to contribute more and Vince Biegel’s return is going to be interesting.
The Packers’ defense has been stingy on third down, pesky in the red zone and OK against the big play.
SPECIAL TEAMS (A-minus)
P Justin Vogel’s 45.9 yard average, five punts inside the 20 and zero touchbacks has been impressive.
PK Mason Crosby is 4-for-4 on field goals and remains a steadying, reliable talent in the kicking game.
The Packers (3-1) go into Dallas on Sunday looking very much like one of the top teams in the NFC. A division title appears to be in the offing. Whether Green Bay ascends higher depends on its continued improvement and development beginning Sunday.
On the whole, the Packers and McCarthy are off to a strong start. They need to find a running game, stop the hemorrhaging when it comes to sacks and utilize the double-TE package. Defensively, they need to get healthy, and that includes Biegel and Adams.
A victory in Dallas could be the catalyst to a nice winning