The Green Bay Packers are currently riding a three-game winning streak into a Sunday night showdown with the Minnesota Vikings in Week 8. They're coming off an easy 31-13 win over the Cleveland Browns last week.
There is quite a bit that happened in last week's games that you need to be updated on, so let's get right into it. Here is what you need to know for the Packers heading into Week 8.
|Green Bay Packers||4-2||@ Minnesota Vikings|
|Detroit Lions||4-3||vs. Dallas Cowboys|
|Minnesota Vikings||1-5||vs. Green Bay Packers|
With losses by both the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, the Packers have officially moved into first place in the NFC North. It's a rather small lead right now, but with a game against the Vikings, which is looking like a much easier game after they got crushed by the New York Giants, and the Lions having a difficult game against the Dallas Cowboys, their lead could improve significantly.
The biggest news coming out of the NFC North, and what should really make the Packers the favorites in this division, is all the injuries that continue to happen. This week it was the Bears who lost outside linebacker Lance Briggs and starting quarterback Jay Cutler for the next handful of weeks.
As long as the Packers can continue to play up to the level they've played at for the last three weeks, they should have no trouble running away with this division in the next few weeks.
|Greg Van Roten||OL||Foot|
Another week, another major injury for the Packers.
This time it was tight end Jermichael Finley who suffered a rather serious neck injury during the second half of Sunday's game. He was taken off the field on a stretcher.
News was slow to come out about Finley's health, until NFL.com's Ian Rapoport tweeted about Finley:
Latest on #Packers TE Jermichael Finley: Source says he’ll likely leave ICU today. He’s walking, moving around, in good spirits.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 21, 2013
This obviously put many Packers fans at ease about the future of their starting tight end. While it's hard to imagine him coming back anytime soon, the fact that he's moving around and in good spirits is all that really matters right now.
As for the rest of the injuries, the only players with a real chance of coming back in Week 8 are cornerback Casey Hayward, running back James Starks and wide receiver James Jones. If the Packers can even get one of those players back, it'll be a huge boost for the team.
What Needs to Improve
The Packers are coming off one of their most complete games of the season last week. Not only did the offense look good, but the defense was able to completely slow down the Browns offense for the majority of the game.
The only aspect of the game where Green Bay struggled, and the area it needs to improve for Week 8, is with special teams. All year long the Packers have failed to find an impact player to return kicks and punts for them. Yes, cornerback Micah Hyde looked good on his lone 18-yard punt return, but the Packers still need more consistency in their return game.
Will the Packers beat the Vikings on Sunday?
The Packers also need to get better play out of their coverage team. Late in the game against Cleveland, the Packers gave up an 86-yard return to specialist Travis Benjamin. That return set up a touchdown that ultimately brought Cleveland within 11 points of Green Bay.
After a score of their own, the Packers coverage team once again gave up a big return on the ensuing kickoff. This time it was to running back Fozzy Whittaker, who took it 56 yards down the field before being knocked out of bounds.
And it wasn't just the coverage team that played poorly on Sunday either. Punter Tim Masthay recorded his first negative grade of the season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). His three punts for only 90 yards was enough to grade out as the worst punter in Week 7.
With the defense playing better and the offense still being extremely productive despite so many injuries, the Packers can't afford to give up such huge plays on special teams.