The Green Bay Packers have reached their bye week with a perfect 7-0 record, but still have plenty of room for improvement going forward. The current Super Bowl favorite, the Packers will be the league's only undefeated team entering their Week 9 road matchup against the San Diego Chargers.
With a one-and-a-half game lead on the NFC and a commanding two game lead on the NFC North, the Packers need to maintain their success and build on what they have accomplished through the first seven games of the season.
While boasting a perfect record, the Packers have been far from reaching their potential. If the Packers can get to that level, they will be downright scary and almost impossible to beat. In order for that to happen, there are certain things the Packers absolutely must correct.
Against the Vikings in Week 7, Packers fans felt the agony of this problem on the game's first play from scrimmage as Christian Ponder hit Michael Jenkins for a 72-yard completion down to the Packers 1-yard line. Giving up big plays have been the downfall of the Packers defense so far throughout seven games.
The Packers have been bailed out by the amount of takeaways they have come up with. The crux of the Packers defense has allowed teams to post historic yardage on the them. Second worst in the league, the Packers defense is allowing 288.9 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks.
Part of the problem surrounding giving up big plays has been the injuries suffered in the secondary. Tramon Williams has been playing with a shoulder injury since Week 2, Sam Shields missed the Vikings game with a concussion, Morgan Burnett is playing with a club on his hand and Nick Collins has been lost for the season.
Another reason for the massive amounts of yardage and big plays allowed has been the inability of the Packers front seven to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
While the Packers have been able to rack up some decent sack numbers, they have failed to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Clay Matthews has been the only player up front that has been getting to the quarterback reliably.
Opposite Matthews, Erik Walden has struggled to re-create his surprising play from the end of last season. After a preseason shoulder injury, Frank Zombo finally regained his health before suffering a knee injury that set him back once again.
B.J. Raji has been very good at times, but has seen an increase in the amount of attention he receives due to the lack of threats in Ryan Pickett and Jarius Wynn. Both have played well, but have struggled to constantly break down the pocket.
Coming out of the bye, the Packers will still be without Mike Neal, but hope remains that he will be able to come back within the next few weeks. This could provide a huge boost to the lacking unit, but expectations need to be reasonable.
With the reality that Neal may not return, the pressure falls on defensive coordinator Dom Capers to get even more creative and draw up plays to put his players in good positions to create pressure. If the Packers are unable to create more pressure and improve the pass rush, they will continue to allow tons of yardage and surrender big plays.
While the Packers have advanced to 7-0, they have struggled at times to put teams away and deliver a final dagger. Allowing inferior opponents to remain within striking distance has not cost the Packers a game, but it eventually could come back to haunt them against stronger opponents.
In the first two games of the season, the Packers had to rely on Donald Driver recovering onside kicks after squandering double-digit advantages. Against the Rams, the Packers failed to score in the second half of the game, leaning on the defense's strong performance. And last week, the offense had three opportunities to put the Vikings away, but failed to score and gave the Vikings a chance to take the lead late.
The Packers have enough talent to win these games and hold off other teams, but that amount of talent always means the Packers shouldn't be in those situations. While it seems a little ambitious to expect blowouts each week, Green Bay is better than most teams by multiple scores.
The Packers receivers are arguably the best group in the league, but have still suffered from drop balls early on his season. According to Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee, the Packers are paying quite the price for their drops. When a receiver drops a pass, they must purchase a $100 BestBuy giftcard for the others in the receiving corps.
Through seven games, Rodgers has thrown the ball 239 times while three of those passes were intercepted. Of those three passes, two were dropped by wide receivers and tipped into the air.
The Packers have seen other untimely drops that would have given the team first downs. Trailing 14-7 to the Vikings, Randall Cobb dropped a perfectly placed ball in the red zone on third down and the Packers were forced to settle for field goal.
While drops are always going to take place throughout a season, if the Packers can limit their mistakes and improve their scoring efficiency, this offense will put up even more points. If they play up to their ability, no team in the league will be able to hang with the Packers offense in a shootout.
With the best player on the planet, it is crucial that the Packers keep him upright and avoid giving up sacks. Through seven games, the Packers have given up 16 sacks which is slightly over the league average of 14.7 sacks.
The offensive line play hasn't been poor, but has given up some untimely sacks that have kept points off the board. If the Packers can clean these up and reduce the number they are giving up per game, their offense becomes that much more deadly.
At this point, it seems that the only way to beat the Packers would be an injured Aaron Rodgers. With Rodgers healthy and on his feet, the Packers are easily favorites to win the Super Bowl for the second straight year.