Green Bay Packers Back in Playoff Hunt After NFL Week 5October 6, 2014
With almost a third of the season behind us, the NFL has now shaped into the form where just about every team's first handful of games can be consumed and used to project the future. Starting off 1-2 with two multi-score losses visiting Seattle and Detroit, and a close scare with the New York Jets at home, the Green Bay Packers responded with two wins against division rivals for a combined margin of victory of 53 points in the five day span.
With the team seemingly finding "it" again, and carrying a 3-2 record under its belt, the Packers are now tied for first in the NFC North. Up there at the top of the list with Green Bay is Detroit, whose lone NFC North game came against Green Bay, giving them a spotless record in the division and the tiebreaker.
In the coming weeks, Green Bay faces Miami, Carolina, New Orleans, hits a bye week, then are slated to play Chicago, who they beat in Week 4 at Soldier Field, at home. In total, the Packers will only face five teams with a winning record in their remaining 11 games. Only one game is on the road, being Buffalo. Of the five teams, only one squad, the Philadelphia Eagles at 4-1, has a better record than the Packers currently.
Even in Buffalo against the 3-2 Bills and in Green Bay against the 4-1 Eagles, in all likelihood, the Packers are going to be favored in 10 of their 11 remaining games on the schedule. The one game where they might not be favored is in New Orleans, in the dome against Drew Brees. Neither the 2-3 Saints nor Brees have done great in 2014, but Vegas, correctly, gives New Orleans a large home-field advantage.
Everything is in place for Green Bay to make a run, the question is if they're ready.
In Week 1, everything looked off. Seattle beat Green Bay in nearly every category possible to kick off the season. In Week 2, Aaron Rodgers came out slinging the rock, leading Green Bay to a narrow victory at home. In Week 3, the team as a collective left plays on the field in a divisional loss to the Lions. In Week 4, Green Bay challenged Chicago through the air, scoring at will. And finally in Week 5, Eddie Lacy, who had a very slow start to 2014, hit a career-high in rushing yardage.
On top of that, the Packers defense the past two weeks has allowed Green Bay to put up points without having to respond to points. Avoiding shootouts, the Packers have thoroughly dominated recently. With the exception of their Week 3 loss to Detroit at Ford Field, the team has improved as each week has passed.
What Green Bay aims for now is consistency, in every way possible, via the Northwestern:
Instead, players won't report to Lambeau Field until Monday. The Packers won't return to the practice field until Wednesday. McCarthy said he wants to maintain a consistent schedule.
"The biggest thing, at least in my opinion, in training a football team going through the course of the season is creating regularity," McCarthy said. "That's something that we've paid close attention to. I think in my younger years, earlier years as a head coach, you always look for an extra practice. Really, the benefits really aren't there.
"I think you have to be really smart getting your team into the regularity of a pattern of what they do, because these weeks just start flying by."
Currently, Odds Shark lists Green Bay's chances to win the Super Bowl in the range of eight percent to 10 percent, based on the odds they list for 5 Dimes and Bovada. Only three teams, Seattle, Cincinnati and Denver, have higher odds than a 10 percent chance to win it all. People with a lot of money on the line believe the squad can make a deep run to finish the season.
To make it there, though, the Packers are going to need to execute what McCarthy has been preaching: Regularity. They can't have games like the match against Detroit where balls were dropped, the offensive line couldn't win at the line of scrimmage in the run or passing game and Rodgers got too aggressive in the air. They can't have Eddie Lacy not show up for another four-week stretch. The defense can't allow points in bundles each quarter like they did against Seattle.
We've now seen a glimpse of a playoff-caliber team. People have taken notice, hitching onto the band wagon with their money. But until a playoff berth is locked in, the Packers haven't proven anything steady.
The teams' road to glory is a week-to-week battle stretching through the fall and winter, which should be treated as matches against faceless opponents. Even if Green Bay slips up a few times to some of those 11 football games down the road, that could keep their last game on the wrong side of New Year's.
In a league with so much parity through the first five weeks that there's no longer even a single undefeated team in the league, the Packers are going to need better than an 8-7-1 mark this season to get in.