The Lass Word: Is This What You Expected?

In the NFL, things seldom pan out as we anticipate.

Remember nine weeks ago?   All those burning questions you had about these 2020 Green Bay Packers?   Well, halfway home, the answers are playing out.   Are they what you expected?

 

Q.    How will the cancellation of all preseason games affect the quality of play when the regular season begins?

A.    Actually, the quality of play around the league, and particularly for the Packers, was significantly better than expected. Green Bay came out executing beautifully on offense against their first four opponents. In fact, the caliber of play was so high that one wonders if the future of preseason games is in jeopardy, although the league probably would not want to lose the revenue unless they could expand the regular season.

 

Q.    Will the Packers' good fortune in avoiding injuries continue into the 2020 season?

A.   You knew 2019 was too good to be true.   The injury bug has bitten Green Bay pretty hard this year.   Key players like Aaron Jones, Davante Adams, Kenny Clark, David Bakhtiari, Kevin King, Allen Lazard, Josiah Deguara, Kamal Martin and Christian Kirksey have all missed games.   However, the one player the Packers cannot afford to lose, Aaron Rodgers, has stayed healthy.    Because of this, by and large, the Packers have been able to cope with their injury problems effectively. 

 

Q.   Will the drafting of Jordan Love make Aaron Rodgers peevish and petulant and create locker room issues throughout the season?

A.   This was the most talked about question of the entire offseason, but it disappeared as an issue immediately when the games began.   Rodgers is having one of the best seasons of his career.   He has been an encouraging and motivating team leader, saying all the right things.   Love, meanwhile, has yet to be activated for a game.   The transition from Rodgers to Love, if it ever happens, is not taking place anytime soon.

 

Q.   Will anybody in Brian Gutekunst's 2020 draft contribute this season?

A.   So far the contribution has been minimal, at best.   A.J. Dillon has had a handful of carries.   Deguara is out for the year with an injury.   Kamal Martin started the year on IR, looked very promising when he finally got to play, and now is on the Covid Reserve list.   Vernon Scott played a little and is now hurt.   John Runyan and Jonathan Garvin have been forced into the line up by injuries and have held up reasonably well.   Certainly no one has emerged as a star, but several show definite future potential.   The debate is whether this team should be drafting for the future, or going all in to win now during QB12's window.

 

Q.   Will a true number 2 receiver emerge from this roster?

A.   I think it's reasonable to say Allen Lazard was playing like a legitimate number two, until he got hurt in week three against the Saints.   He's on IR and is expected back at some point.   Since his absence, no other wide receiver has played well consistently enough to get the targets needed to become a true number two.   The closest thing to it would be Robert Tonyan from the tight end group, or possibly Aaron Jones from the running back room, but none of the wideouts.   MVS keeps teasing but is still wildly inconsistent.

 

Q.   Can the right side of the offensive line survive the loss of Brian Bulaga?

A.   One of the happiest surprises of the season so far is the emergence of Billy Turner at tackle.   Generally regarded as the weak link in last year's O-line at right guard, Turner was an unexpected opening day starter at right tackle after Rick Wagner was hurt in the preseason.   Not only did Turner play well there, but he has held up just fine crossing over to left tackle when Bakh went down.   Lucas Patrick has been solid at right guard.   Wagner has gotten the job done at right tackle when he is healthy, which is not often.   So all told, the Packers have functioned nicely after Bulaga's departure.   By the way, Bulaga continues to have injury issues with the Chargers this year.

 

Q.   Will the Packers run defense get any better this year?

A.   Statistically, yes.   In 2019 the Packers ranked 26th in the league, giving up an average of 128.7 yards per game.   At the midway point this year, Green Bay ranks 12th in stopping the run, yielding an average of 111 yards per game.   But it remains a major weakness on this team,  which has come back to bite them in their two losses to Tampa Bay and Minnesota.   The Vikings loss especially was revealing, as Dalvin Cook ripped through them for 163 yards and three touchdowns.

 

Q.   Will the Packers resign any of their pending free agents during the season?

A.   Not so far.   After extending Kenny Clark in the preseason, cap money is very tight for the Packers and they appear to have chosen to wait and see how the year plays out before making a call on players like Aaron Jones, Bakhtiari, King, and center Corey Linsley.   An expected drop in next year's salary cap isn't helping.   The team also elected not to make any trades for help prior to the deadline, perhaps again not wishing to take on the salary cap burden or loss of draft capital.

 

Q.   Can the Packers survive the first half of their schedule, which features road games against five of the best teams in the league, including games at Minnesota, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Houston and San Francisco?

A.   Funny how schedules work out, isn't it?   What looked like a gauntlet of road games early on, turned out to be much less daunting.   Minnesota, Houston and San Francisco are all having disappointing seasons and were easy pickings.   The lack of fans in New Orleans was a major break as the Pack won a hard fought contest there.   Tampa Bay was the only stumbling block.   But the Bucs played so well in that game that they would have beaten the Pack at Lambeau or anywhere else that day.

 

Q.   Would the coronavirus threat wreak havoc on the team, causing major player absences and game postponements and cancellations?

A.   Amazingly not, considering Wisconsin is among the hottest states in the country for Covid cases.   It was not until after week seven that the first player, running back A,J. Dillon, tested positive.   Since then, linebacker Krys Barnes is also reported to have tested positive, and a couple others have been placed on the Covid Reserve list because of close contact.   But by and large the virus has been held under control, for which the team deserves a great deal of credit.   

 

OUTTAKES

•  It's time to put Dalvin Cook into the MVP conversation.   He has single-handedly resurrected the Vikings from the dead.

•  Can't help but feel for Mike McCarthy.    His undermanned team fought so hard against the undefeated Steelers, only to see it slip away.    His Packer teams were decimated by injury just about every year.   Now his Cowboys team has met the same fate.

•  If Nick Foles played as well in the first three quarters as he does in the last five minutes, the Bears would never lose.

•  Heard an amazing stat about Tom Brady.  Going into the Sunday night game against New Orleans,  he had never been swept by a division opponent in his entire 19 year career.

•  Looking forward, I see the Packers beating the Jags, Lions, Eagles and Panthers, splitting with the Bears, and losing to the Titans and Colts.   That would put them at 11 and 5, which should be good enough to win the division.   Agree?

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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Comments (28)

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rodic's picture

November 09, 2020 at 06:22 am

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NickPerry's picture

November 09, 2020 at 06:28 am

What I remember is EVERYONE or so it seemed were picking the Packers to finish 9-7, 8-8, or some gave them a little love at 10-6. Obviously half way through all those predictions from my fellow posters could come true but I don't think so.

I think the Packers could finish 12-4 or possibly 13-3 again. ESPECIALLY if they start letting say 20,000 fans into Lambeau say by the end of November. I can see them sweeping the Bears mostly because the Bears suck, but also the Bears have now lost 3 in a row and that offense is terrible. Lets hope they NEVER find a quarterback OR a RB. Maybe they give us a 1st round pick for Jordon Love...Just kidding...Sort of.

A split with the Titans and Indy gets them there if they take care of business every other game they SHOULD take care of business. That and they don't have a bye week at least until the playoffs.

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 09, 2020 at 06:46 am

Its funny how any of us that said 11-5 to 13-3 were ridiculed. I said I thought the Packers would have a better team then last year but worse record. 13-3 is hard to repeat. I was thinking 12-4 or 11-5. Especially when you let a 1-5 team beat you. I still think we will finish 12-4.

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murf7777's picture

November 09, 2020 at 07:39 am

RC I remember your comment and stated ditto. They are better because of year 2 in Mlf offense. Unfortunately, unless they really improve in D over the next 8 games I see a similar ending. Let’s hope they prove us all wrong and run the table!

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

November 09, 2020 at 07:29 am

Completely agree Nick. The Bears offense is horrendous. There is no way that Chicago can out point the Packers.

Indy's offense is almost as bad. I've always been a Phillip Rivers fan, but it is painful to watch him this season. Will be very disappointed if the Packers lose to the Colts.

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Coldworld's picture

November 09, 2020 at 11:39 am

That D is impressive though. I will be watching to see if we have answer on offense we did not have in Tampa to get the ball out productively.

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jannes bjornson's picture

November 09, 2020 at 04:16 pm

They are healthy this year.

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NickPerry's picture

November 10, 2020 at 05:25 am

That D IS impressive. I'm really looking forward to the Indy game because that defense is exactly the type of defense that gives the Packers fits. That defense is extremely fast and will punch you right in the mouth. The question is will the Packers punch back?

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

November 09, 2020 at 08:48 am

Nick, I must admit to being horribly wrong about the record. As I do every year I projected 19-0. I have amended this projection to now be 17-2. Dolphins remain safe for one more year.

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Ryan3468's picture

November 09, 2020 at 06:38 am

We might better better or worse on the 11-5 prediction. I really thought the D-Train was going to get a lot of stops this year. Stopping the run doesn’t seem to occur to a lot of these players. Seems they just want to rush the passer. Pettine, or personnel? A defensive coach is their teacher, and the one making sure they are learning what they need to know to be on the field. Some veteran players like the Smiths have me wondering if they played the run effectively for their former teams or if we knew they were only pass rushers.

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Lphill's picture

November 09, 2020 at 07:26 am

Aaron Jones will be re signed the others won't , the Packers run defense will determine the outcome of this season that's what it comes down too.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

November 09, 2020 at 08:26 am

I have mixed feelings on Jones. The offense is obviously better with him on the field, but we've yet to see Dillon take on enough workload in a game to know how he fits in long term. Jones is definitely the most dynamic runner in the group but Williams has really grown as a receiver and in pass protection. At the very least I think it's safe to say we won't see both Jones and Williams come back, and the cap may end up deciding which one GB can bring back.

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Redrum81's picture

November 11, 2020 at 12:37 am

They won’t resign Jones if they’re smart. They spent a 2nd round pick on Dillon, he’s the guy. I love Jones but giving big money to a running back is foolish. This team needs to build a defense. They can’t do that by investing in offense. They will be fine without Jones

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Guam's picture

November 09, 2020 at 08:11 am

Although a long shot, the Packers are in the mix for the #1 seed in the NFC and having all home games in the playoffs. While the home advantage is less than usual I would still rather have other (southern) teams come to Green Bay in January. I suspect the Packers will have to repeat last year's 13-3 record to get the #1 seed and that will be a large challenge, but maybe it will also keep the team motivated and avoid any further stinkers like the Vikings loss (and yes, I am an optimist.....).

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Archie's picture

November 09, 2020 at 08:35 am

Love our offense but our defense is a real stinker - and I thought, coming into this season, that we would have a top 10 defense.

Bottom-line, no team with a defense performing this poorly should harbor fantasies of a SB appearance, no matter how good its offense is.

So the season really boils down to whether the Packer defense can make a significant jump in the back-half of the season. On paper it seems we have the talent to do so but the results on Sundays point to a series of poor performances. Top RBs (we can't stop the run) and top QBs (we can't pressure the QB) are our kryptonite and playoff teams usually have one or both. I see no alternative but to fire Pettine at season's end unless he can turn this ship around. Don't repeat MM's mistakes with DC. Three years is plenty long enough to turn things around.

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Leatherhead's picture

November 09, 2020 at 08:51 am

The Packers are 17th in scoring defense, ahead of Seattle.

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Archie's picture

November 09, 2020 at 09:22 am

Stats are often misleading - watch them play. No meaningful stops all season against anybody any good. This defense is an "F" right now, not a "c" as you have implied. Last year they were a B or B- (couldn't stop the run). They are even worse against the run this year and they have lost their pass rush. Whatever Pettine is doing it isn't working. Have you every seen a defense this poor at tackling?

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Leatherhead's picture

November 09, 2020 at 09:54 am

Calling a fact a “stat” doesn’t make it not true.

I know you haven’t done a detailed analysis of all 32 teams. The data clearly shows that in quite a few areas, we’re an average defense. Not an F.

And now, we have some softer offenses over the next month so I’d expect us to move up a little.

After 8 games, we’re average. Adjust your narrative accordingly, or continue to believe your own myth.

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Coldworld's picture

November 09, 2020 at 11:45 am

I do believe our D is potentially better than it has been. My concern is so far coaching decisions have diminished it rather than enhanced it and we haven’t conclusively got the various parts working in synch as we did mostly last year. That starts with the D line usage for me. Maybe last Thursday saw a move that might help remove the blockage. That’s what it needs. Can Pettine solve that conundrum?

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fansince1959's picture

November 09, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Gute didn't do much either and certainly could see the problem----overpaid Lowery also---Let LaFleur pick his DC this time

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nstewart1's picture

November 09, 2020 at 08:53 am

I had guessed 11-5, largely because of regression, so won't complain. I would hope to sweep the Bears; and while I'd hope to beat either the Titan or Colts, two losses seem more likely.
We'll be in the playoffs, and that's where it counts; you've always got a shot, but the run defense seems like a fatal flaw to go all the way. Still a damn fine season!

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mrtundra's picture

November 09, 2020 at 09:04 am

Regarding the preseason games, I would not mind if they cancelled them, altogether. They present themselves as an opportunity for players to get injured. Just like playing in the farce called the Pro Bowl. So the NFL can eliminate that game, too. Another reason to eliminate preseason games is that they are not broadcast very often, unless it's the Hall Of Fame Game, or a game with a special designation attached to it. I live in western Wisconsin and never see any of the Packers' preseason games on TV. So, either get rid of the preseason games or expand the season by making those games regular season games.

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Coldworld's picture

November 09, 2020 at 09:10 am

I think the loss of a preseason affected rookies as expected. Not so much the established players. I think the likes of Dillon, Deguara (injury aside) are examples on offense, but I think around the league particularly on the defensive side. Dillon we know had little experience of passing routes. One would imagine there would be a blocking learning curve. Pre season offers players a chance to run them against opponents at full speed and not knowing what the defender is likely to do.

Covid could yet upend this season. Imagine if it hits a QB and backups. Imagine if it takes out key players in the playoffs. I’m touching wood and I’m just grateful we have football at the moment.

What is Rodgers’ window? Physically Brees and Brady are evidence that it could be a lot longer. Love is not necessarily the next Packed starter.

The D has not been impressive. We have the same Achilles Heel as last year, but it’s an old adage that a D in December may be much better than in October. Personally I don’t think Pettine has got it right, that tweaks have detracted not added and it starts with the D line and it’s usage. Could last Thursday show signs that changing usage there could unlock performance overall? Possibly. Too early to be confident. I think that question remains as valid today as in August.

I do think that we are much better with Greene. Can he stay healthy? I also think that our ILB play us on the up if we can stay healthy. Reps alone will help Barnes and Martin reduce errors. Improvement on the D line will too if it is sustained. That in turn helps safeties and OLBs. A little better health at key positions at least in terms of consistency of personnel would help too.

I noticed the comment on Wagner’s health. In fact he’s held up pretty well physically. Just that the team has preferred Turner. To my mind that must be future inspired because Wagner has been better at RT if not vastly. So far the O line questions look pretty much to be answered for this year.

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Archie's picture

November 09, 2020 at 09:28 am

Turner threw a sh*t-fit when the Packer was going to start Wagner over him following his injury return.

The most disappointing player on defense - Darnell Savage. Even in 49rs game he looked awful. Seems to shy away from contact and takes horrible angles. He represents a 21st overall pick and two R4 picks in same year.

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nostradanus's picture

November 09, 2020 at 10:50 am

The Packers will sweep da Bears and win the NFC North with a 12 & 4 record. It is written.....

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Leatherhead's picture

November 09, 2020 at 11:40 am

That’s what I think, too. It always is about beating the Bears and winning the division.

Seattle wins their division
Green Bay wins theirs.
New Orleans wins theirs.
Somebody qualifies from the NFC East.

Rams, Cards, Bucs, At the midway point, down to seven survivors and 9 also rans.. The final four remaining NFC teams will include the Packers. I forseeth it.

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Bearmeat's picture

November 09, 2020 at 03:29 pm

• Looking forward, I see the Packers beating the Jags, Lions, Eagles and Panthers, splitting with the Bears, and losing to the Titans and Colts. That would put them at 11 and 5, which should be good enough to win the division. Agree?

No.

I think we sweep the Bears. Their biggest weakness is our biggest weakness (running the ball against our D). We might not score 25, but we'll sweep them.

The Panthers will be a hard game. Harder, I think, than the Colts. True toss up vs CAR, not IND.

TEN is a bad match up for us. I think we take the L there.

So, a finish anywhere from 12-4 to 13-3.

I do think we get the 1 seed. NFCS and NFCW will beat the crap out of each other. Our division sucks, and this is a good thing for us.

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MarkinMadison's picture

November 09, 2020 at 04:49 pm

I know this is crazy, but in order to avoid a lot of teams getting screwed by a dropping cap, I'd like to see the owners suck it up for just one year and hold the cap steady. These guys have been making money by the shipload for years. Do they really want to make a bunch of teams bleed players and screw up the product? I know. I'm nuts.

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