COMMENTARY | There are some teams, for whatever reason, that tend to have the number of other teams, and that appears to be the case when it comes to the New York Giants against the Green Bay Packers.
A dismal start on offense and a failure to get off the field on defense was enough to do in the Packers for the third straight week as they fell, 27-13, to the suddenly red-hot Giants. To say these two teams are heading in opposite directions would be an understatement, although thanks to a Detroit Lions loss on Sunday, Green Bay remains just a game out of first place in the NFC North.
It sure doesn't feel like it.
An Aaron Rodgers-less Packers makes for a team that is very difficult to watch, and if the former Super Bowl MVP isn't able to return within the next few weeks, Green Bay will be on the outside looking in on the postseason. But we already knew that -- here are five things we now know following the Packers' loss in the Meadowlands.
The Packers are currently one of the worst teams in the NFL
It might sound a little harsh, but this team is essentially 0-3 in games without Rodgers, and the flaws that are usually covered up by the performance of No. 12 are now blinding.
As many will point out, the Packers have been decimated by injury on both sides of the football, but that also goes back to when Rodgers was healthy. Green Bay was able to overcome those injuries and reel off four straight victories before losing Rodgers to a broken collarbone.
This team is like day and night with and without Rodgers, if day is when the Packers are one of the best teams in football, and if night is when they are one of the worst.
Green Bay can't run without Rodgers
In the last two games in which Rodgers was unable to start, Green Bay has run the football with little success, and that's because opponents are willing to force Scott Tolzien to beat them with his arm.
That means defenses are stacking the box and committing to the run because they would prefer the Packers be a one-dimensional offense, with that dimension being the passing game. Tolzien got his, completing 24-of-34 passes for 339 yards, but Green Bay only averaged 2.8 yards per carry on 20 attempts.
It dates back to Week 10 against the Philadelphia Eagles, as well -- just 3.3 yards per carry.
As always, head coach Mike McCarthy was stubborn in his approach, and while this pays off at times, it didn't against the Giants. The commitment to the run game was a head-scratcher, as was the continual reliance on the short passing game, as the offense was having success throwing the ball down field.
Again, Rodgers not only masks this team's flaws, but raises the level of play around him. That includes offensive play-calling and Green Bay's running attack.
Tolzien will have a nice career as a backup
Maybe Scott Tolzien isn't doing enough to win, but he's doing enough to prove that he is the long-term solution at backup quarterback for the Packers.
For as well as Tolzien played for a second straight week of extended action, what many will take away once again is a costly interception. Tolzien has thrown two of the most glaring interceptions by a Packers quarterback in recent memory, this time coming courtesy of Jason Pierre-Paul, who made a ridiculous play that resulted in a pick-six.
In all, Tolzien threw three interceptions without a single touchdown, but he sure looked good while doing it. Tolzien connected on several lengthy throws thanks to some outstanding accuracy, and he continues to show strong zip on his passes.
Enough of the Matt Flynn talk -- Scott Tolzien is this team's best option with Rodgers sidelined, and he should enter next season as the No. 2 quarterback.
This defense is bad
Again, we get it. Not having Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Nick Perry -- especially Shields -- spells trouble for the defense. But this unit has looked outmatched over the last three games.
The Giants were just 4-of-14 on third down conversions, but it sure felt like they were 100 percent in that category. Time of possession was dominated by New York, and while that partially had to do with the Packers' inability to run the football, the Green Bay defense simply couldn't get off the field for long stretches.
We saw it against the Chicago Bears as well as the Eagles. For whatever reason, this defense can't get stops when the Packers need them most and gets punished in the trenches when opponents begin winding down the clock at the end of games.
It could have to do with personnel, scheme or both, but the middle of the field always tends to be open. Eli Manning picked apart Green Bay's cornerbacks (via ESPN Stats and Info), and the pass rush didn't get to the Giants' quarterback until the fourth quarter when it was too late.
There's a lot of season left
If you squint really hard, there are actually some bright spots for Green Bay. The receiving corps continues to perform at a high level. Tolzien has played better than many expected. Clay Matthews' cast continues to shrink in size.
Oh yeah -- and the Packers are only one game out of first place.
There's also the fact that Green Bay hosts the lowly Minnesota Vikings in Week 12. Tolzien has already been named the starter for that one, but it would take a lot to lose to Minnesota at Lambeau Field with or without Rodgers playing.
Odds are that the Packers should enter their Thanksgiving showdown with the Lions one game back in the NFC North, and Rodgers might -- just might -- be back.
There's plenty of season left, folks.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe.
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