If you want to chalk up the Green Bay Packers’ loss to the Detroit Lions to a brutal day from normally reliable kicker Mason Crosby, that’s fine. The math adds up.
That ignores a few concerning things, most notably that the Packers haven’t looked great yet this season.
The Packers rallied Sunday to make a game of it, but we can’t ignore that a mediocre Lions team was up 24-0 on them at halftime. Their only “good” performance this season was a 22-0 victory against the Buffalo Bills, and afterward Aaron Rodgers was upset over how sluggish the offense was.
Other than one special half against the Chicago Bears, when Rodgers on one leg had a performance that will be a major part of his legacy, the Packers have looked average. The problem is nobody expected them to be just average.
Green Bay is still a brand-name team. We’ll ignore its many flaws because of Rodgers. That’s why the Packers are automatically a preseason Super Bowl pick by many every year — this year was no exception. But if the Bears made one play down the stretch in Week 1, the Packers are 1-3-1. And if the Vikings had a better kicker in Week 2, mark that down to 1-4 (and yes, we can point out that if Clay Matthews wasn’t given a controversial roughing-the-passer flag against the Vikings and Crosby was his usual self Sunday, the Packers could be 4-1).
Maybe Rodgers and the Packers are lulling us to sleep, as they have done in the past.
Packers fans complained for years about defensive coordinator Dom Capers, and Capers was finally fired and replaced by Mike Pettine. The defense still isn’t great. If we ignore the Bills game (which might be unfair; ask the Vikings if the Bills are capable), the Packers have allowed 23, 29, 31 and 31 points in their other four games. It’s not a terrible defense, but that group needs to be better for the Packers to win the NFC North. The Packers rank in the top five in yards and passing yards allowed, so there’s hope that they can suppress points soon.
Defense has never been the Packers’ calling card. That’s the offense. And that has been good, but not great, to this point. Rodgers rallied the team in the second half on Sunday, but was also shut out by the Lions in the first half. Part of that was injuries to receivers Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb. But the Packers weren’t lighting it up before those two receivers missed Sunday’s game. Maybe Rodgers’ knee, which might have been a multi-week injury that he’s playing through, will get better and the Packers’ offense will look normal again soon. But like everything else with the Packers so far, the offense has been underwhelming.
Nothing has been easy for the Packers. Comments Rodgers made about the offense after the Bills game were dissected and Rodgers’ relationship with head coach Mike McCarthy was analyzed all over again. So was the notion that McCarthy’s offense is holding Rodgers back. Green Bay hasn’t looked like a Super Bowl contender yet, and it’s almost a third of the way into the season.
All of that could turn around. Rodgers’ return to full health, assuming that happens this season, could turn Green Bay into a different team. But with the Rams excelling, the Saints looking like the powerful team we expected and the Bears probably not going anywhere, the Packers can’t afford to give away more games. If the switch is going to flip, Green Bay might want to make sure it doesn’t happen too late.
Here are the power rankings after Week 5 of the NFL season:
32. San Francisco 49ers (1-4, Last Week: 31)
When you’re No. 31 and you lose to the No. 32 team at home, no matter how much you outplay them, there’s only one place to go. I don’t anticipate the 49ers will be here the rest of the season; they played hard and decently well in their two games since the Jimmy Garoppolo injury. The question is how long they’ll keep up that effort level.
31. Arizona Cardinals (1-4, LW: 32)
The 49ers had 33 first downs and the Cardinals had 10. The 49ers more than doubled up the Cardinals in yards, 447-220. The only thing the Cardinals won was the final score, but after an 0-4 start, they weren’t looking for style points on their first win.
30. Oakland Raiders (1-4, LW: 28)
It’s a funny footnote that the Raiders passed at the 1-yard line with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. But the focus should be on Derek Carr throwing an interception that you don’t see undrafted rookies make in the fourth preseason game. Carr is a solid quarterback, but plays like that don’t help the argument.
29. Indianapolis Colts (1-4, LW: 23)
There’s some nuance involved with judging Frank Reich so far, and it extends beyond the record and the decision to go for it on fourth down in overtime against the Texans. For the most part, Reich is doing a good job. The undermanned Colts are playing hard and have been in every game. Reich and his staff are getting the most out of a bad roster. It’s early but despite a 1-4 start, the Colts made a good hire.
28. Buffalo Bills (2-3, LW: 30)
On a third-and-3 in the final minutes, LeSean McCoy caught a short pass and nobody on the Titans could tackle him. He got the first down, and 13 yards total on a play that most backs would have gotten a yard or 2 on. That led to the Bills’ game-winning field goal. They probably don’t win Sunday without that play. The Bills aren’t exciting on offense, but McCoy is still a great talent.
27. New York Giants (1-4, LW: 26)
Pat Shurmur handled the Odell Beckham situation well. “Let’s talk football, not drama,” is how he ended his comments on the matter. Too often the Giants, for whatever reason, have fed the mania that surrounds that market’s obsession with Beckham drama. They have turned the smallest thing — Beckham mimicking a dog peeing as a touchdown celebration, for example — into news for days. They’re not going to stop the madness entirely, but they can avoid fueling it.
26. Denver Broncos (2-3, LW: 19)
Vance Joseph’s job security and the predictable calls for Chad Kelly to replace Case Keenum — no group loves its backup quarterback more than Broncos fans — will be the talk of Denver this week and perhaps beyond that. But in the past five quarters a once-great defense allowed Patrick Mahomes to erase a 10-point deficit and then allowed 512 yards to the Jets. The offense isn’t helping much and maybe the coach needs to go, but the collapse of a once-great defense might be the Broncos’ biggest problem.
25. New York Jets (2-3, LW: 29)
The highlight for a very good day by the Jets was Sam Darnold’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson down the left sideline. Darnold couldn’t have handed Anderson the ball in a more accurate place. Darnold hasn’t been consistent yet, but his good moments are very promising.
24. Atlanta Falcons (1-4, LW: 22)
Theoretically, the Falcons’ upcoming schedule allows for them to dig out of this hole. Coming up: vs. Buccaneers, vs. Giants, at Redskins, at Browns, vs. Cowboys. All of those games are winnable. The trick will be actually winning those games with perhaps the worst defense in the NFL.
23. Dallas Cowboys (2-3, LW: 21)
The clock started ticking on Jason Garrett when he punted on fourth-and-1 in Texans territory in overtime Sunday night. I don’t recall team owner Jerry Jones being critical of Garrett before, but even he questioned the decision. After that fiasco, it’s probably in Garrett’s best interest to avoid a losing streak.
22. Houston Texans (2-3, LW: 25)
I respect Deshaun Watson’s toughness and his willingness to sacrifice his body to make a play. But the Texans need to do a better job protecting him, starting with not calling any more quarterback sweeps at the goal line, and by telling him that it’s OK to slide and save himself for another play.
21. Seattle Seahawks (2-3, LW: 20)
First-round pick Rashaad Penny played one snap Sunday, and it was on special teams. Mike Davis and Chris Carson are ahead of him on the depth chart, and those two combined for 184 rushing yards. That draft pick was questionable at best when Seattle made it and looks really bad at the moment. The Seahawks had too many needs to use that pick on a position they’ve always capably filled for cheap.
20. Cleveland Browns (2-2-1, LW: 27)
The Browns tied in Week 1 after a blocked field goal in overtime. In Week 2 they missed two key kicks that could have delivered a win. In Week 4 they had two controversial calls go against them, and the questionable reversal of a first down definitely cost them a win. Yes, the Browns are legitimately a handful of plays from being 5-0. Really.
19. Tennessee Titans (3-2, LW: 14)
The Titans offense really misses Delanie Walker, who is on injured reserve. Replacement Jonnu Smith has one catch for 9 yards in three games. Walker kept the chains moving for the Titans, and they really could have used someone to fill that role in a brutal 13-12 loss at the Bills.
18. Miami Dolphins (3-2, LW: 16)
Kenyan Drake had six carries Sunday, half of what Frank Gore got. Gore has been a great player, and played well Sunday too. But someday someone is going to let us know why the Dolphins’ coaching staff dislikes Drake, who has 14 carries the last three games, and refuses to give him an honest chance to be their featured back. It’s strange.
17. Detroit Lions (2-3, LW: 24)
It hasn’t gotten enough attention as Le’Veon Bell, but defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is on a one-year franchise deal and has played just one game this season due to a shoulder injury. Reuters said that Lions coach Matt Patricia had to shoot down speculation that the prolonged absence is in any way related to his contract situation, saying Ansah simply isn’t ready to play. “Don’t make it anything more than that,” Patricia said, according to Reuters. “That guy’s a competitive guy, he wants to play football. He’s trying to do the best he can to help this team. So he’s day by day, we’re taking it day by day. We’re trying to get him ready to go. As soon as he can go, he’ll help us.”
16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2, LW: 18)
Jameis Winston is by far the most important story with this team, but rookie running back Ronald Jones is a big one too. Peyton Barber looked great in the preseason and has done nothing since. Jones was terrible in August but finally got a shot to play in Tampa Bay’s last game. He didn’t do much (10 carries, 29 yards) but the Bucs don’t have much to lose in giving him an expanded role and seeing what happens.
15. Washington Redskins (2-2, LW: 15)
Maybe they just got a terrible scheduling spot, having to play the Saints on prime time when the Mercedes-Benz Superdome would be rocking on Drew Brees’ record-setting night. The Redskins better hope that’s the case because they looked really bad on Monday night.
14. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2-1, LW: 17)
Signs of life? The Falcons might not have a great defense but it’s still a talented team – yet the Steelers embarrassed them. Pittsburgh at Cincinnati seems like a good test of whether the Steelers can steer out of the skid or if the win over a 1-4 Falcons team was a mirage.
13. Baltimore Ravens (3-2, LW: 8)
The Ravens aren’t the type of team that should be throwing 57 times in any game that isn’t a blowout loss. Joe Flacco completed just 29 of those passes for 298 yards. It’s not the Ravens’ best path to victory, and probably something that won’t continue.
12. Green Bay Packers (2-2-1, LW: 7)
In 2012, Mason Crosby had a rough season, missing 12 field goals. This is how many field goals Crosby has missed in each seasons since: 4, 6, 4, 4, 4. He had missed one field goal before Sunday’s four-miss debacle. That’s as many misses as he had in four of the last five seasons. I can’t begin to tell you what happened to him Sunday, but it was strange to see headlines that the Packers were sticking with Crosby. Of course they are, he had missed 23 field goals his previous 84 games. Perhaps Sunday was the first sign of a slump, but let’s calm down a bit.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (4-1, LW: 12)
The Bengals are still hard to figure out. They didn’t look very good late in the third quarter Sunday when they trailed the shaky Dolphins 17-0. But they won, they’re 4-1, and that’s tough to overlook.
10. Los Angeles Chargers (3-2, LW: 11)
The Chargers are a tough team to gauge because their losses were to the two best teams in football so far (Chiefs, Rams) but the wins are against three of the worst teams (Bills, 49ers, Raiders). It sets up a surprisingly fascinating game at Cleveland.
9. Chicago Bears (3-1, LW: 9)
If the Bears are for real, this week is a good test. They travel to face a beatable Dolphins team in Miami on Sunday. Playoff teams win those kinds of games.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-2, LW: 3)
This is what the Jaguars are. Some weeks they’ll look like a championship contender. Others, they’ll look awful and Blake Bortles will throw interceptions off his offensive lineman’s helmet. And then, assuming they win enough games to make the playoffs, we’ll have zero idea which team will show it January.
7. Philadelphia Eagles (2-3, LW: 4)
Jay Ajayi’s torn ACL doesn’t help the Eagles, but you’d think they have the depth at that position to overcome it. If Corey Clement can stay healthy, he has a real chance to become a breakout star. Or … Le’Veon Bell?
6. Minnesota Vikings (2-2-1, LW: 13)
Kirk Cousins’ numbers through five games: 1,688 yards, 11 touchdowns, two interceptions, a 71.2 completion percentage and a 105.1 rating. He’s off to a heck of a good start and looks like a fantastic free-agent signing.
5. Carolina Panthers (3-1, LW: 6)
Curtis Samuel isn’t going to be a high-volume receiver, but a dynamic 25-yard touchdown in his first game this season was a great sign. Samuel is a big-play receiver, a second-round pick just a year ago, and he can really help the Panthers offense if he stays healthy.
4. New Orleans Saints (4-1, LW: 10)
It’s always best to find ways to win while you iron out problems. The Saints were not an impressive 3-1, but they were 3-1. And after a complete domination on Monday night, their 4-1 record allows them to move way up in the rankings. Buy now because this team might start to get on a roll.
3. New England Patriots (3-2, LW: 5)
We’re seeing why Sony Michel was a first-round pick. He has 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns the past two games. If Michel is going to give the Patriots balance on offense, they’ll be tough to beat.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-0, LW: 2)
The scary thing about the dominant win against the Jaguars is the Chiefs’ defense played its best game. The Chiefs don’t need the 2000 Ravens defense to show up, considering how good Kansas City’s offense is. But if the defense can make a few big plays each week like it did Sunday? The Chiefs go to another level.
1. Los Angeles Rams (5-0, LW: 1)
The Rams keep winning but they have given up 31 points in back-to-back games. Those are the two games they have played since cornerback Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters were injured. Peters is playing through it but Talib is out. It’s not a cause for panic, but shouldn’t be ignored either.
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