The Packers should be feeling like world beaters right now. After all, not only are they 4-2 and a mere half-game out of first place in the division, they've thumped their last two opponents by a combined 57-3. The running game has been more of a factor, with Ryan Grant gaining 238 yards in those games. Aaron Rodgers has been flawless, the defense has made big plays, and even Mason Crosby has only missed one 55-yard field goal.
Yes, the momentum should be sweeping into Lambeau next week. Right, Charles Woodson?
"There is no momentum in this one," says Woodson.
Let's be honest. The Packers have won three games against bad teams. Actually, not just bad teams, but teams that rank among the worst in NFL history. Teams that we literally could have sat most of our starters against and still won the game.
What do you get out of games like these? Well, you get a win, for sure. I chuckled to myself as I left Lambeau last week, somewhat amazed that the win against the Lions counted the same as a win against, say, the Steelers or Patriots.
It's interesting, if you think about it. The age of free agency and salary caps brought upon the NFL a new era of parity. Teams regularly went from the outhouse to the penthouse, and vice versa. There were no powerhouse dynasties anymore...the Cowboys of the early 1990's might be the last true dynasty there was.
But now, we're seeing teams that are truly lacking in any competitiveness. The Lions, Browns, Rams...these are teams that are so bad that it makes you wonder if they are operating under the same rules as everyone else? Don't they get revenue sharing? Can't they spend as much as any other team? Don't they have the same access to free agency and better draft picks?
But, I digress. My point is, quite simply, that out of our last four games, three have been easy wins. That fourth game, however, was a demoralizing loss on the road against a division rival, and now, we get the rematch at home in a week. But, how much have we improved?
The one place to look, quite sadly, is penalties. No, penalties don't necessarily spell the difference in the win/loss column, but they are an indicator of team discipline. The fact that the Packers have continued to have difficulties with foolish penalties, pre-snap penalties, and unnecessary, non-combat penalties means that there is still sloppy play despite the wins.
The Packers were tagged eight times for 70 yards today, which combined with last week's 13/130 almost equals Ryan Grant's impressive rushing totals.
The thing that concerned me was a quote given second-hand by the television announcers today, early on. While talking about the Packers' penalty problems, they said the coach Mike McCarthy told them that he has tried to address it over and over, and it gets to a point where there's not much more he can do about it... and it falls to the players to handle it.
That might have been a mangled quote from the same gentlemen who gave us, "The fastest spot to a line is a straight point." But, if the intent was there, it is not what we will call a good harbinger.
The Packers can't expect to play sloppy and undisciplined ball and still be able to win games. Perhaps unfortunately, the Packers have been able to win games the past few weeks that way, and that can give them a rather skewed self-image when they go against teams that aren't playing scared like the Lions and the Browns.
How do you work with Rodgers on getting rid of the ball quickly when he had five seconds to throw every down? How do you work on getting pressure on the quarterback when Derek Anderson looked like he was throwing the ball blindfolded? How do you work with your young new left tackle when the guy he had to block looked like Deacon Jones? I mean, Deacon Jones today.
Not only are Rodgers and TJ Lang going to be handling a far different pass rush next week against the Williams brothers from Minnesota, but against teams with top ten defensive lines like Pittsburgh, Chicago, Arizona, San Francisco, and Baltimore.
In a way, these can be trap games. Easy wins that get you to sit on your laurels instead of putting the pressure on you to improve those sloppy mistakes.
I may be completely wrong, and these momentum from these two games will be a great contrast to the huge let-down the Vikings had against the Steelers today. Maybe the Packers will cruise into Lambeau next week and continue piling up the stats (and the score) like the have the last two weeks.
But if what the announcers said was true, and Mike McCarthy has "done all he can do" to fix the penalty situation, I'm worried.