Welcome to the 2nd Half of the NFL Season. Thus far, at 7-0, we've played to perfection. We're well conditioned. Poised to improve. Ripe to Repeat. Offensively, we're loaded with weapons. On defense, although we've struggled to apply pressure on the QB, each week, we've had a defender make a crucial game-changing play. On special teams, we're seeing results that we haven't seen before.
As Packers fans, we've been blessed to watch the NFL's MVP play QB for our team 3 times over the last 20 years. Yet, we've never seen a QB play as exceptional as Aaron Rodgers is playing right now. He's completing more than 71% of his passes. He's thrown 20 TD's compared to only 3 interceptions. He's averaging more than 320 yards per game.
After 7 games, 7 different players are on pace to surpass 20 receptions. 3 are on pace to exceed 50 receptions. 7 different players have caught TD's. Meanwhile, we're averaging nearly 100 yards rushing per game. This offense has diversity. It's unpredictable. It's playing SUPER!
Defensively, we've given up a lot of yards. But, we've also forced turnovers. After 8 weeks of the NFL Season, the 35 year old, Sir Charles Woodson is tied for the NFL's lead in interceptions. The greatest thing about Sir Charles is that he never gets a cheap one. They're all meaningful. It's never the Hail Mary interception at the end of the game. They've been momentum altering plays that have helped propel victory. Sir Charles Woodson in Green & Gold has had a Hall of Fame ring to it. In 5 1/2 seasons as a Packer, Sir Charles has picked off 35 passes. He's also had 9 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries, and 10 TD's. Brilliance!
In all, the Packers have picked off 13 passes. What's wild is that T-Mon has yet to record an interception. The Packers have 17 sacks. What's wild is that Jarius Wynn has totaled as many sacks as the Claymaker. The Packers have forced 5 fumbles. What's wild is that Sir Charles has yet to force a fumble this year. The Packers are 7-0 and a couple of their most prime time players have yet to statistically dominate like we've become accustomed to seeing them play. The defense will continue to make game-changing plays and you'd have to figure that - as a whole - the team will statistically improve in the 2nd half of the year.
On special teams, we've seen some absolutely dynamic plays. We've seen Randall Cobb go 108 yards in his career debut. We've seen Mason Crosby go 14-14, including a Packers Record 58 yard FG. We've seen Tim Masthay average nearly 44 yards per punt with 7 downed inside the 20 compared to only 2 touch backs. Don't get me wrong, the special teams has not been flawless, but unlike recent memory, the special teams units have consistently made a positive impact on our team.
After 7 games, the Packers record is perfect. And, as has been documented, there's plenty of room for improvement. Enter Mike McCarthy. As I've said before, McCarthy's teams improve as the year goes on. Typically, his teams have peaked in December. I expect the same to happen in 2011. The Packers will improve.
This week - it's the San Diego Chargers. It'll be Lambeau West. I'd guess that there will be 30% Packers fans at the Stadium. Unfortunately, it appears, the Packers will be bringing the weather with them to San Diego. There's a 40% chance of precipitation with High's in the 50's. With this roster, poor weather isn't what I was hoping for. With the 2011 Packers, as long as the weather is positive, I have a hard time seeing anyone beating an Aaron Rodgers led offense. Poor weather can be an equalizer.
This Chargers team cannot be overlooked. Although Philip Rivers has had a poor season, he's capable of a breakout game. He's due. Like Rodgers, Rivers has plenty of weapons on offense. While the health of Floyd and Mathews is in question for this week, Rivers will still be equipped with Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Mike Tolbert, and Curtis Brinkley, who impressed mightily on MNF.
If the Packers can't apply pressure and if Rivers is patient with the underneath routes, the Chargers will be able to move the football. I'd imagine that the Chargers will have some success running the football - especially with runs that are kicked to the outside against the right side of our defense. There could be times the Chargers will gain double digit yards on those carries. Additionally, say what you will about Norv Turner, but his teams always move the ball via the crossing route. Thus far, the underneath drag route and the dump off to the RB have been routes Capers has been willing to give up. If Rivers sticks with the game plan, the Chargers will cause a heavy scare. At some point, you know Rivers will test us deep on a long ball to Vincent Jackson. We have to be ready to make a play. The ball will float. The secondary must pounce.
The Packers should be able to protect Rodgers. The Chargers will be without Shaun Phillips and although, OLB's, Antwan Barnes and Travis LaBoy are high effort guys, they're generally not high production guys. In the secondary, Eric Weddle is among the best safeties in the league. He's tied with Sir Charles for the interception lead. He's always around the ball. Quentin Jammer is also a gifted player in the San Diego secondary. But, outside of Jammer and Weddle, this secondary can be had with average talent. Considering the precision that the Packers offense is playing with thus far and this game has the makings of a shoot-out. With Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler at ILB, you can throw the ball between the LB's and the S's. Spikes simply can't drop like he used to.
Expect the Chargers to attempt to slow the game down. Generally, they like to play high-powered offensively. But, that's not how you beat the 2011 Packers. Rivers and Turner will be smart enough to know this. The Chargers will move the ball effectively. They'll find a rhythm. They'll have success running the ball.
But, in times of trouble, the Packers turn to the League's MVP. The most high, he's Aaron Rodgers. He's our leader. When this team needs a play, Rodgers will make it. Looking toward Nelson on deep crossing routes, Rodgers connects on a big play. Then it's Finley down the seam. Finley and Nelson each grab 5 balls and a TD.
Sir Charles grabs his 1st strip of the season.
Randall Cobb finds a big return against the oft-sluggish San Diego special teams unit.
It'll be a tight one. But, Lambeau West prevails.
Packers 34. Chargers 30.
Buckle up. It's going to be a thriller of a 2nd half to the NFL Season.
Go Pack Go!