There’s more to Green Bay Packers’ early-season struggles than playing tough teams
In my Surviving Sunday column this week, I opined that one of the reasons the Green Bay Packers have started slow the last three seasons is a bland and vanilla early-season scheme on offense.
In the comments section, marpag disagreed. marpag said the Packers have started slow because they’ve played really good teams right out of the gate. “…if you ask me, blaming the loses on GB’s supposed ‘vanilla-ness’ is kind of overlooking the obvious,” marpag wrote.
The “obvious,” according to marpag, being that even good teams like the Packers will lose to other good teams. Don’t pin the Packers’ early struggles on scheme, blame the quality of opponents.
I see marpag’s point, but I think you have to look a little bit deeper at the “quality opponents” reason for the Packers starting slow. First, let’s look at the teams that have defeated the Packers in the season’s first three games since 2012:
According to marpag, these teams combined to go 68-27-1 (I didn’t bother double-checking marpag’s math because I hate math so we’ll just take marpag’s word on this one). When you look at it from a macro perspective, marpag is right. The Packers lost to some damn good teams early. No shame in that. No need to read too much into it, right?
But if you examine the losses at a more micro level, the tough opponents reasoning doesn’t hold up, in my opinion. NFL seasons are full of ups and downs, even for the good teams. How a team plays in September is often very different from how it’s playing in December.
When reflecting on a season, you have to look at how a team was playing during a specific window to get a better gauge on exactly how “tough” they were. Did they go on a dominant run after beating the Packers? What’d they do the week after beating Green Bay?
In 2012, the 49ers waxed the Packers in week 1, beat the Lions in week 2 and lost to the Vikings in week 3. The Seachickens cheated to beat the Packers in week 3, then lost to the mediocre at best Rams.
In 2013, the 49ers once again stomped the Packers in the opener, then lost to the Seachickens and Colts by a combined 46 points. The Bengals beat the Packers in week 3, then didn’t even score a touchdown in losing to the Browns the next week (the Browns finished 4-12).
In 2014, the Seachickens had no problem beating the Packers in the Thursday Night opener. They rested for 10 days, then lost to the Chargers by nine points. The Lions managed to squeak out a win over the Jets after beating the Packers, but lost to the Bills the following week.
As you can see, the teams that have beaten the Packers to start recent seasons weren’t exactly unstoppable early-season juggernauts that couldn’t be defeated. Four of the six teams that beat the Packers in the first three weeks of the last three seasons went on to lose their next game.
Sure, these teams ended up being playoff-caliber teams, but they were beatable when the Packers played them early and the Packers couldn’t get it done.
I’m not trying to pick on marpag. His point was one I hadn’t thought of and it forced me to dig deeper into the issue and turn it into a post (any post ideas are welcome during the dog days of the offseason). And like I said earlier, I don’t think marpag is wrong in blaming the Packers early-season struggles on playing tough opponents.
I just think there’s more to the issue than simply chalking it up to the Packers playing good teams.