The Green Bay Packers at the quarter mark 2014


By Travis Pipes

Lombardi Ave contributing author

At the quarter pole in the sprint that is the condensed and wildly unpredictable 17-week NFL season, approximately seven NFC teams – including the Green Bay Packers sport identical 2-2 records.

In addition to the Packers, two of those teams – the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears – just happen to call the NFC North Division home.

Current NFC North leader Detroit doesn’t have to look too far over their respective shoulder to see that trio aligned and jockeying for hugely critical NFC playoff position.

At the close of the weekend two of these teams will have earned their third loss of 2014 and one will tack on another critical divisional loss.

Each has, with their split wins and losses to this point, seemingly wiped the slate clean as they attempt to look ahead to the second quarter of the 2014 campaign.

In week five Green Bay prepares to host cross-state division rival Minnesota in a nationally televised game tonight and Chicago travels to Carolina on Sunday afternoon.

At the close of the weekend two of these teams will have earned their third loss of 2014 and one will tack on another critical divisional loss.

In what’s already shaping up to be a crowded NFC playoff race two losses out of six divisional games could have lasting ramifications.

Heading into week four, however, Green Bay may just have faced the most pressure.

Heading into week four there weren’t a lot of reasons for optimism in Packers News given the sputtering nature of the offense and a sieve-like defense that has played out of position and largely from behind in every game.

Eddie Lacy has had a slow start to 2014.

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Running back Eddie Lacy who powered his way to a sensational Rookie of the Year 2013 season has looked, well, sluggish at times. Backup rusher James Starks has outperformed him sporting a 5-yard per-carry average to this point.

The offensive line is still gaining cohesion with newly-tabbed Center J.C. Tretter’s preseason injury sending ripples of inconsistency into the blocking scheme. Rookie Center Corey Linsley who slid into the starting lineup is still learning the assignments and audible calls and at times has looked overmatched.

Somewhere down in Tampa Bay, Evan Dietrich-Smith may be smiling.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and star pass catcher Jordy Nelson were locked onto each other early – but nobody else on the young season was able to regularly produce.

An alarming downward trend continued as the Packers scored just one total touchdown at Detroit in week three during a 19-7 loss to the upstart Lions.

It was, then, the NFL schedule-makers who couldn’t have been more generous in sending Green Bay to Chicago last Sunday in what amounted to a must-win game for the Packers.

Green Bay has owned the Bears since 2010, sporting an 11-1 record against them – including the NFC Championship game that same season in a run which culminated in their Super Bowl XLV title.

Things finally appeared to align for head coach Mike McCarthy on the field for the Packers in a dominating 38-17 win.

Rodgers – who was named NFC Offensive Player of he Week following the victory – had his first true breakthrough performance of 2014.

Receivers Nelson and Randall Cobb both surpassed 100 yards and each scored twice.

The defense forced three turnovers and the win may have – at least temporarily – muted any speculation about the future of embattled defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

Most importantly, with a pair of wins heading into their showdown with the Vikings it appears Green Bay has regained its confidence.

They certainly are more firmly in the conversation when it comes to who realistically will walk away with the division title – and who will have a much clearer path to the Super Bowl in what will surely be a photo finish come January.