Green Bay Defense
Week 5 Statistics: 16 Points Allowed, 4 Sacks, 1 Fumble Recovery; 7.00 fantasy points
So far through this season, what we have seen from the Packers’ defense is pretty perplexing in relation to what we’ve been used to.
Before this year, the things most would have likely said they expect to see from this unit would be a strong young secondary, a flailing run defense, an inconsistent pass rush led mostly by Clay Matthews, and the usual sieve at the inside linebacker spot.
Instead, everything is reversed!
Due to injuries and inconsistencies from its young players, the supposed strength of this defense is in fact its biggest weakness, dropping from #6 in Pass Defense DVOA for 2015 down to #19 in 2016.
The run defense is all of a sudden putting up historically good numbers while jumping from #19 in Run Defense DVOA in 2015 to #2.
The pass rush has been even better than hoped and constantly forcing pressure in a way they couldn’t sustain previous, and instead of Matthews leading the charge it is Nick Perry.
This week presents a unique challenge for them, however. While jumping to a stellar start against the run, they haven’t faced anyone in the stratosphere of Dallas yet.
While it would be foolish to expect a shutdown of the run in this game (Elliott has been excellent, but his offensive line rightfully gets credited as the top group across the league for their work in the trenches), it isn’t like Dallas has really faced much of a defensive challenge themselves yet.
Four of the teams they’ve played so far are average at best in defending the run (Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, and Cincinnati rank #32, #25, #23, and #16 in Run Defense DVOA, respectively), and against the best run defense they’ve seen so far (New York Giants, at #10 in Run Defense DVOA) held the team to their lowest rushing total — led by Elliott’s worst performance of the season (20 rushes, 51 yards).
Quite simply, as much as Green Bay hasn’t had to face a rushing attack on Dallas’s level, the Cowboys in turn have not faced a run defense playing as well as the Packers’ is — and unlike for Green Bay, we have at least some evidence that Dallas’s attack can be slowed.
If Green Bay can slow their rushing attack, it could force Prescott to have to take on a heavier burden.
He’s done well so far (including no interceptions yet and few bad passes to point to), but it isn’t as if he’s needed to do all that much behind the spectacular play of Elliott and the rushing attack besides play within the offense and take the throws the defense gives him.
If the defense forces him to do more, we may see the young quarterback make some of those rookie mistakes he has so far avoided.
Between the struggles by the Packers’ offense and the injury problems in their defense’s secondary this is far from a given, but the defense has played great overall even with their secondary struggles.
Assuming the Packers’ offense holds up their end here (while he hasn’t done so yet, you have to think Rodgers will find a rhythm at some point, and the Dallas defense should give him a decent chance to do so), we could see Prescott put in the kind of 14-3 or 17-6 hole which puts them in the kind of obvious passing situations which will allow Perry and the gang to pin their ears back and rush with relentless abandon.
Week 6 Prediction: