By Mark Metzler
The bye week came at the right time for the Packers. Injuries have started to pile up, and the Packers need to have people healthy for the rest of the season.
Most of the team will be back for the week-six game, but I don’t think we’ll see inside linebacker Christian Kirksey for awhile, and guard Lane Taylor is out for the year, maybe his career. It will be good to have Davante Adams back. Marcedes Lewis will be important in the game against Tampa Bay as well. On defense, having Kenny Clark will be really important to stop the run. Kenny King and Chandon Sullivan should be ready in the defensive backfield. And it’s encouraging to hear that wide receiver Allen Lazard thinks that he could be back as early as week eight.
Let’s be honest, the Packers have some potential weak spots. It would be good to have another run stopper up front to avoid the type of game that happened in the NFC championship last year. I was hopeful that the Packers might sign Damon Harrison, but Harrison signed with the Seahawks, the Packers’ primary challenger, I think, for NFC dominance.
The Packers also need help at inside linebacker. Kirksey is out. Ty Summers is filling in OK, but not great. One potential bright spot is University of Minnesota rookie Kamal Martin, who should be back in the next few weeks, but having him play at an elevated level is a lot to ask from someone who has never played a snap in the NFL. Who else is available? There’s been some talk of bringing in free agent Clay Matthews to play inside, but I think it’s just talk.
Going into the season, I thought that the Packers would finish at 10-6 and make the playoffs, as either a wild-card team or division champs. I actually thought the Vikings had a good chance to win the division. I didn’t think the Bears would post the record they have so far. Hey, the Bears are finding ways to win, just as the Packers did last year. Good for them.
As far as a start to the season, most people would have been happy with a 4-4 start. I think that would have been fine, but the start has been a pleasant surprise
With the season playing out the way it has because of COVID, I think a lot about home-field advantage. We saw that it actually hurt the Saints in the week-three game against the Packers. I haven’t seen a lot of advantage around the league so far. The fans are the thing, cheering for the home team and jeering the visitor. Without them, the playing field is more even no matter where the game is being played.
There are small advantages, though. I think it helps teams play in their home weather. For instance, it will be interesting to see how the Packers play in Tampa Bay on Sunday. It will be warm, and the players will need to stay hydrated. If I remember correctly, warm-weather games have led to a good deal of cramping and some exhaustion in the past. The other advantage is being able to stay home before the game. I think that has some impact, but these are professionals who are used to travel, so it should be minor.
The Packers don’t always play the best coming out of a bye, so we’ll see how they do against the revitalized Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady, the winningest quarterback of all time, in Tampa Bay. Plus, the Buccaneers have a very good defense, something the Packers haven’t faced this year. Could the Packers start 5-0? We’ll see what the weather is like and if that is a drain, but the chances are good.