Let’s face facts here folks. The Green Bay Packers did not play very well in the past two games versus the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers on the road.
The Packers were outscored in those two games by a 67-40 margin.
The Packers went into those two games undefeated and are now 6-2. The reasons are many.
The biggest reason comes from an old adage about the game of football. That is, games are won or lost in the trenches.
Never has that axiom been more true if you watched the last two games that Packers have played in.
Against both the Broncos and the Panthers, both the offensive and defensive lines of Packers struggled mightily.
That may be the biggest reason why the Packers lost both of those games, although there were a myriad of other factors as to why the Packers performed so badly at times in both contests.
Factors like having key injuries in the secondary, having zero pass pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, having multiple blown assignments and having poor tackling technique.
The last two games have dropped the Packers into a virtual tie with the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.
In addition to that, the Packers find themselves near the bottom of the league in terms of team statistics on both offense and defense.
Looking at those rankings, the Packers have to feel fortunate to be 6-2.
So what can cure the ills of the Packers? An appearance by the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field this Sunday will sure help.
The 1-7 Lions are a trainwreck right now. Not only are they playing bad on the field, but that putrid performance has cost a number of people their jobs already this season.
One of those people was offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, the grandson of Vince Lombardi.
The Lions also fired general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand .
Head coach Jim Caldwell still has his job, but he has to feel like the sharks are circling underneath him on the plank.
The Lions have scored 149 points and have given up 245. Detroit is ranked 26th in total offense and 26th in total defense.
Did I also mention that the Lions haven’t won a game in Wisconsin since 1991?
When the Packers meet the Lions, good things usually happen for Green Bay. The Packers lead the all-time series 95-67-7. The Packers are also 2-0 in the postseason against the Lions.
One of the reasons that the Packers have been so dominant at home versus the Lions is the play of their quarterbacks since 1992.
Brett Favre was 16-0 against the Lions in Wisconsin. Favre and the Packers won the first three games at old Milwaukee County Stadium and then all the rest at Lambeau Field, after the Packers started playing exclusively there in 1995.
No. 4 put up some terrific numbers versus Detroit at home. In 16 games, Favre threw 26 touchdown passes versus 11 interceptions for 3,682 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 96.6.
Aaron Rodgers has carried on that torch. No. 12 is 6-0 against the Lions at Lambeau Field. In those six games, No. 12 has thrown 11 touchdown passes versus just 3 picks for 1,520 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 113.1.
In the one game that neither Favre or Rodgers started at quarterback over the last 23 games against the Lions at home, it was Matt Flynn who had a brilliant performance.
In the last game of the 2011 season, Flynn started instead of Rodgers, as No. 12 was being rested before the start of the postseason. All Flynn did was throw six touchdown passes versus one interception for 480 yards. That adds up to a 136.4 passer rating.
Going into the game on Sunday, Rodgers is having another fine season, even with some issues on offense. The receiving corp of the Packers has been hit hard with injuries and the running game has been very inconsistent.
Add to that, the offensive line has not played up to it’s potential this season and has been less than mediocre the last two weeks.
Even with all that, Rodgers has thrown 19 touchdown passes versus just three picks for 1,937 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 108.2.
Still, Rodgers is only averaging 242 yards passing a game. The average completion so far this season is just 7.7 yards.
The season-ending knee injury to wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the preseason is a big reason why. No. 87 has been the deep threat for Rodgers in the past and the Packers are still looking for someone to fill that role this season.
The rest of the receivers have also been dealing with injuries.
Randall Cobb is still dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in the preseason. James Jones has been slowed somewhat with hamstring issues.
Davante Adams has been dealing with ankle issues since the second game of the season. Rookie Ty Montgomery has missed the last two games due to a knee injury.
Against the Panthers, the Packers also gave some limited reps to second-year receivers Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis.
The passing game obviously needs to get better, but the running game is also in a funk.
James Starks has played well and will get the start this week against the Lions, but the performance of Eddie Lacy has been both puzzling and troubling so far in 2015.
Will Lacy get his mojo back this year? That’s hard to say. But in both his rookie season in 2013 and last season, Lacy was a stud once the weather started getting colder.
In the last two seasons in November and December, Lacy has averaged 746 yards and nine touchdowns in those two months and has had a 4.57 yards-per-carry average.
The Packers need both Starks and Lacy to be effective to help the passing game get better.
That takes us to the offensive line. The line play has got to improve, both in the running game and the passing game.
Both Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari has struggled at tackle at times. The center of the line, namely left guard Josh Sitton and center Corey Linsley have both been too inconsistent so far this season.
In terms of the defense, the secondary needs to get healthier and communicate better. The defensive line needs to penetrate more and help keep the blockers off the linebackers.
The play of the linebackers, except for Clay Matthews, has been far too uneven. In the Carolina game, Jake Ryan showed me enough to warrant an opportunity to start at inside linebacker next to Matthews.
You might recall that the defense became much better last season after the coaching staff made some changes to the middle of the defense.
Bottom line, the Packers are about to start a four-game swing against NFC North opponents. These are the games that the Packers have to win if they expect to win their fifth straight NFC North title.
This all starts on Sunday when the Lions come into Lambeau Field.
If history is a blueprint for the future, the Packers should see their fortunes improve against Detroit.
A win is vital for the Packers this Sunday, but so is showing vast improvement in the problem areas that Green Bay has exhibited the past couple of games and throughout the season.