Green Bay’s Vibe Checks Out, For Now
It didn’t matter who the Green Bay Packers played on Sunday. This team was going to come out furious after that embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay has something to prove, and nothing was going to stand between them and the proverbial righting of the ship.
Especially not the Chicago Bears.
I have previously written about the folly of scheduling divisional games this early in the season. One of my main points was that it adds incredible pressure for the team to perform at its top level early on when many teams are coming in cold after not playing in the preseason. This idea came back to bite the Packers in Week 1 against Minnesota. The thought of going 0-2 within the division after only two weeks should have been enough motivation to spur any team with championship aspirations.
Win, they did. Commandingly so, even, despite the early Chicago touchdown to put them up 7-3. Green Bay’s coaches opted to go with the obvious this week, keeping the ball in the hands of their best two players in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. The result was as predictable as the plan, given the lack of willingness to adjust to last week’s loss. Perhaps the coaches did some introspection, and they made the necessary adjustments after all.
The win puts the Pack back on track. Sure, we can’t confidently say they’re better than the Vikings at this point. I’d still say Green Bay has some catching up to do with their border rivals. Still, the season outlook isn’t nearly as grim as it was this time last week. The team’s vibes have done a complete 180. Life is good.
There’s something to be said about the team’s momentum after a win like that. Even though the Bears aren’t a good team, it feels good to defeat any divisional rival convincingly. After an entire offseason of questions about how the offense would function, the Packers did enough to ease the nerves. With the defense also seeming to round into form, they may need to get fitted for that divisional crown.
Let’s go back to the concept of momentum. Momentum is huge, although perhaps easily dismissable in this age of analytically-focused sports coverage. It’s tough to say whether or not the Packers would have made a game of it in Week 1 after the Christian Watson drop, as Bryan Miller pointed out, but it’s also a fair question to ask. Momentum swings within games can be huge and often transcend spreadsheets and formulas.
Beyond the momentum in any single game, though, is season-long momentum. This is the driving force behind teams that go on major runs to achieve success. One needs to look no further than the 2007 New York Giants as perhaps the ultimate benefactor of how far momentum can carry a team. It’s half the reason sports make for such a beautiful pastime and why the adage any given Sunday has credence. Momentum transcends any expectations, weaving these tales of wonder and mystery in what would be an otherwise mundane outcome if it were reduced to analytics.
Even though this is a grand notion, the win and subsequent narrative flip mask some of Green Bay’s lingering issues. There are still legitimate questions about this wide receiver corps. Who will step up to be a consistent target for Aaron Rodgers? For all that Allen Lazard brings to the team, he cannot seem to stay healthy long enough to confidently take that role. Things are certainly looking up for the rookie WRs Watson and Romeo Doubs, but they still need significant development. Plus, there is always the lingering stench of last week’s Joe Barry/Matt LaFleur quote about how they refused to make adjustments despite getting outclassed in every phase of the game in Week 1.
The retort to this is simple: Winning fixes everything. It may only be temporary, and the NFL is undoubtedly a What have you done for me lately? sort of league, but winning paves the way for teams to build off the positivity. The Packers are lucky with their injury luck so far and are headed into a showdown with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s a great chance to string together another win and keep the vibes good.