The Green Bay Packers handily beat the Cleveland Browns 31-13 behind a 260-yard and three-touchdown performance from Aaron Rodgers. The win improved the Packers to 4-2, and with losses on Sunday for the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, the Packers vaulted themselves to a half-game lead all alone atop the highly competitive NFC North through the first seven weeks of the 2013 NFL season.
The win, however, came at a severe price to the Packers’ vaunted passing game.
All-Pro tight end Jermichael Finley injured his neck on a completion in the fourth quarter. That is horrible news for a team that has seen receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb both go down for the foreseeable future due to knee-related injuries. Now with Finley out, this Packers’ aerial attack has taken a blow and may not be the machine we have come to expect over the last several seasons.
The good news, at least as it seemed to be in the win over Cleveland on Sunday, is that second year receiver Jarrett Boykin was a force in the 18-point win. He had eight receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown, and like Cobb a season and a half ago, he could be the ‘next man up’. That helps this passing attack continue along without much of a hiccup.
Eddie Lacy had another solid performance, rushing for 82 yards and a score on 22 carries. He has contributed to a rushing attack that has started to get going since the second week of the season with three 100-plus yard rushing games in the last five games, and 99-yard and 82-yard performances in the two games without 100 yards rushing.
The defense has looked much better than in any season since the 2010 championship season. This team is going through a lot of injury turmoil, not unlike they did in 2010. This could really bond this team closer and help them develop a toughness that could serve them well for a deep run should they make the playoffs.
With a groin injury to Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler that may sideline him for several weeks. These injuries may not put the Packers behind the eight-ball too much. That said, they must get healthy and find ways to win, because the Bears and Lions look like they will be there until the end in the NFC North race.
At 4-2 and with a trip to Minneapolis for a game against the last-place Minnesota Vikings on NBC’s Sunday Night Football coming up, Green Bay can try to further establish Boykin, the running game, and other young receivers as they will face the Vikings short-handed. The Lions will host the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8 and the Bears have their bye, so its imperative for the Packers to get a win at the struggling Vikes to hold onto their first place hold in the division.