The Green Bay Packers (4-2) are atop the NFC North division seven weeks into the 2013 NFL season. When looking at their thinned down roster due to the great amount of injuries, it’s a complete surprise to see the Packers on top of their division.
In August, the Packers lost left tackle Bryan Bulaga and running back DuJuan Harris to season-ending injuries. On offense, Green Bay has seen players such as wide receiver Randall Cobb, tight end Jermichael Finley, running back Eddie Lacy, running back James Starks and wide receiver James Jones miss significant time due to injury.
Defensively, the Packers have been without key players such as outside linebackers Nick Perry and Clay Matthews, inside linebacker Brad Jones, cornerback Casey Hayward and safety Morgan Burnett.
So how is it that the Packers keep winning despite the amount of built up traffic in the training room? It’s because opponents must continue to fear the next man up and the unknown in Green Bay.
In a Week 2 win over the Washington Redskins, Lacy suffered a concussion and Starks stepped in with ease. In relief duty, Starks became the first Packers running back since the 2010 season to rush for 100 yards in a game, amassing 132 yards on 20 carries, which surprised the Redskins and the Packers.
In a Week 3 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals, it was Starks who went down with a knee injury. Fellow rookie running back Johnathan Franklin entered the game in the second half and rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries, and scored his first career NFL touchdown. Against the Detroit Lions in Week 5, Matthews broke his thumb. Since Matthews has been out though, the Packers’ pass rush has registered eight sacks in the past two games.
Inside linebacker Brad Jones hasn’t played over the last two weeks either, but third-year linebacker Jamari Lattimore has 15 total tackles, including three tackles for loss in his place. He has made a case for a full-time starting job.
Lastly, Jones and Cobb went down with injuries in a Week 6 win over the Baltimore Ravens. In the Packers’ Week 7 win over the Cleveland Browns, second-year wide receiver Jarrett Boykin caught eight passes for 103 yards and scored a touchdown in his first career NFL start.
Opponents must fear the unknown because Green Bay has proven that they are stacked with talent in nearly every position group. Boykin was an undrafted rookie who was released in May 2012 by a Jacksonville Jaguars team which had won two of their last 23 games; yet, Boykin is now serving as the Packers’ no.2 receiver behind Jordy Nelson.
The Packers’ defense has seen players such as Andy Mulumba, Nate Palmer, Lattimore, Mike Daniels and Micah Hyde fill some big shoes. Over the last three games, the Packers are allowing 13 points and 287.3 yards per game to their opponents and haven’t allowed more than 17 points in a game.
Offensively, both Finley and Cobb’s seasons could be over, but Jones and Starks will eventually return this year. On defense, Matthews, Perry, Brad Jones and Hayward will return to the team as well.
My guess is that opponents would rather play against Packers players who they know instead of shooting blindly in the dark against a group of unknown talents. The NFL consists of the best football players in the world, yet Green Bay seems like the only team which understands how all 53 players on the roster can make an impact.
There is talent everywhere, and Green Bay handles their talent better than anyone else in the league. Fear the unknown, Minnesota Vikings.