After the Green Bay Packers' 31-point first-half outburst in Week 3, it seemed that Mike McCarthy had figured out what ailed the team's sputtering offense. The offense utilized more quick passes and personnel variations to get Aaron Rodgers and the passing game on track, a trend that continued through the first drive of Week 5's matchup with the New York Giants. On that series alone, Green Bay converted four third-down situations and ate up nearly nine minutes of game clock.
However, the plan quickly reverted back to the familiar, static 11 personnel groupings, and the offensive efficiency bogged down as a result. While the Packers did manage some big passing plays -- namely Rodgers' 29-yard hookup with Davante Adams midway through the second quarter -- the offense largely sputtered in a fashion reminiscent of its performances in Weeks 1 and 2. Against better competition, that may have resulted in a loss instead.
Unlike in 2015, the Packers show enough flashes on offense to indicate that they can get on track and stay there. However, until they start stringing together strong performances, Rodgers and company must face the hard "predictable" questions.
O-line has stellar outing, but keep it in context
Anytime an offensive line yields zero pressures and only allows the defense to touch its quarterback three times, it qualifies as a stellar outing. Green Bay accomplished just that Sunday night against the Giants, with Rodgers seemingly having forever and a day to wait in the pocket on every passing play.
At the same time, such a performance doesn't exist in a vacuum. The Giants own the worst pass rush in the league, ranking last in sacks and knockdowns. Though they employ some big names along the defensive line -- namely the trio of Olivier Vernon, Jason Pierre-Paul and Damon Harrison -- they haven't demonstrated the ability to get after the quarterback with regularity in any game this season. In that context, the performance of the Packers' O-line loses a little of its shine.
Still, while the team garnered plenty of negative attention for its surprise release of guard Josh Sitton during the final cutdown, it appears that the line hasn't missed a beat. Lane Taylor has not committed any noticeable gaffs in Sitton's stead while David Bakhtiari has elevated his game to a level reflecting his recent contract extension. With the passing game still figuring out how to reclaim its former glory, having reliable pass protection represents an even more valuable asset than usual.
Run defense peaking at perfect time
Five weeks into the NFL season, only the Packers have held opponents to less than 2 yards per carry on the year and yielded just 50 total yards on the ground or fewer in every game. Such miniscule figures look impressive regardless of the quality of competition, and they have already faced former league MVP Adrian Peterson. By any objective measure, the team has its best run defense during the McCarthy-Rodgers era, and the unit could actually improve with the Week 6 return of suspended defensive lineman Mike Pennel.
And that run-stopping power could make all the difference next week when the Dallas Cowboys and their league-leading rushing attack come to town. For several years, the Cowboys have owned the league's premier offensive line. 2016 could see them reach new levels of dominance on the ground with the addition of No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott, the current rushing leader in the NFL.
The Packers likely can't maintain their 50-yards-or-fewer streak, but if they can minimize the impact of Dallas' run game, it could tilt the field to their advantage.