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Wednesday Walkthroughs: How good are the Packers?

The Packers are 3-0 and cruising. How far can they go?

Green Bay Packers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

We know the Packers are good. 3-0 teams don’t happen by accident (no, not even the Bears). But how good are they? What can we expect for the rest of the season?

We asked our writers to give their takes on what we should think of the Packers through three weeks. Just how good are they, anyway?

Paul Noonan: Almost great

When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996 they had the league’s best defense, actually slightly better than the offense was compared to other defenses league wide. They also had an outstanding defense in 2010, and likely don’t win the Super Bowl without every bit of it. I think we take it for granted that an “average defense” with prime Rodgers is good enough, and maybe it is, but that’s probably cutting things close, and as good as they are, that defense isn’t even in the ballpark of average yet. I’d hate for this to turn into a 2011 scenario, but there are NFC teams out there that are as good on offense, and/or could give them problems on defense. They’re extremely fun to watch, they’re better than they have been in years, but until that defense is competent, it’s going to hold them back.

Rcon14: Super Bowl contenders

There is no way of knowing who will win the Super Bowl, particularly this early in the season, but as I argued in my piece earlier this week, the Packers belong in that discussion of true Super Bowl contenders. That group is actually pretty big right now with a lot of impressive teams, but Green Bay firmly belongs within it. They have had the best offense in football so far by EPA per play, which is far more predictive of their offense going forward than the decent-to-suspect defense is of future defense. If the good players on the defense start to play like good players again (i.e. Kenny Clark comes back and the Smiths perform even close to last year), the defense should be perfectly fine, albeit flawed. If the offense continues to roll like it has, there’s no reason for Green Bay to fall out of that elite tier-1 status.

Matub: 2011 Good

I made a joke on twitter a few weeks back about Aaron Rodgers’ comment on watching his old film. He “saw something” in his 2010/2011 film that was missing from his game. My joke was “If 2011 Rodgers is back, he brought the 2011 defense with him.” With each passing week, my joke is getting closer to reality. This week in DVOA the Packers are 2nd in offense and 28th in defense. Last week they were 1st and 26th, respectively. In 2011 they finished the season 1st in offense and 24th in defense.

This Packers team is set up to blow people out, but if they face someone with a decent offense and a good defense, the tables will turn.

I hope I’m wrong and everyone will be able to @ me all day about how “dumb DVOA is” and call me a dork; however, this is looking like 2011 all over again. We’ll enjoy the offensive highlights but then get destroyed by the first team who figures out a formula to win (49ers please don’t read this, thanks).

Side note: the 2020 Bears are top 5 WORST 3-0 teams of all time, per DVOA. So that should help DVOA curry favor with more of the Packers fan base.

Kris Burke: PDG (pretty darn good)

If there were still any lingering doubts about the Packers hiring Matt LaFleur, they should be silenced.

Not only has the coach brought the offensive system from draconian in scheme to state-of-the-art, he’s reshaped the entire franchise. Players are able to be themselves more (see the celebrations for proof). music is blaring at practice and Aaron Rodgers has become as zen as he has been in the last several years.

Defensively there are still question marks, but much like the lockout season of 2011, one has to wonder if limited time in the building thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic has put offenses far ahead of defenses as scoring is up overall across the league. Maybe it will just take a couple more games to get them up to speed. If not, Mike Pettine’s seat may start to warm up.

Overall though, it’s been a fantastic start and LaFleur/Rodgers outdueling Sean Payton and Drew Brees serves notice the Packers offense isn’t just for real, it’s downright lethal.

Jon Meerdink: Good enough to win a Super Bowl

I’ve long believed that the only thing that really matters is making the playoffs. From there, it’s a series of one-game matchups, and if you can stack enough of those matchups in your favor, you’ll have a good shot to win a Super Bowl.

Based on what I’ve seen from the Packers through three weeks, they’re a good bet on both of those fronts. 3-0 teams can all but make hotel reservations for January; it’s pretty rare for a team that starts 3-0 to end up on the outside looking in, especially when they’re playing as well on offense as the Packers are. So that part, at least, shouldn’t be a problem.

From there, the Packers can hope for good matchups with teams that can’t exploit what seem to be obvious weaknesses. That may be a tall order, but if the offense can play as well as it has so far when it matters most, the Packers have as good a shot as anyone to make a serious run for a title.

Tex Western: Legit

It all comes down to Aaron Rodgers. He’s putting up numbers through the first three games that we haven’t seen from him since 2011 - and that includes his 2014 MVP season. Plus he did it without Davante Adams last Sunday against the best opponent the team has faced on the short season so far.

With a running game to complement him, this team can win on offense in myriad ways. Of course, the question becomes the defense, but there’s enough talent and playmaking ability there to make the critical stops when necessary - and we saw that happen in the 4th quarter last Sunday. This team should be at the top of the list of Super Bowl contenders in the NFC.