The bye for the Green Bay Packers comes a little early in 2016, with the team having just played three games. While there's a lot of football left to be played, here's five things we've learned about the team thus far this season.
Stop doubting Aaron Rodgers
There was a lot of hand-wringing surrounding the play of Aaron Rodgers after two games and he still hasn't thrown for more than 213 yards in a game. But his first-half performance against Detroit, in which he threw four touchdowns, should have helped quelled any doubts that Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks in the game. And how soon we forget his incredible touchdown pass to Davante Adams in the opener, or his touchdown runs in each of the first two games. Did he have a subpar game against Minnesota? Yeah, but so do a lot of QBs (and Rodgers has not done well recently vs. the Vikings). But let's take our hand away from the panic button. Green Bay is going to face some defenses in upcoming games that, in theory, Rodgers should be able to carve up. If by Thanksgiving he's still struggling, OK, feel free to vent. Until then, (you know it was coming), r-e-l-a-x.
Jordy Nelson is just fine
If there were any concerns about Nelson, who missed all of last season and didn't play in the preseason, well, those should be washed away. He is averaging 5.7 receptions per game, which would be the second-highest of his career (he had 6.1 per game in 2014). Nelson also already has four touchdown receptions. There's no lack of confidence from Rodgers in throwing to Nelson. If there are any issues, it is that Nelson really hasn't stretched the field too much -- his average yards per catch is 12.1 and catch percentage is 63.0 percent, both of which are his lowest since his rookie year in 2008. But it has only been three games, so those numbers certainly could get back to their norm. The key is Nelson's knee is fine and the Packers are confident enough to have him on the field nearly every play. After being in on 84 percent of the snaps his first game back, Nelson was in on 68 of 71 snaps vs. the Vikings (96 percent) and 49 of 54 against Detroit (91 percent).
APAndy Clayton-King/Associated Pre
Good luck running on the Packers (for now)
Running against Green Bay this season has been like trying to run through a brick wall. The longest run the Packers have allowed this year is 12 yards to Minnesota's Matt Asiata. Neither Jacksonville nor Detroit had a rush longer than 9 yards. Overall, Green Bay is allowing a paltry 1.8 yards per carry. In the first quarter of games, opponents have rushed for all of 18 yards on 19 carries. And the defense should get only better as it gets healthier and defensive Mike Pennel returns from a suspension. Of course, perhaps the enthusiasm should be tempered a bit. In the opener, Green Bay faced T.J. Yeldon, who hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, rushing for 84 yards on 34 carries this season (2.5 average). The Packers stymied the Vikings' Adrian Peterson in Week 2, but in Minnesota's opener Peterson ran for just 31 yards on 19 carries (1.6 average) against Tennessee. And Detroit split its carries with Theo Riddick -- who is known more for his hands -- and Dwayne Washington, a seventh-round pick. This still might be a very good run defense, but Dallas' Ezekiel Elliot and Atlanta's tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman might provide truer tests.
APStephen B. Morton/Associated Pre
But have fun passing (for now)
While running against Green Bay has proven to be problematic, we can't really say the same thing about passing. Of course, some of that might have to do with the fact teams are giving up on the run and that the Packers have led for much of the games they've been in, but nevertheless opponents have passed for 991 yards with a 66.7 percent completion rate and 105.3 QB rating through three games. We saw some of the problems the secondary has had against Minnesota (Stefon Diggs) and Detroit (Marvin Jones). A return to health of Sam Shields and Morgan Burnett would certainly help things.
APAndy Clayton-King/Associated Pre
Don't get attached to Green Bay's punter
Green Bay surprisingly cut longtime punter Tim Masthay before the final preseason game and Jacob Schum was brought in. So how is Schum doing? Well, he might want to rent. Schum is 26th in the NFL average yards per punt (41.8) and 20th in net average (39.1). Just two of his 11 punts have gone inside the 20. To be fair, these are't far off Schum's averages last year with Tampa Bay when he averaged 49.1 yards per punt, which ranked 31st in the NFL, and had a net average of 38.0, which ranked 28th, with 15 of 56 punts landing inside the 20. Last season, by the way, Masthay averaged 43.9 yards per punt with a net average of 40.2, but only 18 of his 81 punts went inside the 20.