From Julius Peppers childishly taunting Cam Newton, who shredded his defense like some Wisconsin cheddar, to the sideline beef between Peppers, B.J. Raji and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, to another ugly loss, the Green Bay Packers, a team that appeared destined for a Super Bowl appearance just seven days ago, are now threatening to come apart.What’s the problem in Green Bay? Aaron Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the NFL (or No. 2 if you want to argue Tom Brady).
Their defense, which helped the team to a 12-4 record last year and got the Pack to within one play of the Super Bowl, is mostly the same. The team has injuries, but nothing excessive. The Packers offense evidently has a kryptonite: good defenses. Well, yeah. Duh. Aany team is going to have trouble with a great defense. But when you have a team predicated on the league’s top quarterback shredding defenses of all quality, that becomes a bigger issue.In the first six games of the year, Green Bay faced a Charmin-soft schedule (with the exception of Seattle, the reigning NFC champs who are an average 4-4 thus far in 2015). Rodgers and the Pack offense rolled. Then, against the top-ranked defense in the league, Rodgers had the worst day of his pro career. Sunday in Carolina, was just as bad for the first 50 minutes, with the Panthers rolling to a 37-14 lead. Then Rodgers and the Pack seemed to be getting some cosmetic garbage time yards, but the Panthers playing it safe combined with a horrible Cam Newton interception gave Green Bay the ball down eight deep in Carolina territory with three minutes remaining. But after converting one fourth-down conversion, the Packers failed on their second and lost 37-29.Now, losing two straight games to two undefeated teams is hardly a reason for panic. Many a team are going to get shut down by Denver. Seven teams have already lost to Carolina and, like we said, they had a chance to tie the game with under two minutes.But while the Denver loss was mostly meaningless as non-conference games tend to be, the loss to Carolina means Green Bay is a full two games behind the Panthers in the race for home-field advantages. Having to go on the road — even to a Bank of America Stadium that’s hardly the old RFK — could spell disaster for a team used to owning playoff games at Lambeau. And then there’s the more immediate problem: Somehow, the Packers are now in second place in the NFC North, tied with Minnesota with a 6-2 record, but losing the first tiebreaker. (On Nov. 8 that’s completely meaningless, of course, especially with two head-to-head games against remaining.) Though there’s still plenty of questions about Minnesota to maintain this pace — beating the Rams Sunday did quiet a lot of doubters — Green Bay is suddenly in a division race that’s looked all but over since mid-October.Long story short: The Packers aren’t a great football team. When you can’t run, it seriously hamstrings Aaron Rodgers’ ability to be Aaron Rodgers. And with an average defense, any team can get the best of them on the cliched any given Sunday. But, of course, not being great doesn’t preclude the Packers from seriously contending in the NFC or winning a Super Bowl.With the exception of Carolina, there aren’t any good teams in the conference. It’s a handful of decent teams and a slew of mediocre ones. Given that the Panthers are hardly a sure thing in any home playoff matchup (the team is zero for its last two in hosting a divisional playoff game), the Packers season could look vastly different in two months. It’s not about where you are on Nov. 8, but how well you’re playing in January.For now though, it’s time to fret a little, Green Bay. From 6-0 on the morning on Nov. 1 to 6-2 on the afternoon of Nov. 8, with a ton of holes exposed. The only silver lining: Three of the next four games are against Detroit and Chicago. That’s a dose of medicine for an ailing squad.