NFC North: Jerely Worthy

Wrap-up: Packers 24, Jaguars 15

October, 28, 2012
A few thoughts on Sunday's events at Lambeau Field:

What it means: Fortunately for the Green Bay Packers, ugly and/or short-handed victories count the same as blowouts in the standings. This game against the Jacksonville Jaguars was a struggle from the start, but ultimately the Packers held on to win their third consecutive game and improve to 5-3.

Offensive struggles: The Packers played without their top two receivers, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, as well as their top running back, Cedric Benson. And it showed. They put up a season-low 238 yards of offense, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished under 200 yards for only the 11th time in 70 career starts. The Packers worked hard to establish their running game against the NFL's worst-ranked run defense, but tailback Alex Green managed 54 yards on 22 carries. One of the biggest plays of the game was Rodgers' decision to take a shot downfield on third-and-7 with two minutes, 44 seconds left. Receiver James Jones couldn't make the catch, but a pass interference call on the Jaguars' William Middleton moved the ball 38 yards to the Jaguars' 38-yard line. That field position put the Packers in position for a 25-yard field goal that made it a two-score game.

Special teams excitement: Davon House's blocked punt in the second quarter, eventually recovered for a touchdown by rookie Dezman Moses, was the play that allowed the Packers to operate with a lead during some tough times in the middle of the game. House came unblocked off the right side of the Jaguars' formation. The Packers tried a trick play from the Jaguars' 37-yard line in the third quarter, shifting from a field goal formation into a punt formation before punter Tim Masthay unleashed a long and incomplete throw down the right hash mark. Replays showed Masthay had tight end Ryan Taylor open for a first down. That's the risk of such calls. Masthay is a punter, not a quarterback. As easy as it might look on television, you can't assume a non-quarterback will make the right decision on a throw. It's not his professional expertise.

Defensive struggles: The Packers did well to hold the Jaguars to 15 points considering quarterback Blaine Gabbert had receivers open for most of the afternoon. Gabbert completed 27 of 39 passes for 303 yards in the Packers' first game without cornerback Charles Woodson, and the Packers' tackling was inconsistent. Linebacker A.J. Hawk won't want to watch replays of his miss in the flat of running back Rashad Jennings, leading to a 24-yard pass play in the fourth quarter.

Injury report: Nose tackle B.J. Raji returned to the lineup, but the Packers lost two other defensive linemen during the game. Rookie Jerel Worthy suffered a concussion and Mike Neal injured his ankle.

What's next: The Packers will host the Arizona Cardinals next Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Matt Williamson's offseason grades for the NFC Insider weren't overly kind to the NFC North, but perhaps that's because most of our teams didn't need wholesale offseason changes to begin with. The file requires an Insider subscription, but I can provide you Williamson's grades and some snippet of what he wrote below:

Chicago Bears
NFC Rank: 4
Key Williamson phrase: "The Bears didn't lose much this offseason, and the addition of [Brandon] Marshall, a true No. 1 receiver, will boost this offense."
Seifert comment: The Bears were certainly the NFC North's most active team in the offseason, buying premium backups at quarterback (Jason Campbell) and running back (Michael Bush). Quarterback Jay Cutler without question has the best supporting cast, including coaching, that he's had in Chicago. Most outsiders are concerned about the offensive line, but most teams have a question mark on some portion of their roster.

Minnesota Vikings
NFC Rank: 10
Key Williamson phrase: "[Christian] Ponder will have a wealth of up-and-coming receivers to throw to, namely Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph, [Jerome] Simpson, [Jarius] Wright, [Greg] Childs and [John] Carlson."
Seifert comment: Ponder also has a better situation at left tackle. But the parts are immaterial to Ponder's development. If he can't capitalize on them, then they won't matter much.

Green Bay Packers
NFC Rank: 14
Key Williamson phrase: "Although I very much respect such a well-executed draft plan, that is an awful lot of faith to put into a draft class in the players' rookie seasons."
Seifert comment: There are probably two rookies the Packers are hoping to get instant impact from: Linebacker Nick Perry and defensive lineman Jerel Worthy. That's not too out of the question.

Detroit Lions
NFC Rank: 15
Key Williamson phrase: "To get to the promised land, that young nucleus will need to take another collective step forward, as the Lions did very little to improve their roster with veteran free-agent additions."
Seifert comment: It's come full circle: The Lions were once criticized for making poor decisions in free agency to cover for poor draft decisions. This offseason, some debated whether they were right to stand pat with their nucleus.