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Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

11/21/2011

After the Green Bay Packers' 35-26 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. A scary thought occurred as I studied the NFC standings in that artifact known as a newspaper Monday morning: Despite a perfect 10-0 record, they have the slimmest of margins in the race to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. For that matter, they're at least two weeks away from being in position to clinch the NFC North. That's the situation with the San Francisco 49ers sitting at 9-1, and with the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears both at 7-3. The bright side: All 14 of the teams that have started 10-0 in the Super Bowl era have advanced to the playoffs one way or the other. Nine of them made the Super Bowl and six won it.

  2. In the locker room after the game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers truly looked like he had lost Sunday. He said he was frustrated that "I didn't throw the ball very well." It's true that Rodgers missed a few more throws than he normally does. He also threw his fourth interception of the season, finished with his second-lowest passer rating in a game this season and said: "I'm not trying to be ridiculously humble right now." But I hope Rodgers doesn't become a victim of the absurd pace he set in the first half of the season. Historically, NFL passing numbers dip when the weather turns. Everyone wants to meet and possibly exceed their own standards, but there was nothing to be disappointed about after a 299-yard, three-touchdown, 112.3-rated game.

  3. If tailback James Starks misses any time because of a sprained knee, the Packers will miss him most in the closer role he has carved out this season. On a number of occasions, they have turned to him to either run out the clock (at the Minnesota Vikings) or be the focal point of a ball-possession drive to seal the game. Sunday was an example of the latter. After the Bucs closed the gap to 21-19 early in the fourth quarter, the Packers noticeably shifted toward Starks on what turned out to be an 85-yard drive to make it a two-score game. Rodgers completed four passes to Starks on the drive, for 29 yards, and he rushed twice for 26 yards. That gave him six touches on the eight plays. Veteran Ryan Grant is capable of establishing a rhythm when he gets regular carries, but Starks has obviously been the Packers' first preference.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

I wouldn't have guessed that the Packers' B.J. Raji on Sunday became just the fourth defensive lineman since the 1970 merger to score a rushing touchdown. The others were Shaun Smith (2010), James Jones (1993) and, of course, William "The Refrigerator" Perry (1985). Perry is the only among them who scored more than once. Raji is only 25 and in his third NFL season. Does he have a chance to be the most scoring-efficient defensive lineman in NFL history? Let's find out!