RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus — Losing workhorse Ryan Grant to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1 was a crusher. While the Packers have managed to soldier on with a platoon of Jackson and converted fullback John Kuhn, not having Grant to shoulder the load could prove costly when running the football effectively tends to become paramount in the postseason. Jackson has the team's only 100-yard performance, and that came in the Week 5 loss at the Washington Redskins, when his 115-yard output was buoyed by a 71-yard gain. He is averaging a respectable 4.3 yards per carry but hasn't cut loose for more than 58 yards the last four games. Kuhn gets by on grit and brute force on straight-ahead runs, but his plodding style limits him to 3.6 yards per rush. Rodgers has been Green Bay's most effective ball-carrier, scrambling or sneaking for an average of 5.1 yards and three touchdowns with a long gain of 27. The Packers have struggled in short-yardage situations. What's more, they rank in the bottom half of the league with a per-game clip of 101.6 rushing yards.
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RUSH DEFENSE: C — Thanks to an infusion of beef across the line with the addition of 360-pound nose tackle Howard Green after he was cast aside by the New York Jets to go with B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Jenkins, the Packers the last two games have played like their league-leading run defense of 2009. They held the vaunted New York Jets to 119 yards and then the Cowboys to 39 yards. Still, Green Bay hasn't cracked the top half of the league rankings in allowing an average of 114.2 yards per game. The per-carry damage has been 4.5 yards. The Packers were gashed by the Philadelphia Eagles (149 yards), Miami Dolphins (150) and Minnesota Vikings (196) and have been susceptible to giving up big chunks of yards to running quarterbacks — the Eagles' Michael Vick (runs of 31 and 23 yards) and the Detroit Lions' Shaun Hill (run of 40 yards) exploited cracks in the middle of the defense early in the season. Raji, the team's first-round draft pick in 2009, has been effective in anchoring the line, but attrition on the line has forced him to play a boatload of snaps, which could have a mitigating effect down the stretch.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D — The Achilles' heel of 2009 remains a detriment, though some issues of the past haven't been as alarming this season. The punting is better with first-year Tim Masthay. He atoned for some early-season struggles by getting in a groove the last three games, during which he has counted eight of his 12 punts inside the 20. The Packers also have cut down on their special-teams penalties, with only eight compared to 30 last season. Nevertheless, strong-legged Mason Crosby continues to be plagued with accuracy issues — he has connected on only 13 of 18 field-goal attempts and is 7-for-11 from 40 yards and beyond. He split the uprights from 56 yards for a team record in the opener but had two kicks blocked and also missed a game-winning attempt in the final seconds of regulation in the overtime loss to the Redskins. The Packers have been run over by opponents too frequently on returns, including a 62-yard dash for a touchdown by Devin Hester in the Chicago Bears' win in Week 3. Conversely, Green Bay is getting next to nothing from Williams on punt returns (average of 8.0 yards) and is on its third kickoff returner.
COACHING: B-minus — The Packers didn't throw in the towel when they were 3-3 and seemingly headed toward oblivion because of a rash of injuries like no other in the league. Green Bay has 11 players on injured reserve, including six starters. The coaching staff rallied what healthy troops remained and steered them to the three-game winning streak that has the Packers back atop the NFC North and playing with confidence again. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is doing his best work with a patchwork unit, which shut out the Jets on the road two games ago and then held the Cowboys to seven points. The Packers are back to being an opportunistic defense with 10 takeaways in the three-game surge, and the team is near the top of the league with a plus-6 turnover ratio. The inconsistencies by the highly regarded offense don't reflect well on head coach Mike McCarthy as the play-caller. McCarthy also is the point man for a football team, the injuries notwithstanding, that has been accused of not having a killer instinct at the end of games. All three losses have been by three points, including two in overtime.
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