3-1 (5-3 overall, 2nd in the NFC North, 5th in the NFC)
Stock up: Letroy Guion
Guion was shaping up as a major free agent bust through the first quarter of the season after missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury. But his season hit a turning point in a Thursday night blowout victory against his old team, the Vikings. Guion had a monster game out of nowhere with six tackles, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits and three quarterback pressures. He has been a force on the defensive line ever since. Particularly impressive has been Guion’s effort against the run, a standout on a unit ranked dead last in the league (153.5 yards per game). He led the charge on two short-yardage stops against the Panthers and had another tackle for loss on a third-and-1 at New Orleans.
Stock down: David Bakhtiari
Against a relatively pedestrian group of defensive ends the past four games, Bakhtiari had some low moments. The Dolphins’ Olivier Vernon had his best game of the season, posting two sacks, two hits and a hurry going up against Bakhtiari, and the Saints’ Kasim Edebali had two sacks in just 15 pass rushing opportunities. For the second quarter of the season, Bakhtiari gave up a team-high five sacks (according to Pro Football Focus). He also leads the Packers in penalties for the season with five, two coming at New Orleans.
Buy: Casey Hayward
Is there anyone in the league who covers the flats better than Hayward? The 2012 Rookie of the Year candidate looks like he has returned to his first-year form after missing basically all of last season with a hamstring injury. The crafty Hayward recorded two interceptions, three passes defended, and one fumble recovery over the past four games. By Pro Football Focus’ measures of pass coverage and slot coverage performance, Hayward ranks No. 1 in the league among cornerbacks who have played at least 25 percent of their team’s defensive snaps. In 132 snaps in coverage, Hayward has been targeted just 10 times allowing only five completions.
Sell: Eddie Lacy taking unnecessary hits
For Lacy, there are good hits and there are bad hits. The good are the ones he delivers to secondary players like the Vikings’ Robert Blanton. The bad are the ones where he is stood up behind the line of scrimmage and refuses to go down. Too much of the latter seems to be the case this year. While Lacy has had some incredible runs of no gain or little yardage, several of them have come at the cost of taking unnecessary shots when leaning forward or going down would be a better option. Lacy’s ability to break tackles and make yards after contact make him a special player, but even Adrian Peterson had to learn how to go down or run out of bounds when there is little else to gain.
Buy: Aaron Rodgers’ mastery at the line of scrimmage
If Peyton Manning is the best in the league as the play clock winds down, Rodgers might be a close second. In addition to making play and protection adjustments and ad-libbing a fake spike (see Dolphins’ game-winning drive) his ability to draw defensive linemen offside or catch an opposing defense substituting late is almost a weekly event. He caught the Panthers for two such penalties in Week 7 and also the Saints for one last Sunday night.
Sell: Brandon Bostick
This was supposed to be the year that Brandon Bostick put all of his potential together. Instead, it has resembled too much of his first two non-descript years in Green Bay. After recovering from a fibula injury in the preseason, he has been buried on the Packers’ depth chart at tight end and has been just as invisible on special teams. He has as many catches (one) as drops on the season and had to wait until Week 5 against the Vikings to see his first offensive snaps from scrimmage. With the Packers releasing Ryan Taylor on Oct. 6 there has been opportunity for Bostick to move up but he has yet to show the progress in both the pass receiving and blocking games of either rookie Richard Rodgers or veteran starter Andrew Quarless.
Player of the Quarter: T.J. Lang
What? An offensive guard for Player of the Quarter? With respect to fine performances in Weeks 5-8 from Rodgers, Mike Daniels, Hayward, and Nick Perry, Lang wins out for consistency in a full-time role. Only an ankle injury suffered at New Orleans could slow Lang down from playing the best football of his career. His replacement last Sunday, Lane Taylor, was proof enough how much the Packers missed their starting right guard. In addition to not allowing a sack, hit or hurry, or committing a penalty over the second quarter of the season, Lang made a huge recovery of a Rodgers fumble that saved the game-winning drive at Miami.
Play of the Quarter: Rodgers’ fourth-down completion to Jordy Nelson at Miami
While Rodgers’ touchdown pass to Quarless and the fake-spike play to Davante Adams to set it up are what fans might remember the most, a fourth-down conversion to Nelson kept the Packers’ game-winning drive alive. Trailing 24-20 and facing a fourth-and-10 from the Dolphins’ 48 with 1:07 remaining, Rodgers stayed calm in the face of pressure delivering a strike to Nelson for an 18-yard gain. At the shotgun snap, the Dolphins rushed just three against a six-man protection for the Packers (seven counting running back James Starks). A Dolphins safety rushes late and linebacker drops causing just enough confusion. When Vernon beats Bakhtiari on an inside move, he has a free shot at Rodgers. Rodgers manages to stand in, take a hit and deliver the pass just in time to the sideline, where Nelson makes the catch just past the first-down marker. Six plays later, the Packers complete the comeback, 27-24, to move to 4-2 on the season.
Forecast for the third quarter of the season:
A win at New Orleans could have put the Packers in a front-runner position in the NFC with major momentum at the bye week. Instead, their four-game winning streak was snapped and they remain in trail mode behind the Lions in the NFC North. The third quarter of the season will pit the Packers against two potential playoff teams (the Eagles and the Patriots) but having three of four games at home should help. The NFC is shaping up with no dominant team over the second half of the season. The guess here is that the Packers again go 3-1 this quarter.
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com