The Green Bay Packers’ passing defense hasn’t earned a passing grade.
Through Week 3, the Packers ranked 27th in opponent passer rating (105.3), 24th in opponent completion percentage (66.7), 28th in opponent passing yards (307.3 per game) and 29th in yards allowed per passing attempt (8.3).
The schedule doesn’t get any easier. Of the final 13 games, five of the opposing quarterbacks threw for 4,000 yards last year (Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson). Five quarterbacks rank in the top eight in passer rating (Cousins, second; Stafford, third; Ryan, fourth, Manning, seventh; and Andrew Luck, eighth). Six rank in the top 12 in passer rating (Ryan, first; Sam Bradford, fourth; Stafford, sixth; Carson Wentz, seventh; Manning, 10th; Luck, 12th).
“No question” the pass defense must improve, defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday. “When you’re playing as many young guys as we’re playing right now, I think that you’ll see us get better. I think that we’ll improve as we go along. Some of those guys are seeing things for the first time. We had an awful lot of young guys on that field (Sunday). You’re going against a veteran quarterback and a lot of skill. Our guys will improve from their experience yesterday.”
They had better, because the final 13 games are going to pose one heck of a challenge.
Week 5: Giants. Eli Manning — 10th in rating (98.1). Under first-year coach Ben McAdoo, Manning is second in completion percentage and second in yards per attempt. How good has he been to start the season? A career 59.5 percent passer, Manning has connected on 71.0 percent of his passes.
Week 6: Cowboys. TBA — It’s possible Tony Romo (broken back) will be back in the saddle. For now, though, it’s rookie Dak Prescott. He is 13th in rating. Two impressive numbers: 66.7 percent accuracy and zero interceptions in 99 pass attempts. When Romo played a full season in 2014, he edged out Aaron Rodgers for the passer rating title and finished second in the MVP race.
Week 7: Bears. Jay Cutler — 27th in rating (75.7). Brian Hoyer (93.3 rating) has outplayed Cutler since Cutler was sidelined by an injured thumb. Cutler, who had a career-best 92.3 rating last year, is averaging a career-high 8.11 yards per attempt but has one touchdown vs. two interceptions in 46 passes.
Week 8: at Falcons. Matt Ryan — First in rating (119.0). The Falcons are struggling but Ryan is not. He’s completed 70.9 percent for 970 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception. He ranks in the top four in yards per attempt (first), touchdown percentage (second), completion percentage (third) and yards (fourth).
Week 9: Colts. Andrew Luck — 12th in rating (93.3). Luck might be a modern-day Dan Marino. The numbers are superb, with Luck ranking fourth in completions, sixth in touchdowns, eighth in attempts and eighth in yards. He’s just not getting much help from his friends.
Week 10: at Titans. Marcus Mariota — 24th in rating (79.3). Mariota was the second overall pick of the 2015 draft, and he posted a 91.5 rating as a rookie. He’s been ho-hum pretty much across the board this year with 62.6 percent accuracy, four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Week 11: at Redskins. Kirk Cousins — 19th in rating (86.4). Cousins was brilliant last season in leading the Redskins to the playoffs. He is basically the Redskins’ offense, ranking fourth in attempts and completions, second in yards and eighth in yards per attempt. His rating is hurt by his three touchdowns vs. three interceptions.
Week 12: at Eagles. Carson Wentz — Seventh in rating (103.7). Wentz is the toast of the NFL in guiding the Eagles to a surprising 3-0 start. The arm behind North Dakota State’s FCS dynasty, Wentz has five touchdowns vs. no interceptions. He’s been a dink-and-dunker, with the average distance of his passes ranking just 30th.
Week 13: Texans. Brock Osweiler — 29th in rating (72.2). The Texans hoped Osweiler, who helped the Broncos to the Super Bowl last year, would be the answer at quarterback. And maybe he will at some point. However, he’s completed only 59.6 percent with three touchdowns vs. four interceptions. Osweiler is an air-it-out quarterback, with the average distance of his passes ranking third.
Week 14: Seahawks. Russell Wilson — 18th in rating (85.5). Wilson entered the season ranked second all-time in passer rating behind Rodgers. Last year, he had an NFL-best 110.1 rating. He’s off to a rough start by his standards, though, with 63.4 percent accuracy, two touchdowns and one interception.
Week 15: at Bears. Jay Cutler — This likely will be Round 2 vs. Cutler. Cutler is 2-11 in regular-season starts against the Packers with 16 touchdowns, 22 interceptions and a 68.9 rating. He had thrown at least one interception in all 11 starts against Green Bay as a member of the Bears until last year’s 17-13 win at Lambeau Field.
Week 16: Vikings. Sam Bradford — Fourth in rating (107.8). This will be Round 2 vs. Bradford. Round 1 didn’t go well for the Packers, with Bradford throwing for 286 yards and posting a rating of 121.2 despite being with the Vikings for barely two weeks.
Week 17: at Lions. Matthew Stafford — Sixth in rating (105.0). This will be Round 2 vs. Stafford. Round 1 didn’t go well for the Packers, with Stafford throwing for 385 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and a rating of 112.2. Who needs Calvin Johnson? Stafford ranks fourth with 8.21 yards per attempt. Stafford, who threw for 5,038 yards in 2011, is on pace for 5,253 yards.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.