The worst is yet to come

Green Bay's schedule gets much tougher after bye

Four weeks into the NFL season and could it really get worse for the Green Bay Packers?

They're 0-4.

Fans wants coach Mike Sherman's head on a platter.

Some think Brett Favre should retire.

Many think Ahman Green is finished.

The offensive line is shredded due to injuries.

And the Packers turn over the ball like they're wearing greased gloves.

I don't want to alarm anybody, but it's possible the worst is yet to come. Have you checked out the schedule once the Packers return after their bye, which follows Sunday's game with the New Orleans/San Antonio/Baton Rouge Saints?

Try this on for size:

At Minnesota. Yes, the Vikes reek almost as bad as the Packers, but they are1-3, and it is the Metrodome.

At Cincinnati. Bengals are 4-0!

Host Pittsburgh. Steelers are Super Bowl contenders.

At Atlanta. Michael Vick is good and so is the Falcons' defensive coordinator. Oh, what's his name Coach Sherman? Oh yes, Ed Donatell.

Host Minnesota. Vikes aren't afraid of Lambeau Field, but the Packers seem to be.

At Philadelphia. T.O. is laughing at the Packers' secondary.

At Chicago. Some day the Bears will beat Favre at Soldier Field, and the way things are going why not this season?

Before the season kicked off, I looked at the schedule and figured if the Packers were going to contend for the division and a playoff spot, they needed to get off to a good start, considering what the middle of the schedule looked like.

A 3-2 start at worse was needed. Four weeks into this part of the schedule and the best the Packers can do is 1-4. How in the world will they dig out of this hole?

Through four games the Packers are an NFL-worst minus-9 in turnover ratio, have allowed 44 points off turnovers and have allowed a minimum 10 points off turnovers in each of their games.

Those of us who scrutinize the Packers closely can think of many reasons why the Packers look like the old Cincinnati Bengals, but why they're losing is simple – the Packers turn the ball over too much.

What turnovers do is take away a chance for your offense and give an extra chance to the opponent. Playing this way when you don't have much room for error makes it tough to win. We've seen that.

In the final 12 games, the Packers must play cleaner. Favre needs to throw the ball away more, the offensive line needs to block better, even hold (a hold is better than a turnover), to make sure Favre doesn't get blindsided and lose the football.

The running backs must value the football and the receivers need to fight for the ball (see Robert Ferguson about this).

There's no easy way for the Packers to erase an 0-4 start. Some of their misfortune was unavoidable, like injuries to Javon Walker, Terrence Murphy, Mike Flanagan, Bubba Franks and Na'il Diggs.

Nonetheless, they need to go back to basics, protect the football and play smart. Once they get this done, then they can move on to other areas.

And even if the Packers accomplish this simple formula, is it enough to rally with the middle part of their schedule looming?

Yes and no.

Yes, because the NFC North is weaker than the Big Ten Conference. The Packers enter Sunday's game 1 ½ games out of first place despite having the worst record in the NFL. Do you know entering Week 5 the NFC North has three total wins and two wins were gimmes, as the Packers played the Lions and the Lions played the Bears?

The only out-of-division win came when the Vikings beat the Saints.

No, the Packers won't rally because losing teams find ways to lose and that's what the Packers are, a losing team.

On paper, it looks like the worst is to come, and if it does will the Packers consider Matt Leinart with the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft? It's too early for this, but keep NFL draft expert Mel Kiper in mind because the longer this goes on, the more Packers fans will look to 2006.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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