Good NFL teams are fairly consistent from week to week through the long, NFL season. Young teams seem to experience much wider swings of momentum, which usually results in more losses than victories. We saw a perfect example from the Packers on Monday night as they gave up the most points they ever have against an opponent in the preseason. Meanwhile, the Bengals scored the most points they ever have in a preseason game.
Fortunately for the Packers, the game doesn't count, though, the games that do count are just around the corner. That's got to make new coach Mike McCarthy and his staff nervous.
The Packers played aggressively, just the way McCarthy prefers, against the Falcons in their 38-10 win on Aug. 19. That left McCarthy and Company anxious to see how the Packers would fare against the Bengals, a team that is predicted by many to win the AFC North Division this season. Instead, the Packers committed a pair of turnovers early in the game and hardly put up a fight against the Carson Palmer and the Bengals. The Bengals were simply too much for Green Bay to handle, much like the San Diego Chargers in Week 1 of the preseason. If there is any consolation, the Chargers are expected to contend for titles this season just like the Bengals.
Cincinnati easily won the battle of the trenches offensively and defensively, leaving the Packers in a 31-0 hole in the second quarter.
"We need to learn from what we did tonight," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "As bad as the score was and as bad as it seemed, we need to get it cleaned up."
The Packers can work on their mistakes this Friday, though, the starters are hardly expected to play against the Tennessee Titans. The final preseason game is mainly for the borderline players and reserves to give it one last shot at making the team.
To think that the Packers will be any better than 8-8 this season is wishful thinking at this point. Green Bay's offensive line has a long way to go before it will be consistent at protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the running backs. The Packers also have a long way to go before their pass rush improves. Two of Green Bay's prized free agent signings this off-season – cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Marquand Manuel – were woeful against the Bengals. Woodson was beat a handful of times, and Manuel completely whiffed at trying to tackle wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh on a touchdown play.
Special teams will be as inconsistent as the rest of the team. For every good punt that Jon Ryan has had in practice and preseason games, he also has had some not-so-good punts. While Dave Rayner is perfect in preseason games in field goals and extra points, he has struggled in practice, leaving many wondering if he will be consistent during the season.
For whatever reason, the Packers weren't ready for some football on Monday night, and the Bengals were. If every road game is like their games at Cincinnati and San Diego, it will be a long season. The Packers can maintain their confidence by playing hard, especially early in games on the road. If not, their confidence will be flattened and so will their hopes of winning games.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.