The schedule makers made the unique move of having the Green Bay Packers play at home five of the first seven weeks of the 2019 season.
At the time, many Packers bemoaned the fact the majority of their home games would be over before the weather turned nasty. Today, the Packers are thrilled with how things have played out.
Green Bay routed Oakland, 42-24, on Sunday and improved to 6-1 overall. The Packers lead the NFC North and have the second-best record in the conference.
While a handful of teams are already dead and buried and thinking about 2020, the Packers have taken full advantage of their early home slate and put themselves in position for a memorable season.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Green Bay’s win over the Raiders.
Rodgers completed 25-of-31 passes for 429 yards and five touchdowns. Rodgers’ passer rating of 158.3 was the best a quarterback can have, and he threw five TD’s for the first time since Sept. 28, 2015 against Kansas City.
Rodgers spread the wealth, too, throwing touchdowns to wideouts Jake Kumerow and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, and tight end Jimmy Graham. Rodgers also ran for a 3-yard touchdown.
“He’s one of the best of all time,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “He made a couple of great audibles. He made a couple of great throws. Tough as hell. I mean, we hit him a few times and it didn’t bother him one bit. They’re missing Davante Adams, you know? We’re missing players. He [Rodgers] just did a great job. We have to play better defensively. There is no excuse to be giving up long plays like that.”
For the first time since Week 16 of 2016, Rodgers threw three touchdowns in the first half. Making it even more impressive is that Rodgers continues to operate without Pro Bowl wideout Davante Adams, while Allison (concussion) and Valdes-Scantling (knee/ankle) were returning from injury and were game-time decisions.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson is the early frontrunner for MVP. Houston’s DeShaun Watson and Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey are also in the mix.
But Rodgers, who has Green Bay off to its best start since 2015, should now be right in the middle of the discussion.
“He has seen everything,” Oakland safety Erik Harris said. “He has seen coverages. He knows what you are in before you even start moving around. They had some receivers we thought might not play, but it didn’t really matter because as long as 12 is back there, he will make that offense go. We knew that coming in and we didn’t step up to the challenge.”
MATT LAFLEUR: LaFleur, the Packers’ rookie coach, wasn’t sure what offensive weapons would be available this week. While Adams was ruled out Friday, Allison and Valdes-Scantling were game-day decisions.
Still, Green Bay’s offense was as efficient and crisp as any time this season as LaFleur schooled Raiders’ veteran defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
The Packers scored touchdowns on five on five of their first six possessions — including four straight at one point. LaFleur’s plan did a terrific job utilizing running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, and he got something out of every receiver that took the field.
LaFleur came to Green Bay with the reputation of being one of the NFL’s bright, young offensive minds. After a slow start, LaFleur and the Packers are living up to that tag.
“I feel like this has been coming, I really do,” Aaron Rodgers said. “I feel like we’ve been building and I’ve been feeling a lot more comfortable and Matt’s been feeling more comfortable with him calling it for me and feeling when I’m in that rhythm and when to be aggressive and when to pull back.”
DOUBLE PLAY: Green Baypulled off the rare feat of scoring a touchdown just before halftime, then scoring another TD top begin the second half.
After Oakland quarterback Derek Carr fumbled at the goal line late in the first half, the Packers went 80 yards in seven plays. Aaron Rodgers capped the drive with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jake Kumerow with just 12 seconds left in the half to give Green Bay a 21-10 lead.
Green Bay then opened the second half with a five-play, 78-yard touchdown drive. This one ended with Rodgers scrambling for a 3-yard TD.
By the time it was over, Green Bay led 28-10 and held a double-digit advantage the rest of the day.
OTHER POSITIVES: Marquez Valdes-Scantling hauled in a 73-yard touchdown, the longest reception of his career. … Tight end Jimmy Graham, who was dreadful on Monday night against Detroit, caught four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. … Jake Kumerow, a former Division III standout at UW-Whitewater, caught the second touchdown of his career. … The University of Wisconsin band entertained the 78,000 in attendance, highlighted by the legendary “Jump Around.”
DARRIUS SHEPHERD: The Packers need a new kickoff and punt returner. Plain and simple.
Last week, Shepherd averaged a pedestrian 17.4 yards on his five kickoff returns and fumbled away a punt.
This week, Shepherd averaged 16.7 on three kicks returns. He also fair caught a punt when no Oakland defender was within 10 yards of him.
“There’s going to be some growing pains with young players,” Packers special teams coach Shawn Mennega said of Shepherd.
In this case, it’s time the growing pains end.
RUN DEFENSE: Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: the Packers can’t stop the run.
Oakland was without No. 1 wideout Tyrell Williams, as well as No. 3 Dwayne Harris. The Raiders’ best chance to win the game was by hammering away with rookie running back Josh Jacobs.
Green Bay knew Oakland really had just one path to victory — but couldn’t stop him. Jacobs ran 21 times for 124 yards and had gains of 42 and 27 yards.
The Raiders also finished with 155 rushing yards on 31 carries (5.0).
“Oh man, great back,” Packers linebacker Blake Martinez told reporters. “He’s powerful, shifty, hard to get down with just one guy. He had some big plays and we just have to keep working on some defensive things to make sure we minimize that as much as possible.”
DEFENDING TIGHT ENDS: Green Bay has struggled covering tight ends in recent weeks. But this took the cake.
Oakland’s Darren Waller caught seven balls for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Foster Moreau also had a touchdown.
On a day where almost everything went Green Bay’s way, this didn’t.