1. After beginning the season 6-0, the Packers lost three-straight games. Was there something awry or simply a matter of tough match-ups?
The Packers' offense has shown signs of major struggles since the midway point of that winning streak, and they were compounded by playing a couple of excellent defenses on the road in Denver and Carolina. The major issue with the offense is the receivers' inability to get separation (which I'll get to in a moment), but over the last six quarters the running game has been able to find success and open things up for Aaron Rodgers and company.
For the Packers' defense to be significantly outplaying the offense, as they have over the past month-plus, is an unusual sight for Green Bay fans, but at least one unit is playing up to, if not exceeding expectations. We don't see much changing by the end of the season - this is a team that will need to rely on the run and on its defense if it's going to make a deep run in the playoffs.
2. Explain what's going on with the Packers receiving corps for me. Cobb looks like he's taken a step back after signing a big contract, James Jones is having arguably his best season in his return to Green Bay at age 31, and Davante Adams doesn't seem to be having the kind of season most expected. What's going on there?
Opposing defenses have figured out that the Packers' receivers aren't particularly fast and have struggled to get separation from coverage. As such, they have resorted to playing man-to-man coverage against the receivers, and that has limited the passing game in a big way.
The other issue is recurring injuries that are limiting Cobb and Adams. Cobb sprained the AC joint in his shoulder in the third preseason game, and admitted recently that the injury is still not 100%. Likewise, Adams missed some time with ankle issues early in the season and continues to struggle with explosiveness and speed. Meanwhile, Jones is productive, but not explosive at this stage of his career, which makes him a decent complementary piece rather than a #1 receiver.
Mike McCarthy will need to develop routes and plays in order to get his players open through the scheme rather than on their own abilities, and the receivers must pick up yards after the catch if they are to be productive.
3. In recent seasons, the Packers offensive line has caught a lot of flak. Is that fair criticism? Have they improved this season? Who is the weakest link?
After several years of struggles, especially at the tackle position, the 2014 offensive line was as good a unit as the Packers have seen since the 2003 unit, behind which Ahman Green ran for nearly 1,900 yards. Combined, the week one starters missed just one game a year ago, and the continuity was critical to its success in both pass and run blocking.
This year, injuries to every member of the line have limited the unit's effectiveness, but the same five starters remain and the group should be mostly intact on Sunday. If there is a weak link, it is probably left tackle David Bakhtiari, who struggles with power pass rushers and is known to be prone to holding penalties.
4. Eddie Lacy had a rough first half of the season, but has played better of late. What was going on with him and is he back to his old self again?
Nobody really understands what happened with Lacy early on, aside from an ankle injury that limited his agility and mobility. However, after being benched a few weeks back and then sitting against Detroit for missing curfew, he ran with purpose against Dallas on his way to his best game of the year. Lacy talked this week about the conversation he had with Mike McCarthy opening his eyes and "waking him up", and he looked like a different player last Sunday.
Also, Mike McCarthy's retaking of the playcalling may be helping Lacy, as Tom Clements seemed too willing to give up on the run when it was struggling.
5. In most every stastical category, the Packers are middle of the road, which means they are fairly balanced. Is that misleading? What area is more of a strength? What area is more of a weakness?
Without question, the defense has been the strength of this team over the last several games due to the offensive struggles I mentioned earlier. Green Bay has given up an average of just 15.6 points over the past five games, and haven't given up more than 23 in any single game in that span. And aside from two bad plays against Dallas that totaled 95 yards alone, the run defense has been exceptional over that span as well.
If the Packers do win the game on Sunday, I expect that it will be because the defense holds Oakland under 20 points, picks up a handful of sacks, and keeps Latavius Murray under 75 yards on the ground..
To see my answers to his questions, click here.