I hate the term “statement game.” Especially in November.
But let’s face it, the Packers haven’t looked overly impressive so far. They were outplayed by the hapless 2-8 Jets at home but still managed to win and they needed last-second fireworks to beat a 6-4 Dolphins team.
That Miami win is easily the best win on the Packers’ resume right now.
But unlike the college game, resumes don’t matter in the NFL. There is no committee that selects the playoff field. It all comes down to a couple things: wins and losses.
Most people are saying that Sunday’s Eagles-Packers game is a huge statement game. Would it give a struggling run defense confidence if it were able to muzzle one of the most dynamic offenses in the league? Most definitely it would.
But this game is important for another reason — to keep pace with the Lions. Detroit owns a one-game lead in the NFC North and plays four of its last seven on the road — including the season finale at Lambeau Field.
We haven’t seen the best from the Packers yet. Despite demolishing Chicago 55-14 last week, Green Bay still hasn’t fired on all cylinders. Moving Clay Matthews to inside linebacker is important. It protects the belly of the defense that opponents have been attacking all season and it also gives him a quicker lane to get to the quarterback and disrupt the passing game.
But the most important reason for moving Matthews is because it masks A.J. Hawk’s inefficiencies. Hawk gets lauded for his leadership skills but he has lacked juice this year and it’s even more pronounced on running plays. And with Matthews’ move inside, the X-factor is now Nick Perry. The 2012 first rounder hasn’t been dynamic but now Green Bay needs him to protect the edge.
The Packers need Sunday’s game. But it’s not because they need to make a statement or get a signature win. Granted, the Eagles have a shiny 7-2 record and with a win that would put them in sole possession of first place in the top-heavy NFC East.
But nobody knows if Mark Sanchez 2.0 will be able to carry the baton over the finish line. He looked pedestrian in a 31-21 win at Houston and he looked pretty confident in a 45-21 win vs. Carolina. He has started two games this year — the first time he has started a game since 2012 when he logged a 6-9 record as a Jet.
The reason Sanchez 2.0 is doing better is because Shonn Greene and Jeremy Kerley cannot hold a candle to LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles and Jeremy Maclin. But Sanchez is a career 55 percent passer, meaning this year’s 59 percent clip will slowly dip back to the mean.
And then there’s Aaron Rodgers. He has bailed out a team by putting up MVP numbers while it waits for its running game to get warmed up. Eddie Lacy has tallied just one century mark rushing game. And he only has 201 more rushing yards than receiving yards on a team with two of the NFL’s best wideouts.
Statement games happen in January in a win or go home scenario. It’s way to0 early to consider this a statement game or a must-win. If Adrian Peterson is allowed to come back to the Vikings, would that make the Nov. 23 visit to the Twin Cities another statement game?
Of course that doesn’t mean Sunday’s game is not important. Because the Packers cannot afford too many more losses without losing some of their grip on a potential fourth-straight division crown.
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn