Quick: After taking in Week 9 action, what NFC teams can you say are definitely playing better than the Packers? Maybe the New York Giants? The Atlanta Falcons? For me, the list stops there. At the season's midpoint, the Packers are essentially where we thought they would be: among the top teams in the conference. They have taken a winding road to get there, and we of course have no assurances they will stay. But if they can beat an NFL team by 38 points, even if it's the semi-professional Cowboys, then you're definitely clicking on most cylinders. That the Packers could get to this point despite their long injury list is a tribute to their entire organization.
We can have our jokes about the Packers' decision to keep four tight ends and three fullbacks on their original 53-man roster, but they have made sure it paid off. Tight ends Donald Lee and Tom Crabtree stepped in Sunday night with rookie Andrew Quarless sidelined by injury, and I loved the Packers' three-fullback alignment in the second half -- John Kuhn flanked by Korey Hall and Quinn Johnson. If you're going to keep an unbalanced roster, you better find use for your surplus. Good for the Packers for finding a way, even if it's unconventional.
We'll have to do some digging and find out if one team has ever had two different players win back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards. Last season, Packers cornerback Charles Woodson won it. This year, linebacker Clay Matthews is making a strong push. Through nine games, he has 10.5 sacks. He also returned an interception 62 yards for a touchdown Sunday night. There aren't many players around the league who are dominating at his level right now.
And here is one issue I don't get:
The Packers have gotten a Pro Bowl performance this season from cornerback Tramon Williams in place of the injured Al Harris. Rookie Sam Shields, when healthy, has been more than solid as a nickel back. But the Packers don't have enough depth behind Shields to release Harris, as they did Monday morning, if they think he can still play. I can only assume that Harris hasn't shown enough from a physical standpoint during three weeks of practice to merit an addition to the 53-man roster. Generally speaking, I would rather have a slowed-down Harris playing in the dime defense than Jarrett Bush or even Brandon Underwood. I can only assume that the Packers believe Harris has slowed down too much.