Packers’ on-and-off dualism not recommended route to Super Bowl

Given their erratic performance to this point, the only thing that the Green Bay Packers need more than a week off is a notch on the left side of the W-L-T column.

“We seem to be a one-half team,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “One half good, one half not so good.”

Mired in half-slow, half-fast limbo, the Packers have been consistently inconsistent over the first five weeks, neither winning nor losing two in a row.

Among the laundry list of concerns after the 31-23 loss at Detroit is that the Packers can’t count on an automatic three points every time they line up for a field goal. Mason Crosby’s four misses against the Lions, plus his second missed extra point in two weeks, is a worrisome departure from the norm. It was also the worst day by an NFL kicker in almost 40 years.

Blown opportunities, costly turnovers and stupid penalties have underwritten the bad-half side of the Packers, prompting many to question the basic issue of how good this year’s group actually is.

It’s more a matter of how they’re playing rather than a state-of-being talent evaluation. They’ve played abysmally in spots, great in other spots and so-so in others. They’re not good and they’re not bad. The Packers are average. There’s no other way to characterize a .500 team.

The offense isn’t in sync because receivers aren’t getting open and Rodgers hasn’t been his usual sharp self. The Packers QB had a similarly mediocre stretch two years ago, when the team was falling to 4-6 – two games behind both Detroit and Minnesota – before rallying the team to win their last six, and the division.

“I think this could be a year where everybody knocks each other off for a while,” Rodgers said. “If we can hang in there through the middle stretch of the season, I think we’ll be there.”

Before Rodgers and the Packers get their much-needed 13 days of rest, there is the more pressing need of a victory. This is what makes the San Francisco 49ers such a welcome guest Monday night at Lambeau Field.

The 49ers aren’t necessarily awful, but right now there is no more beatable team in the league. With quarterback C.J. Beathard replacing the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, the Niners are back to where they were last year. They were 1-10 when they made Garoppolo the starter in December, and went 5-0 the rest of the way.

The unbeaten Rams and Chiefs appear to be the class of the respective conferences, and their Nov. 19 showdown in Mexico City looks like the marquee matchup of the regular season.

Beyond those two, the first five weeks have shown that everyone is vulnerable, and virtually any team can be horrible one week and then rise up the next week to play out of their minds.

As for the Packers’ troubles, the physical errors are part of the game, and can be forgiven — to a point, anyway. Mental screw-ups are another story.

The Packers keep hurting themselves, no more so than last Sunday. In the midst of a comeback rally, the defense stopped Detroit on third-and-long, but the Lions’ drive was extended on cornerback Tony Brown’s enormously stupid taunting penalty.

Hover over a guy after a play and 10 times out of 10 you’ll get a 15-yard walk-off for unsportsmanlike conduct. This is not a new rule. Yet, there was Brown — who played well apart from this play — looming ominously over the Lions’ Kenny Golladay, drawing the flag and nullifying a would-be, huge three-and-out.

Penalties that demonstrate limited intellectual agility are often the difference between good teams and losers. The Cincinnati Bengals, a poster child of postseason futility, penalized themselves out of a sure playoff win in the final 22 seconds of a 2015 wild card game against Pittsburgh.

With their bye week mercifully approaching, the biggest adjustment the Packers need to make may be between the ears.

“We’ve got work to do,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

Now, there’s a call that no one will second-guess.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@newmedia-wi.com.