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Packers suddenly operating on all cylinders

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted Nov. 22, 2010 @ 4:11 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

With their second consecutive dominant performance over a team that began the season expected to be one of the league's heavyweights, the Packers are suddenly making it look easy on both sides of the ball. After routing the Vikings 31-3 and setting the stage for Minnesota head coach Brad Childress' Monday dismissal, the Packers once again cannot be dismissed as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Tied with four other teams (Bears, Eagles, Saints and Buccaneers) for the second-best record in the NFC at 7-3, the Packers' offense looked increasingly explosive in a 374-yard effort against the Vikings highlighted by WR Greg Jennings' three TD catches. The defense, meanwhile, made life miserable for Brett Favre all afternoon and has now allowed only 10 points in the last 13 quarters on its way to the NFL top spot in points allowed.

The PFW Spin

Not to rain on the Packers' parade, but it really does seem like they took advantage of two down-and-out teams the past two games in the Cowboys and Vikings. The tide should turn significantly, however, this Sunday when they take on the Falcons, who have an NFC-best 8-2 record and have been unbeatable at home.

But both Green Bay's offense and defense have made major strides in recent weeks. QB Aaron Rodgers is suddenly looking like the same Pro Bowl signalcaller who was so lights-out most of last season, and Jennings has been exceptional the past five games, running picture-perfect routes and stretching the field with beautiful downfield catches.

"It's really nothing out of the norm for him," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said of Jennings in his late-morning press conference on Monday. “We are putting him in different positions, both outside and inside, moving him around and being cognizant of the matchups, taking what the defenses are giving us."

An intriguing offensive bonus was provided against Minnesota by rookie Dimitri Nance, a product of the Falcons' practice squad. "I like what Dimitri did," McCarthy said of Nance, who rushed for a team-high 37 yards on 12 carries and showed impressive power and determination on his first run of the day, which picked up a first down. "It was good to get him started. Moving forward, we think he and Brandon (Jackson) could be a good 1-2 punch."

As for Green Bay's defense, it continues to show no mercy punching opposing offenses in the mouth, with key turnovers setting the tone. After registering an interception and a fumble recovery against Minnesota while remaining turnover-free on offense, the Packers are currently ranked fifth in the league in turnover differential with a plus-eight rating.

"Plus-10 is the goal we feel we need to meet to be a playoff team," McCarthy said. "We're doing what we're supposed to be doing the last month of the season. We're taking care of football, which we did not do well the first month of season.

"It (making turnovers) is a building block, a part of our team identity, and we need to keep it up."

Keeping it up against an Atlanta offense that just kept grinding and eventually pulled away from a pretty good Rams defense this past Sunday could prove to be a major challenge.

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