PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush identifies three players or position groups on the rise as well as three players or position groups going in the opposite direction.
RB James Starks: The second-year back's playing time has been extremely steady. Starks has carried the ball 13 times in three of the team's last four games. But after gaining 89 yards on 25 carries in the previous two games (3.6 yards per carry), Starks rushed for 13-75 (5.8 ypc) against the Vikings and turned it up a notch when it counted most, grinding out 55 yards on six carries on the game's final drive — including nifty runs of 15, 20 and 13 yards — to keep the Vikings at bay.
PK Mason Crosby: While most close observers believe the Packers have been far from perfect despite their spotless record, they certainly can't say that about Crosby, who has been automatic this season from all distances. After four field goals on four attempts Sunday, including a team-record 58-yarder late in the third quarter that would have been good from 70 yards out, Crosby has connected on 20 consecutive three-pointers dating back to last season. His kickoffs also have been mostly of the booming variety (four touchbacks on seven kickoffs vs. Minnesota), and at this rate, it would be an absolute travesty if he didn't earn a Pro Bowl berth.
P Tim Masthay: Greatly overshadowed by Crosby, Masthay had been ordinary at best until Sunday's game against Minnesota, when he connected on three punts for a 59.3-yard average (55.3 net), all of which landed inside the Vikes' 20-yard line. His late 65-yarder was particularly clutch.
Run defense: The Packers' run "D" is still ranked a very respectable ninth, but it has allowed at least 118 yards in three of the last four games after relinquishing a combined 165 yards on the ground in the first three games. Of course, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, who is as good at his craft as it gets when he's on his game, had a lot to do with the unit's latest shortcomings thanks to his vintage 175-yard, one-TD effort last Sunday. But the Packers have had problems stopping opposing featured backs for the past month, and that's a pattern that needs to cease and desist quickly.
Pass rush: In the Packers' first four games, they registered a respectable 10 sacks. In the last four games, they have a rather unrespectable seven sacks. Clay Matthews registered a sack for a second week in a row — a sign he might be coming on — but at least one or two more consistent pass-rushing threats need to emerge after the bye week. Green Bay is ranked a mediocre 17th in QB sack percentage.
Left side of the offensive line: OT Marshall Newhouse and OG T.J. Lang had a long afternoon last Sunday trying to stop Vikings high-motor sack specialist Jared Allen, who had two sacks for 17 yards in losses, two tackles for loss and three QB hits.