Don’t Panic, It’s Not Over Yet
The Packers haven’t been easy watching since Aaron Rodgers was added to the seemingly endless list of injuries. Twitter has become a bottomless pit of depression, the mainstream media are beginning to write us off and the division standings show the Green and Gold in a measly third place in the NFC North – but despite all this the Pack still have a chance, a shot, a dream, and an aim for a fifth Lombardi trophy. Pack fans may be experiencing the traditional life of a Browns fan at this present point in time, but this is by no means going to become an annual trend. Well, not just yet at least.
On the offensive side of the football, the Packers lack the same explosion and balance since Scott Tolzien took the wheel, but this is of course to be expected. Eddie Lacy is struggling to break off runs of more than five yards and Jordy Nelson can’t find the end zone – a product of a third string rookie QB running the offense. The game plan has simplified, lots of run, run, pass to start each possession. While this may seem like a one way ticket to Tim Masthay land, it is important to build the confidence in Tolzien by easing into the passing game, despite his obvious big play ability.
The fact is that the game against the Giants could have been won without the pick six by Jason Pierre-Paul thrown by Tolzien, because it left us little time to score twice and swung the momentum back to the boys in blue. The defence were gassed by games end, but ultimately didn’t play as bad as the world of kneejerk reactions on twitter would suggest.
Factually, the Packers’ D gave up 20 points, under 80 rushing yards, under 300 passing yards, picked the ball off for the first time since the Browns game and sacked Eli four times. It’s easy to attribute this to playing a struggling Giants side. But it’s important to remember that the Packers are walking wounded in every area and the Giants right now are rolling.
New York almost beat Chicago five weeks ago and since have beaten the Vikings, Eagles, Raiders and now the Packers. It may have been a torrid start to the year, but we have seen this before – Tom Coughlin and his staff are masters of getting hot and steamrollering through the post season. They could still win the East comfortably providing the Cowboys keep blowing games and the Eagles slip up a couple of times.
So where does this leave the 5-5 Packers? Truthfully, with a soft schedule, a winnable division and potential for Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb to come back at the right time and push us into the playoffs. This weekend the Vikings come to Lambeau Field, the Packers always play well at home, Minnesota can’t decide who to put behind center, Adiran Peterson hasn’t been the same since his trip to London and the Vikes’ D is shaky at best. All it would take is a confident Tolzien to have a decent game, Lacy to put up some numbers and the defense to force some turnovers against a sloppy passing game. Let’s not also forget that the Packers players and fans in the stands will not want Greg Jennings to ride into Wisconsin and leave with a win…
After Minnesota come to town, the Packers travel east to play the Lions at Ford Field. Traditionally this is an easy win and a nice compliment to a turkey dinner – and while playing Detroit will be by no means easy it will be a litmus test and could be the turning point of the season. Aaron has the potential to return, and even if he doesn’t, the Lions and Jim Schwartz are susceptible to some serious shortcomings strategically.
If Rodgers doesn’t return against Detroit, or the week later against Atlanta then it becomes unfortunately likely that the Packers sit and watch the playoffs at home, but if the Packers can win a couple before QB1 returns the world is the Packers’ oyster. Nobody is mentioning it but the NFC North, is becoming extremely similar to the NFC East in terms of record and talent, and this will work in Green Bay’s favour as December comes into sight.
Sure, the Packers are now at a point where a lot needs to come together in order to sniff any sort of title, but the dream isn’t over just yet. We will learn a lot about the players and organisation in the next few weeks as the Pack start to play playoff-type games each Sunday. If we succeed, then it will be a real accomplishment, and if we continue to free fall, it should be met as a well overdue gut-check which such a privileged fan base needed.
The real season starts here folks, sit back, relax and enjoy.