The Green Bay Packers found themselves earning their first win since Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in Week 6. With the much-needed win, a 23-16 road victory against the Chicago Bears, the Packers’ record improved to 5-4 with seven games remaining in the regular season.
While the Packers remain in the NFC playoff hunt, they are one of several teams in similar positions. The four divisional winners in the NFC will receive an automatic playoff berth. The NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings are currently 7-2, tied for the second-best record in the NFC. Green Bay and Detroit are both two full games behind the Vikings in the division. The Packers will finish the season against the Vikings and Lions in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively. If Green Bay can remain in the playoff hunt, those two games are certain to be a deciding factor.
The alternative to earning a playoff berth by winning the division is to enter the postseason as one of two wildcard teams. The Packers are one of four teams with a record of 5-4 who are vying for the wildcard spots. While six teams will make the postseason in the NFC, Green Bay is currently ninth in the conference. Needless to say, there is little room for error moving forward.
With talks of Aaron Rodgers returning in mid-December at the earliest, the Packers will need to capitalize on their rather easy upcoming contests. The Packers open as slight underdogs to the 4-5 visiting Baltimore Ravens this Sunday and will no doubt have their hands full with the 7-2 Pittsburgh Steelers in the following week.
However, Green Bay’s Week 13 and 14 opponents are the winless Cleveland Browns (0-9) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6). If the Packers can manage to win half of their next four games, it would bring their record to 7-6 with three games to play and (hopefully) the return of Rodgers.
Most agree the play of Aaron Rodgers has more than covered many of the team’s flaws, forcing them to address not only quarterback situation, but many facets of the team. The return of Rodgers will no doubt make the Packers better and perhaps Rodgers himself will return to a better team than when he left, a team that was forced to take an honest evaluation of themselves.
Green Bay’s offense has become run-oriented, taking much of the pressure off quarterback Brett Hundley. The Packers have found success in running the football while Hundley has begun coming into his own, using the play-action. In his three starts, Hundley’s completion percentage improved from 48.0 percent against the Saints to 68.4 percent against the Lions to a respectable 72 percent in last week’s contest with the Bears.
Granted, the majority of Hundley’s passes are less than 10 yards, but they serve the benefit of keeping the clock moving and time of possession on the Packers’ side. As he becomes more comfortable in each passing week, the Packers’ offense is sure to open up.
Sunday’s contest against the Ravens will be held at noon at Lambeau Field.