Packer Nation remained somewhat calm when Aaron Rodgers went down in Minnesota and the Packers fell to 4-2 on the year. The original though was that Brett Hundley could keep the team afloat until a potential return of Rodgers. The Packers dropped 2 more games consecutively and were exposed on defense by Detroit. The team lost Bryan Bulaga for the year and Morgan Burnett would be lost for a while after his first game back from a hamstring injury.
Things looked bleak and the team would travel to Chicago to face the Bears. The Bears were the favorite to win that game. Their defense looked stout recently and their rushing attack remained potent. For the Packers, that game showed they can win games against easier opponents, much like the ones they will face in 3 of their next 4 games. The team has to get wins in those game to stay in the playoff conversation.
The Packers start their next 4 games at home against the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens currently sit at 4-5 coming off their bye week. The team has had its fair share of rough outings, featuring a loss at home to the Bears, and being humiliated by the Jaguars and Steelers this season. The one thing this team has that the Bears do not? Joe Flacco, a veteran quarterback. While Flacco has struggled mightily this season, he will make the Packers defense pay for mistakes that they make. The Packers were lucky to be facing a rookie quarterback last weekend, because they made some big time coverage mistakes that Joe Flacco would have capitalized on. The Ravens are an offense that isn’t going to light up most teams. They average 5.3 yards per pass play and 4.2 yards per rush for an average of 4.4 yards per offensive play. This match up is a winnable game especially at home.
The Steelers are the next game on the schedule. The Packers will travel to Pittsburgh. This team is no slouch with a 7-2 record. While the Packers do have an outside chance of winning this game, it will be far from easy. I’m gonna keep this short and stick to the more winnable games. This one doesn’t look good for Green Bay.
The third game of the stretch comes against the Tampa Bay Bucs at home. The Buccaneers have not exactly been an impressive football team this season. They sat at 2-6 and then came the announcement that their starting quarterback would be shut down for a number of weeks. To the Bucs credit, they did squeak out a 15-10 win at home in the Fitzpatrick revenge game against the Jets. The teams strength on offense prior to Winston being shut down was the passing game. They averaged 7.4 yards per attempt with Winston at QB, but that number drops to 6.6 when Ryan Fitzpatrick is out their on offense. Tampa has struggled to run the ball this season, the team has racked up 745 yards on 209 plays for 3.6 yards per play. On defense they have stopped the run effectively, but have not been so lucky against the pass. The Buccaneers pass defense is actually as bad as the Green Bays on paper. They surrender 7.8 yards per pass play to the Packers 7.9 and have an identical number of interceptions at 6. Statistically this game looks very winnable especially facing a Ryan Fitzpatrick led team.
The Packers close the 4 game stretch going to Cleveland. The Browns are another team that will not light teams up on offense. The team has thrown 18 picks and only 8 touchdowns. They have found a little success on the ground with 962 yards thus far this season. Their defense stops the run well, but they have given up their fair share of passing yards much like the Packers & Buccaneers. Above all else, this team has yet to win a game. If there’s an easy win on the Packers schedule for the remainder of the year it is this one.
The Packers Can and Need to Win 3 of Their next 4
The main reason the Packers could be sitting at 8-5 in December? Simple, the quality of teams they have upcoming. The other narrative you should pay close attention to is the play of Brett Hundley. His play did not go as expected through starts 1 and 2, but he really showed us fans something in start number 3. Hundley looked like the quarterback we hoped he would be in the 4th quarter of the Chicago game. He had two throws to Davante Adams that were absolutely phenomenal to say the least. He has developed a lot of chemistry with Adams and has a very high passer rating when targeting him. Hundley has shown improvement each week, which is exactly what the team wants. As he continues to grow, I cannot help but wonder how good this team could be if Hundley could put together a full game in which he played like he did in the 4th quarter last week.
In order for this team to be in a position to win games, the defense cannot get burnt like it has so many times this season. The big advantage of this stretch is not having to face electric offenses. The Packers cannot score points like they could before the injury, therefore the defense needs to keep the offense in these games. Injuries to players like Morgan Burnett and Kevin King do not look good for this defense. On a promising note Nick Perry is now operating without a club, and he looked much better out there compiling 3 sacks last week. Ahmad Brooks back in the lineup provides some much needed depth as well. The pass rush looked much more existent against the Bears, we fans can only hope that continues.
Now, why is it so important that the Packers win 3 of their next 4? This is their big chance to win some easy games to put themselves in position to make the postseason. The NFC North has two other teams gunning for the division title this year, so they’ll need all the help they can get. The team needs to be in position to make the postseason for Aaron Rodgers to come back if completely healed. An 8-6 Packers team would head to Carolina with Rodgers eligible to come off of IR but not likely playing just yet. The more important games are the final 2, at home versus the Vikings and at Detroit to finish the season. Those final two games could be very crucial for playoff implications, and if I know one thing…Its that Aaron Rodgers knows how to win when he is backed into a corner.
For the Packers, it is simple. Win against easy teams now, or be backed in a corner later in the season and likely not make the postseason. The result of the next 4 games will have a lot to do with the play of Brett Hundley, but also Jamaal Williams. Williams showed us a lot more than we thought he was capable of last weekend. With fellow rookie Aaron Jones out, Williams will get the bulk of the carries in this stretch. The Packers will hope to get Ty Montgomery back at some point in this stretch, but that remains to be seen.