Three games left in the season and the Packers are still alive.
Vikings (Last Week: Loss, 24-31 @ Panthers)
Last week’s Vikings section talked about how the Vikings pound the ball with the running game to set up the play action for Case Keenum. Well that gameplan went out the window on Sunday against Carolina. Keenum threw the ball 44 times in the game, while Murray and McKinnon had only 16 runs between them.
Gameplans don’t always make it to the game in the NFL. The Panthers stuffed the run early and disrupted the whole rhythm of the game for Minnesota. In the four weeks prior to this game Case was averaging a quarterback rating of 115. Carolina held him to just 75.9. Case is playing well, unquestionable. But he is still a product of his environment, and on Sunday the Panthers took that environment away.
Next game: vs Bengals
The Bengals 7-33 loss to the Bears was closer than it seemed. The Bengals don’t have a great record this year but they do have a lot of talent on their team.
Carolina was one of the only teams this year to carve Minnesota’s defense for big plays. If the Bengals want a shot to win Dalton and Green are going to have to step up and get some big plays of their own.
Lions (Last week: Win, 24-21 @ Buccaneers)
You can never question Stafford’s toughness. After a week of battling with an injured throwing hand, he came out and threw the ball 44 times and led them down the field for a game winning field goal.
The Lions didn’t lean heavily on the run in the one, instead opting to use the screen and short passing game as a substitute. They had 53 rushing yards while Riddick had 64 just from catching the ball. The Lions offense has excelled this year when they allow their playmakers to get in space and use their speed. That is exactly what they did against Tampa Bay in a game where Stafford spread the ball around diligently; 7 receivers had a multiple catch game.
Next game: vs Bears
NFC North games are usually played tight and don’t expect this one to be any different. Expect the key to this game to be the effectiveness of short plays on offense. Meaning the Bears ability to run the ball, and the Lions ability to throw screens and short passes.
Whichever team’s defense can do better at forcing 3rd and long situations should win in this one.
Packers (Last week: Win, 27-21 @ Browns)
Aaron Rodgers is healthy and set to return against Carolina next week. After two overtime victories Hundley did just enough to keep the Packers in the playoff race. So let’s break it down.
What the Packers really needed this last week, besides their win against Cleveland, was for Minnesota to beat Carolina, as Carolina and Atlanta currently hold the two wildcard spots. The Falcons already have the tiebreaker against Green Bay, which mean the Packers best shot at the playoffs is to take Carolina’s spot. If the Vikings had won, this Sunday would be Rodgers playing for the control of the wildcard spot. Now, the most likely path to the playoffs is the Packers winning out and the Panthers losing to the Falcons in week 17.
Davante Adams has been a bright spot in the Packers offense in the absence of Rodgers. Hopefully with Aaron back, the rest of the receiving core can get back to doing what they do best. Most affected by the regime change has been Jordy Nelson, who has failed to break 40 receiving yards since Hundley came in. Can Aaron Rodgers will this team to another playoff run?
Next Game: @ Panthers
The main story will be Aaron Rodgers’ return, but Jamaal Williams could very well be the key to this game. He has proven over the last few weeks that he is a strong back capable of grinding for extra yards. Expect this game to come down to a few key first downs on short yardage. Perfect for a bruiser like Williams.
Bears (Last week: Win, 33-7 @ Bengals)
Jordan Howard took over this game. A lot of good players get hidden on bad teams. Less common, is for players to be so good they are superstars despite their team. Howard, in his second NFL year, is proving that he is one of the elite players in the NFL’s running back resurgence.
In week 13 when the Bears played the 49er’s Howard had 38 yards and they were held to 7 points on offense. This last Sunday against the Bengals he had 147 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 carries (Cohen had 80 yards). When Jordan Howard moves, the Bears move. The Bengals have the 32nd ranked rush defense in the league, so don’t expect quite this performance every week, but when the Bears can get Howard and Cohen working they have a chance against any team. This running back duo could be something special in coming years.
Next game: @ Lions
The Lions did well at stopping the run in the beginning of the season. Since then they have struggled, including give up 178 yards to the Howard/Cohen duo in week 11. The Lions gave up 8.5 yards on average to the pair. They will need to improve that drastically if they want to win this game and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Find more by Shawn Reagan on the Bleeding Green and Gold podcast! A father and son podcast that is all about your favorite team!