Hello Packer Faithful! My name is Christopher Hall and I am a recent addition to the team here at Pack to the Future. I’m not big on introductions, so if you’d like to know more about me, I will set up a bio section for myself in the near future. What I am excited to introduce, however, is a new column I think you’ll enjoy: Pack to the Past.
The goal of this column is to take each week’s match-up and give it a context. This means comparing recent and historical contests with the game at-hand. This seems like a simple concept–and that’s because it is! But it’s an area just spilling over with intrigue. Let’s face it, everyone loves a good narrative to go along with a game…and the past tells quite a story.
And what a story to start us off!
The (5-6) Green Bay Packers are hosting the (6-5) Houston Texans on Sunday, and obviously, the Texans have the better record, which amounts to bupkis to the experts, apparently. According to Vegas, the Packers are favored by 6.5 points at home. That’s a real solid advantage against a division leader, even for a solid home team. But, I don’t have to remind anybody here that the Packers have a losing record. Is there a historical context to explain this, beyond Vegas’ lack of faith in the Texans? I think so.
Flashback to the 2012 season. I know you don’t want to (Fail Mary, Kaepernick, etc.), but bear with me. The Packers came in to Reliant Stadium with just 2 wins in 5 weeks. They had been embarrassed at home by the 49ers, robbed of all dignity by replacement refs, and stunned by the Colts. There were no convincing wins to speak of besides a squeaker against a Saints team that finished with losing record. Oh and the Bears. Whatever.
The Texans on the other hand, were in the middle of one of their franchise’s best seasons to this day. They were fresh off winning their division and making the playoffs for the first time. Remember that team? Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Owen Daniels, and Andre Johnson–hell they even had a young Justin Forsett–this was a team that was going places.
People weren’t so sure about the Packers. We had Aaron Rodgers, but ever since blowing it against the Giants in 2011, there was a sense of disconnect on the team. (My personal theory is that this was a transition phase for Rodgers–he was becoming the “old man” in the locker room as opposed to the young, Halo-3-playing badass with a lot on the line) This theme continued on into 2013 and forced itself through a crack in Rodgers’ collar bone. In many ways, however, this was a turning point for the Packers’ season.
The Packers defense started out hot and so did Aaron Rodgers. After a sack leading to a three-and-out, Aaron Rodgers connected with Jordy on a drive that was saved by an offside penalty. Then the defense sacked Shaub again. For a moment, it appeared the Packers would run away with it. But Watt happened. J.J. sacked Rodgers on a second down, popped up and put on his belt, promptly threw it away, and replaced it with his signature salute. The end result? A pissed-off Aaron Rodgers and my favorite Packers video of all time:
There are two times I can remember someone mocking the belt–the other being the 2015 game against Kansas City. His stats in those two games are: 66% completion rate, 721 yards, 11 td’s and a 138.9 passer-rating. Holy geez. That’s like Andy Dalton’s entire season so far. In this game in particular, it lead to a convincing 42-24 victory against an undefeated home team. Sometimes we wonder why the expectations for this team are so high. It’s because of games like that one–where we dominated a better team thanks to 12.
But, there are some interesting factors that make this upcoming game very similar to that Sunday night. Chris Collinsworth and Al Michaels couldn’t stop talking about the pregame meeting they had with Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers had been pretty hard on himself about his play so far that season. He was sub-100 (barely) in his passer-rating and his team had lost some close games against teams they should have beaten. That should sound like deja-vu for anyone watching this team over the last two years.
In a lot of ways, the 2012 season was the beginning of a trend that, I think, culminated to a losing record so far in this season. Starting that year, we began a string of slow starts. The r-e-l-a-x season being the best example. There are turning points in each of those years–and we made the playoffs every time. The question this time is: can the Packers keep that going?
This is certainly not the Texans team that we played in 2012. That team was a very solid group who finished 8th in offense and 9th in defense. They ran into the Patriots in the divisional round and got stomped, but that may still have been Houston’s best year in franchise history.
The 2016 squad has already equaled their loss total for that whole year. The biggest difference is the offense: Houston ranks 29th in the league on offense and have the 8th most turnovers of any team. This is largely due to Brock Osweiler, who is putting up some really bad numbers. He has 12 touchdowns to a league-leading 13 interceptions. Matt Schaub was no MVP candidate in 2012, but he threw less interceptions that whole year (12) than Osweiler has already thrown this year.
Their defense is decent, but without Watt, they are drifting to the middle of the pack with the 12th best ranking. They also have trouble creating turnovers, with only 10 takeaways all year. Compare that to the 9th ranked Texans in 2012 that finished with 29. I don’t know if Aaron can throw for 6 TD’s this time, but one thing is for certain: it’s going to be two very different teams playing on Sunday. For the most part, either side would trade this year for 2012–so far.
Regardless of their record, it’s pretty clear that Aaron is all-in. To go with his claim that the Pack can run the table, he backed it up with his performance against the Eagles on MNF. Now the Pack has a chance to bring back some of that old mojo and beat the Texans in a big spot, once again.
Something that Aaron said to Collinsworth in the pregame meetings stuck out to me:
“Outside the sky is falling, inside–we’re fine.”
Let’s hope that Aaron shows up this Sunday.