Trent Stutzman

Packers Are Not In A Must-Win Situation

Created on Oct. 04, 2013 5:56 PM EST

I’ve never been a fan of labeling a game as a ‘must win,' especially when a team is only a quarter of the way through a season. Unless it’s a true elimination game, there’s no way to tell whether a game actually must be won to keep a season alive.

That’s why I can’t say the Green Bay Packers are in a must-win situation going into their Sunday matchup against the Detroit Lions.

To be certain, a loss would be a huge blow to the Packers’ playoff chances. Should they lose, their record would drop to 1-3, their division record would be 0-1 and they’d already be 2.5 half games behind the Lions for the division lead. Traveling to Baltimore to face the defending Super Bowl champs the following week wouldn’t help the situation, either.

But remember last year? The Packers had a similarly slow start, going 2-3 through their first five games. They went on to win nine of their next ten games to seal the NFC North and the third seed in the playoffs.

The Packers weren’t the only team in 2012 to turn their season around after a slow start. The Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins, all playoff teams, started out 2-3, 2-3, 3-5 and 3-6, respectively. And don’t forget it can go the other way too. The Chicago Bears went 7-1 in the first half of 2012 only to go 1-5 over the next six weeks to miss the playoffs.

The upcoming schedule gives the Packers a chance to make up ground quickly. Although the trip to Baltimore won’t be easy, games against the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings should result in two wins. Following a home match against Chicago, the Packers face the no-defense Philadelphia Eagles, the turnover-happy New York Giants and then the Vikings again. And if you want to keep going, three of their final four games are against teams thought to be dangerous before the season started, but now look mediocre at best – the Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers.

What looked like a tough schedule a month ago now isn’t too frightening. Of their final 12 games, only four (two against Chicago, one against Baltimore and Detroit each) look tough right now, and the Packers could easily win at least two of those.

The Packers haven’t played like a 1-2 team. They were a healthy Morgan Burnett short of beating the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. There’s no doubt they were the better team against Washington. And while the game certainly wasn’t pretty in Cincinnati, the main cause for the loss was a poor Aaron Rodgers performance and a fumbled kick return by Jeremy Ross, who is no longer on the team.

Just like last year, the Packers have been victim to the schedule being much tougher at the beginning of the season. A 1-3 record, while not encouraging, is not the end of the world. No team has clinched a spot or been eliminated from the playoffs yet. The postseason is a long ways away.

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