Will The Packers Still Make The Playoffs?
While the Green Bay Packers haven’t provided any official timetable for the return of Aaron Rodgers from his fractured collarbone, various media outlets have reported that it will likely take about three weeks. If that holds true, the three games the 2011 NFL MVP would miss would be home to the Philadelphia Eagles, at the New York Giants and home to the Minnesota Vikings, then he would return for at the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. Would the Packers be able to overcome a three-game absence from their best player and still make the playoffs?
First of all, Seneca Wallace will play better than he did against Chicago. A full week getting reps with the first-team offense and going in with a game plan designed to maximize his abilities will be huge in helping him succeed against some not-very-good defenses. That brings me to the strength of schedule during this three-game stretch. As you can see, it’s not too daunting. All of those teams have losing records. On top of that, the schedule doesn’t get much harder once Rodgers is slated to return. That game at Detroit should be the most difficult one the rest of the way. After that, at Chicago and at Dallas would be not easy games but still should be won if Rodgers is fully healthy. The Packers will be heavy favorites, again assuming Rodgers’ health, in every other remaining game. Worst-case scenario, I’d say the Packers still get to 10-6, which should clinch at least a wild card spot.
I’m very concerned about Eddie Lacy’s well-being for these three games. He’s had an injury history in his past, and the increased workload now that Rodgers is out won’t help out with that. I’ve been skeptical of whether the Packers’ defense was legitimate, given that they’ve played quarterbacks like Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Brandon Weeden and Christian Ponder. Their performance against a Josh McCown-led Bears offense didn’t help me feel any better. I’m afraid they’ll start to crumble once they face some legitimate offenses. And while it is true the Eagles and Giants both have losing records and horrible defenses, they’ve both shown some signs of life recently, most notably by Nick Foles’ seven-touchdown performance. The Giants have always given the Packers trouble, so they could very easily role over the Packers with no Rodgers.
If the Packers make the playoffs, it’s going to have to be as a wild card team. While their schedule is pretty easy from here on out, the Lions, who also sit at 5-3, have the easiest remaining schedule, going by opponents’ wins and losses. Even if Rodgers returns on Thanksgiving to beat the Lions, the damage may have already been done by Seneca Wallace. Even with the Packers’ schedule, there will be no easy road to the playoffs. Still, I see them sneaking in as number six seed. Hey, that worked out just fine for them last time, right?