Not the result some wanted (yours truly) and now because things keep falling into place, the Packers still have a shot (4% as of Fri, Dec 14th, up from 0.97% following the Arizona loss) at the playoffs. I’ll state this, and for many who know me maybe you think a pessimist, or Negative Nancy, but trust me, I’m as objective as a fan can be—which I believe to be realistic.
Let’s say everything falls into place, the Packers somehow get into “the tournament,” they’d likely travel to Chicago for the Wild Card game, which would obviously be very winnable. Then being the 6th seed, they’d (as of now) have to travel to New Orleans for a showdown with the best team in the NFL, in a stadium they never play well in, vs a team they can’t stop. Let’s say for some reason the Rams get home field advantage, then Green Bay would have……….see what happens, there’s a game to be played, along with 5 other scenarios that must happen even in order to think all this through. Meanwhile the chance of getting to the super bowl (not winning it, just showing up) is still <<<<<1%. Hence, losing out to get better draft stock, not just in the 1st round, but each round following, can only help the organization. Unless you think that winning out, finishing 8-7-1, missing the playoffs or getting bounced in the postseason would somehow benefit this team more than 10+ draft slots because of the confidence gained from winning those games, losing out is the way to go.
The Good—the Packers played a pretty good game vs. a very confusingly-bad Atlanta team and looked like what many thought this Packers team would look like all year. What I liked is Pettine (Packers’ D coord) had the sensational rookie, Jaire Alexander, follow around arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver (Julio Jones) all game and for the most part, hung in there and did fairly well. The other promising factor is with the injuries, 2nd year man (my man) Josh Jones is getting valuable snaps…keep ‘em coming.
Joe Philbin didn’t necessarily call a great game, as far as play calls, formations, schemes, etc.—but what he did do is call with tempo, which allowed Rodgers and the offense to establish a rhythm, which proved to be more important than “good” calls, at least vs. Atlanta. Mid-season pick up, Breshaud Breeland (CB) had a pick-6 against Matt Ryan, on a poor throw, but ultimately a good play. Lastly, the 2 challenges on the Julio catches, which the first one, by rule, should’ve been an incompletion, set the tone and seemed to get buy-in from the entire sideline.
Going complete fan here, but this team has talent, and it’s very apparent the firing of Mike McCarthy looks to be their galvanizing moment the QB has been looking for, it may be too little, too late in terms of making a run—however, if they get in, I can’t imagine many teams begging to see a hot team led by Aaron Rodgers…unless it’s the Saints in New Orleans, because the Packers can’t win there.
The Bad—Kenny Clark, arguably the team’s best player, suffered an elbow injury, but later returned. It’s stuff like that happening, that I hate…I still don’t believe this team can/will win the Super Bowl and injuring your best player could substantially injure your chances next year.
The Ugly—the Vikings fired offensive Coordinator…John DeFilippo. He looked like he may have been auditioning for a head coaching job with a capable QB with all the pass plays he called during the Vikings’ near shutout in Seattle. The reason I put this under Ugly, is due to Mark Murphy (meddling owner) not using a search firm to find the next head coach, and may be stuck in his ways as DeFilippo may have been on his radar prior to the fiasco in Seattle, and there’s a real chance he could be hired as next coach…again, many who know me know I love running the ball and playing great defense…DeFilippo shows none of that.
Match-up—the Bears bring one of the most-complete teams (on paper) into this week 15 matchup. When looking at Points and turnover margin, the Bears rank 7th on offense, 3rd on defense, and 1st in turnover margin (+13). Until last week, the Bears hadn’t beaten a team with a winning record, and it was obvious neither QB (Rams’ Jared Goff or the Bears’ Mitch Trubisky) wanted to play in the cold. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs vs a Packers’ defense that has seemed to improve throughout the season, or at least become a bit more consistent as the season has gone on.
The main thing to keep an eye on is if Rodgers and the Packers come out with a quick-hitting passing attack that led to their comeback vs Chicago in the 2nd half of week 1’s matchup, which may mean less snaps for Aaron Jones (Jamaal Williams is the preferred pass blocking HB). The other reason this could be essential is Khalil Mack only played on a limited snap count in week 1, but is obviously ready to rock now—the issue, Packers RT Bryan Bulaga is listed as DOUBTFUL (as of 9a Sunday), which could be great tape from Jason Spriggs on how “Not to pass block vs the best defender in football.” It’s a very intriguing matchup to see if the Packers can utilize the short-passing game to act as the running game. Green Bay will likely need a solid performance from Rodgers and the defense to get a turnover or 2 to pull this game out. Also, if you’re all in for the playoff push, which is pointless without a Super Bowl victory, keep an eye on the Miami @ Minnesota game too.
Prediction time—a little different format here, however while I want the Packers to lose, I will attempt to root for it as well, but rooting for the Packers to lose against the Bears just doesn’t sit well in my stomach – even if it’s the best for the team long-term.
41-24: a win-win at this point. If the Packers win they’re still alive for the playoffs, and many fans will enjoy that. If they lose, they improved draft stock (although losing last week would’ve gone much further in that dept.). Either way, it feels like purgatory and when in doubt, root for a W????