Although the Green Bay Packers are 4-5-1 after 10 games in the 2018 NFL season, there is still hope that the Packers can still make the playoffs. The biggest reason is quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as he will be playing all three of his NFC North rivals during the final six-game stretch of the year.
Rodgers is a combined 41-15-1 versus the Minnesota Vikings (12-7-1), Chicago Bears (16-4) and Detroit Lions (13-4).
There is a big reason for his success. It’s the numbers he puts up against those teams. Combined, Rodgers has thrown 122 touchdown passes compared to just 21 interceptions for 19,122 yards against his biggest rivals. That adds up to a combined passer rating of 109.4, which is even better than his all-time NFL best career mark of 103.7.
That rating is helped by his off the charts ratio of touchdown passes (332) vs. interceptions (79). That means that Rodgers throws 4.20 touchdown passes compared to every pick he throws.
No one else in NFL history comes close. In fact, Tom Brady (3.02) of the New England Patriots and Russell Wilson (3.01) of the Seattle Seahawks are the only other QBs in NFL history to be above the three to one ratio when comparing touchdown passes to interceptions.
Bottom line, since Rodgers became the starting QB of the Packers in 2008, Rodgers and the Packers have won the NFC North five times and have made the playoffs eight times overall.
Currently, the Bears lead the NFC North with a 8-3 record, followed by the Vikings at 5-4-1, the Packers at 4-5-1 and the Lions at 4-7. The Bears and Lions have played one more game, as they met in Detroit on Thanksgiving, as Chicago won 23-16.
Rodgers has had a very good 2018 season, as he has thrown 19 touchdown passes versus just one pick for 3,073 yards. Plus, he has played very well against his NFC North rivals as well.
Against da Bears and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in the season opener at Lambeau Field, Rodgers had a 130.7 passer rating, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 286 yards. Most of this came after No. 12 had his season almost ended on one of the two sacks he took that night, as Rodgers suffered a knee sprain that saw the quarterback leave the field on a cart in the second quarter.
But Rodgers was able to come back in the second half, as he led the Packers back from a 20-3 deficit, as Green Bay roared back to beat Chicago 24-23.
In Week 2, versus the Vikings at Lambeau, on the same day the Packers put Jerry Kramer’s name on the stadium facade and he was given his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, the Packers saw a sure win taken away from them due to a very controversial roughing the quarterback call against Clay Matthews as he hit Kirk Cousins.
The game ended in a 29-29 tie, as Rodgers threw for 281 yards and a touchdown (without a pick). No. 12’s passer rating in the game was 97.4. And this all happened a week after Rodgers almost had his season ended against da Bears with his knee injury.
As it was, the Vikings sacked Rodgers four times.
In Week 5 against the Lions at Ford Field, Rodgers and the Packers were hurt by the kicking game, as kicker Mason Crosby missed four field goals and an extra point, as Detroit beat Green Bay 31-23.
Rodgers had a nice game, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 442 yards. That added up to a passer rating of 108.0.
But for the Packers to have any chance of making the postseason, either as division champs or as a Wild Card team, they have to certainly defeat the Vikings Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Rodgers can’t do it alone, but he has to play well for Green Bay to win. And as good as Rodgers has played in 2018, in spite of his lingering knee issues, he has also shown a few tendencies that have been rare throughout his career.
For one thing, Rodgers has just a 61.8 completion percentage this season, which is the second lowest of his career (64.9 average). Some of that could be due to his knee woes, plus he is playing with a number of younger wide receivers, including rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown.
That has led to a number of inaccurate throws to open receivers. Besides that, we can’t forget that Rodgers has suffered two broken collarbones in his career, including the one from last season (after a hit by Anthony Barr of the Vikings) when Rodgers had to have 13 screws put in to repair his broken collarbone.
Still, Rodgers is still playing at a very high level, even though the Packers are 1-3 in their last four games. In those four games, Rodgers has thrown seven touchdown passes without a pick for 1,076 yards. That adds up to a combined passer rating of 108.2.
Teams should not be 1-3 when their quarterbacks play like Rodgers has the past four games overall, but it goes to show that there are a number of other issues with the 2018 Packers.
And a lot of heat is going in the direction of head coach Mike McCarthy.
Besides utilizing the skills of Rodgers on offense, the Packers also need to rely on running back Aaron Jones more.
The defensive and special teams units have to play better as well.
All that being said, Rodgers is the best chance the Packers have in getting back to the postseason again in 2018, after missing out in 2017.
A lot of that is due to the great success Rodgers has had against his NFC North rivals in his career.
Lambeau Field sure looked like the place to be on Sunday. The 1-0 Green Bay Packers were hosting the 1-0 Minnesota Vikings, plus quarterback Aaron Rodgers was cleared to play.
This after the knee injury Rodgers suffered last Sunday night versus the Chicago Bears, as he led the Packers to a thrilling 24-23 victory over da Bears on basically one leg in the second half of the game.
The Vikings are the defending NFC North champs and together with the Packers, the two teams have won the division seven years in a row, with the Packers winning the title in five of those seasons.
The game on Sunday against the Vikings was also the first time Rodgers had played against Minnesota since Week 6 of last season at U.S. Bank Stadium when No. 12 fractured a collarbone. The injury occurred when he was thrown down by linebacker Anthony Barr after he had thrown the ball.
Lambeau was also the place to be for another reason. Jerry Kramer was in town to receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring and to see his name unveiled on the facade at the legendary stadium.
Kramer became the 25th member of the Green Bay organization to have his name displayed on the southwest façade inside the stadium.
I had been in Canton for Kramer’s enshrinement and was invited by Jerry to sit with he and his family in his suite for the game. The Packers had arranged that Kramer and his family would be able to sit in the alumni suite, which is normally used by former Green Bay players.
Unfortunately and regrettably, I was not able to attend. But I truly appreciated the kind offer.
Joining Kramer and his family in the suite was one of No. 64’s old teammates, Donny Anderson.
You might recall a game that both Kramer and Anderson had key roles in from 50-plus years ago at frigid Lambeau Field. And unlike Sunday, when the temperature was hovering around 86 degrees, the classic game from New Year’s Eve in 1967 was about 99 degrees colder.
The organization of the Packers did a fantastic job in honoring Kramer, especially during the halftime ceremony. The website of the Packers did a very nice job in terms of filming the ceremony, taking excellent photos and also showing Kramer’s press conference with the media.
Larry McCarren was the emcee for the ceremony, plus both David Baker (President/Executive Director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame) and Mark Murphy (President & CEO of the Packers) also spoke before Kramer talked to and thanked the 78,461 people in attendance.
Kramer was asked about how he felt when he saw his name displayed on the facade when he talked with the media.
“It felt like a kick in the stomach,” Kramer said. “It was a ‘oomph.’ It was a physical reaction and I wondered if I was going to faint or fall over or what I was going to do. It just lasted for an instant, but it was a noticeable shock.”
Very late in the game against the Vikings, the Packers also felt a kick in the stomach, but this one was painful. More on that later.
I had a chance to talk to Kramer today, as he was getting ready to fly out of Wisconsin and get back home to Boise, Idaho where he can relax (in his Big Chair) for a few days after a whirlwind of traveling over the past few months.
When I asked him about what he remembered most from yesterday, he said it was the response from the Green Bay faithful in the stands at Lambeau.
“It was very gratifying and also very humbling to see and hear the reaction that I received from the fans,” Kramer said. “As I was walking, section after section kept cheering for me. Old linemen like me aren’t used to that type of applause.”
Kramer talked about that dynamic at his press conference.
“It’s surreal, I think is the best way to describe it,” Kramer said. “Especially for a lineman. You know, lineman don’t do those kinds of things. Rarely do they do those kinds of things. It was a wonderful day.”
Surreal is a perfect way to describe yesterday, both in terms of honoring Kramer and also the ball game played by the Packers and Vikings.
The Packers were up 29-21 with less than two minutes to go in the game, when quarterback Kirk Cousins of the Vikings threw what looked like the game-clinching interception to Jaire Alexander.
This is when the Packers were kicked in the gut.
You see, referee Tony Corrente decided to throw a flag. Corrente called a 15-yard penalty on outside linebacker Clay Matthews for unnecessary roughness after Matthews had tackled Cousins to the ground just as he had thrown the ball.
Matthews had used perfect form in tackling Cousins, as he didn’t hit Cousins with his helmet, leading instead with his shoulder. Plus, No. 52 didn’t hit Cousins high, as he tackled at the numbers.
But still Corrente threw the flag and gave no explanation to Matthews as to why he threw the yellow hanky.
After the game, Corrente said he penalized Matthews because he “lifted (Cousins) up and drove him into the ground.”
I don’t know what game Corrente was watching, but Matthews did not lift Cousins up and drive him into the turf at Lambeau.
“I don’t know what else to do,” Matthews said after the game. “Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within from his waist to chest, got my head across, put my hands down.”
That is exactly what Matthews did if you have looked at this play.
But still the flag was thrown and the gut was kicked.
So what should have been a 29-21 win turned into a 29-29 tie and a real nail-biter for Packer Nation in overtime.
Luckily, rookie kicker Daniel Carlson of the Vikings missed both of his field goal attempts in overtime, including a 35-yard chip shot to win the game at the end of OT.
I had a funny feeling Carlson might miss in OT, even though he was considered one of the best kickers in college football.
I saw Carlson play in the 2015 Outback Bowl when his Auburn Tigers took on the Wisconsin Badgers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
The Badgers won 34-31 in overtime, as Carlson missed a game-tying field goal in OT to give Wisconsin the victory.
So although the tie against the Vikings wasn’t great and the penalty called on Matthews was a terrible call, it could have been worse. As in a loss, had Carlson made his field goal attempts.
Rodgers played courageously in the game with limited mobility, as No. 12 threw for 281 yards and threw a touchdown pass without tossing a pick. Rodgers was also sacked four times for 28 yards.
Rodgers was obviously very disappointed in the tie.
“Close to an ‘L,’ ” Rodgers said after the game. “Doesn’t feel great.”
But was great was seeing Rodgers get with Kramer on the field after the halftime ceremony.
“Yes, Aaron came up to me and congratulated me,” Kramer told me. “He was real cordial to me and we talked for a bit. It was a real classy gesture by Aaron.”
I reminded Kramer that it was against the Vikings at County Stadium in Milwaukee in 1961, when he suffered the most serious injury of his NFL career, when he broke his leg below the knee and separated the bones in his ankle.
I also reminded Jerry that the final score 29-29, which adds up to 58. Talk about surreal or apropos.
1958 was Kramer’s first year with the Packers. That was the year he was part of the best draft class that the Packers ever had, as three of draftees ended up getting a bust in Canton. I’m talking about Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and now Kramer.
“It’s hard to believe that was 60 years ago,” Kramer said. “But what a wonderful journey it has been over all these years.”
When I talked to Kramer shortly after he was inducted, he talked about how much he was looking forward to not only being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but also about coming back to the stadium at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay.
“Certainly the Hall of Fame itself in Canton in August and all of that,” Kramer told me back in February. “But another moment which will be awfully powerful for me is seeing my name on the facade at Lambeau Field and being honored there in front of those great fans.”
I asked Kramer to describe the events from yesterday at the field he played on from 1958 through 1968.
“It was everything I expected and more. Much, much more!”
Both the Green Bay Packers and Jerry Kramer have a couple of big weekends coming up.
The Packers are preparing to open their 2018 NFL season (the 100th anniversary of the Packers being formed) on Sunday night at Lambeau Field versus the Chicago Bears and their newly acquired pass rusher Khalil Mack.
The following week the Pack will host the defending NFC North champions, the Minnesota Vikings.
The upcoming game against da Bears also marks the annual alumni weekend, as Kramer and many of his former teammates, as well as other former Green Bay players will be on hand.
And when the Packers play the Vikings the following week at Lambeau, Kramer will receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade, along with the other 24 Packers enshrined in Canton.
The Packers and Bears have been playing each other since 1921 when the NFL was called the American Professional Football Association. When Green Bay defeated Chicago 35-14 last September at Lambeau Field, that victory put the Packers ahead in the series against their long-time rivals for the first time in 85 years.
The series now stands with the Packers holding an edge with a 95-93-6 mark. Kramer knows all about this heated rivalry, as No. 64 talked about that story line in a piece I wrote a couple of years ago.
It was an era when Vince Lombardi coached the Packers and George Halas coached the Bears. In the nine years that the two coached against each other, the Packers held a 13-5 edge in the series.
During that period, the Packers won five NFL titles in seven years under Lombardi, which included three NFL championships in a row (which has never been duplicated in the playoff era of the NFL), as well as winning the first two Super Bowl games.
Da Bears won the 1963 NFL title under Halas.
Lombardi was always primed to play the Bears and he let his team know about as well.
“We were practicing on day before playing the Bears and Coach Lombardi brought us together,” Kramer said. “Coach said, ‘You guys go out and kick the Bears’ ass. And I’ll go out and kick old man Halas’ ass too.’
One of Kramer’s teammates who will be at the alumni weekend get-together is Zeke Bratkowski. The former Georgia Bulldog was the backup to Bart Starr for the Packers in the 1960s, but he started his NFL career with the Bears in the 1950s.
Bratkowski had the honor of playing under both Halas and Lombardi and Zeke talked about that scenario in a story I wrote last summer.
Besides Kramer and Bratkowski, there will be several other former Packers who played under Lombardi at the alumni function this weekend. The list includes Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Boyd Dowler, Dave Robinson, Marv Fleming, Doug Hart, Don Horn, Carroll Dale and Donny Anderson.
Dale and Anderson are the featured alumni this weekend and they will be signing autographs and visiting with fans on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 11 to noon in the Lambeau Field Atrium.
Other former Packers who are expected to attend are LeRoy Butler, John Brockington, Lynn Dickey, Paul Coffman, Jan Stenerud, Johnnie Gray, Ezra Johnson, Mark Lee, Al Matthews, Karl Swanke, David Whitehurst, Gerry Ellis, Gary Ellerson, Tiger Greene, Ron Hallstrom, Perry Kemp, Don Majkowski, Ron Pitts, Blaise Winter, Vince Workman, Don Beebe, Bucky Brooks, Mark Chmura, Earl Dotson, William Henderson, Ryan Longwell, Bryce Paup, Bill Schroeder, Frank Winters, Nick Barnett, Kevin Barry, Colin Cole, Brad Jones, Aaron Kampman, Buddy Aydelette, Craig Nall and Jason Spitz.
At halftime on Sunday night, the Packers will be introducing all of those players.
I talked to Kramer earlier this week and he talked about how great it is to see his former teammates. Plus, this will be the first time he has seen most of them since he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“It’s always great seeing the fellas,” Kramer said. “But I’m going to bust my ass to make sure that they know I haven’t changed. I want to show that I’m the same guy I have always been the past 40 years.”
From my perspective, having known Kramer for several years now, I can honestly say that Jerry has not changed one iota since he was inducted among the best of the best in Canton.
The game itself will be a big test for the Packers against the Bears, who are definitely a team on the rise. Chicago added a defensive force with the addition of Mack.
Mack and company will be trying to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, which will not be an easy task, based on the way Rodgers has historically played versus Chicago.
In his career against da Bears, Rodgers is 15-4 in the regular season. In those 19 games, No. 12 has thrown 42 touchdown passes, compared to just nine interceptions for 4,596 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 107.2.
Rodgers and the Packers also beat the Bears 21-14 in the 2010 NFC title game at Soldier Field.
The defense of the Packers, which is now headed by new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, will be trying to force some mistakes by second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
When the Packers go up against the Vikings, Rodgers will definitely keep his eye peeled for linebacker Anthony Barr, as it was Barr who broke the collarbone of Rodgers last season when he took No. 12 down hard to the ground after Rodgers had thrown the ball.
And as good as Rodgers is against the Bears, he is almost equally as good against the Vikings historically. In 19 regular season games, Rodgers is 12-7 against the Vikes, plus has thrown 39 touchdown passes compared to just six picks for 4,571 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 111.7.
And like he did against da Bears, Rodgers has defeated the Vikings in the postseason as well, as the Green Bay beat Minnesota 24-10 in a 2012 NFC Wild Card game at Lambeau Field.
I like Rodgers and the Packers to go 2-0 after their games against da Bears and the Vikings.
At halftime of the Vikings game, Kramer will have his cherry on top of the sundae moment, as he receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, as well as seeing his name unveiled on the facade at Lambeau Field in front of the great fans he played in front of for 11 seasons.
Kramer will see his name unveiled along side of the coach who made this all possible, Lombardi, along with several of his Hall of Fame teammates, which include Taylor, Starr, Hornung, Robinson, Forrest Gregg, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Ringo, Willie Wood and Henry Jordan.
“That is going to awesome,” Kramer said. “I’ll never forget the reaction of Jim Ringo when he saw his name on the facade. It was back in 1984, when I was writing Distant Replay with Dick Schaap. We had an alumni get-together at Lambeau and Ringo was there.
“A bunch of us went to Fuzzy’s [Thurston] bar, Shenanigans. Then at the game, we were introduced and had some photos taken of us. Jim was a little unsteady at the time and I helped him down the ramp heading to the field before we were introduced.
“We got about three-quarters down the ramp and then Jim saw his name on the facade. And Jim goes, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!’ He just kept repeating that over and over. Jim was just stunned and awestruck by that honor.
“I have a feeling that I’ll have similar emotions.”
Since Aaron Rodgers became the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers in 2008, the team has won the NFC North four times and gone to the postseason seven straight times.
If the Packers beat the Detroit Lions on Sunday night at Ford Field, it will be five NFC North titles and eight straight trips to the playoffs.
All I know is that the Lions should expect another great performance by Rodgers on national television (NBC) Sunday evening.
Rodgers almost always plays well versus the Lions. The same thing holds true for the other members of the NFC North…the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.
In his career against those three teams, Rodgers is 38- 13. In those 51 games, Rodgers has thrown 107 touchdown passes versus just 21 interceptions for 12,728 yards. That adds to to a cumulative passer rating of 108.6.
Not bad, huh?
If you just look at his touchdown pass to interception ratio in his career versus NFC North opponents, Rodgers has been humming along at a five to one clip. That is truly mind-blowing.
Against the Lions, Rodgers is exactly at a five to one ratio, as he has thrown 30 touchdown passes versus just six picks for 3,758 yards. No. 12’s career passer rating against the Lions is 108.0.
Rodgers is also 12-3 in his career against Detroit.
Rodgers doesn’t just hurt the Lions, Vikings and Bears…oh my…with just his arm either. He can scamper for yardage via the run about as good as any quarterback in the NFL.
Versus Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota, Rodgers has run for 697 yards and seven touchdowns in his career. Even with a bad calf last Sunday against the Vikings at Lambeau Field, Rodgers ran six yards for a touchdown, while making a nice move near the goal line as he dove into the end zone.
Rodgers has been playing out of his mind the latter part of the 2016 season, which also includes the stretch of three games against NFC North opponents to end the season.
Starting with the game against Washington in Week 11, when the Packers lost on Sunday night, Rodgers has thrown 14 touchdown passes without throwing a pick. In those six games, No. 12 has had a passer rating of over 100 in five of those contests.
The only game in which Rodgers did not have a passer rating of over 100, was the frigid game against da Bears at Soldier Field, when his rating was just 87.0. That being said, had wide receiver Davante Adams not dropped two sure touchdown passes in that game, Rodgers would have had a passer rating of over 100 yet again.
Plus, it was Rodgers who threw a 60-yard bomb to wide receiver Jordy Nelson with less than a minute to go on third down, which set up the game-winning field goal by Mason Crosby in the 30-27 victory by the Packers.
Sunday night will be the first visit to Ford Field by Rodgers and the Packers since the Miracle in Motown game on December 3, 2015.
The Packers were down 23-21 with just seconds remaining to the Lions when Rodgers and the Packers were saved by a facemask penalty against Detroit’s Devin Taylor on what would have been the final play of the game.
The penalty allowed one more opportunity for Rodgers to lead the Packers to a miraculous finish.
The Packers were on their own 39 yard line and Rodgers was going to need some time to launch a pass to the opposite end zone. That’s if he could get it there.
Rodgers was able elude the three-man rush, first going left, then scrambling to the right and then running up to launch his moon-rocket pass that went way up into the air and traveled close to 70 yards.
Tight end Richard Rodgers of the Packers leaped up and caught the ball at it’s highest point in the end zone surrounded by several players from both teams.
The result? The Rodgers to Rodgers combination had secured a 27-23 victory over the Lions on that phenomenal 61-yard touchdown pass.
More NFC North lore for Rodgers as well.
This Sunday night will be the fourth straight year the Packers will be playing for the NFC North title in Week 17.
In 2013, the 7-7-1 Packers played the 8-7 Bears at Soldier Field in Week 17. The winner would win the NFC North.
Rodgers was finally cleared to play against the Bears in that game, after ironically breaking his collarbone against Chicago in Week 8 that season, which caused him to miss seven games.
Although Rodgers appeared to be a bit rusty due to his layoff, No. 12 threw for 315 yards with two touchdown passes versus two picks.
But the second touchdown he threw in that game was one that will live on in Green Bay lore. With 46 seconds to go in the game and with the Packers trailing the Bears 28-27, Rodgers and the Packers faced a fourth-and-8 scenario.
In the moment of truth, Rodgers first avoided being sacked by current Packer Julius Peppers by sprinting to his left and getting a chip-block by fullback John Kuhn. Rodgers then delivered a 48-yard touchdown pass on the move to wide receiver Randall Cobb.
In 2014 against the Lions at Lambeau Field, it was once again a winner-take-all game for the NFC North crown.
Rodgers had hurt his calf the week before against the Tampa Bay Bucs at Raymond James Stadium and was really limited in terms of mobility.
Both the Packers and the Lions were 11-4 going into the game. Things started out well enough, as Rodgers had the fans at Lambeau cheering wildly for one fleeting moment and then sitting in hushed silence quickly thereafter.
That’s what happened when Rodgers threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Cobb with three minutes and 55 seconds left in the first half to take a 14-0 lead over the Lions.
But even before the pass was in Cobb’s hands, Rodgers crumpled to the turf. No. 12 didn‘t get up either. He clutched at his left calf writhing in pain. Rodgers had to be helped off the field by the training staff and moments later was driven to the locker room in a cart.
Things didn‘t get much better after that. It didn‘t help matters when the Lions came right back and scored a touchdown just before halftime.
When the Packers came out for the second half, there was no sign of Rodgers. Backup quarterback Matt Flynn was warming up and it was Flynn who took the snaps on the first series of the second half. The series went nowhere after Flynn was sacked on third down.
Just a moment later, the crowd roared as Rodgers gingerly walked out of the tunnel and toward the bench of the Packers.
The urgency of the game quickly changed as well, as the Lions quickly came back to score another touchdown and the game was tied 14-14.
But Rodgers, even with his limited mobility, led the Packers on a 60-yard touchdown drive which ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cobb to give the Packers a 21-14 lead.
Then in the fourth quarter, Rodgers finished another drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown which put the Packers up by two scores. The sneak happened in the south end zone—the same place where Bart Starr scored on his legendary sneak in the “Ice Bowl” game.
This game certainly added to the Rodgers’ legend, as the Packers ended up winning 30-20.
Last season, the Packers once again played for the NFC North title versus the Vikings in Week 17 at Lambeau Field. Both teams went into the game with 10-5 records.
Rodgers was under constant pass-pressure in the game, as the team started Josh Sitton at left tackle due to the ankle injury suffered by David Bakhtiari two weeks earlier.
Rodgers was sacked five times in the game, but he did throw for 291 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, but Green Bay lost 20-13.
This sets up the fourth straight year that Rodgers and the Packers can win the NFC North versus a NFC North opponent. That is very apropos.
And based on the track record of Rodgers versus the NFC North in general and also his history against the Lions, the legacy of Rodgers in the NFC North looks to grow even more legendary.
The Green Bay Packers have lost three games in a row and now sit with a 4-5 record. The play of the Packers in the last two games has been especially disturbing, because the team played with very little energy to begin each one of those games.
In both instances, versus the Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field and Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium, the Packers fell behind by double-digit margins before starting to awake from their slumber.
But it was a case of too little, too late in both games. While the offense seemed to get their act together somewhat, the defense couldn’t seem to stop anyone from scoring, as they gave up 78 points in the two games. And if you add in the previous game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, the defense has given up 111 points in three games.
That’s 37 points a game in case you were wondering.
Yes, I know injuries at key positions on both sides of the ball has played a big role in what has been occurring recently with the Packers, but there just aren’t many positives to talk about regarding the team over the past three games.
But one positive has to be the play of wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Nelson is starting to resemble the player he was before he tore his ACL in the 2015 preseason.
In the last three games, Nelson has been targeted 40 times and he has hauled in 23 catches for 314 yards and three touchdowns.
Through nine games this season, Nelson has 50 receptions for 635 yards and eight touchdowns.
Those totals have seen Nelson climb at the ladder in terms of the team record book of the Packers, as Nelson is now fifth in team history with 450 receptions. Nelson has moved past Greg Jennings (428), Antonio Freeman (431) and Boyd Dowler (448) so far in 2016.
With 39 more catches this season, Nelson will move ahead of the legendary Don Hutson (488).
No. 87 is also now in sixth place in the yards-receiving category with 6,744 yards, having passed Max McGee (6,346), Greg Jennings (6,537) and Antonio Freeman (6,651) this season.
With 175 more yards receiving, Nelson will move past Boyd Dowler (6,918) into fifth place in team annals.
In the past three games, Nelson seems to have regained the swagger in his game like he did in previous years. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has obviously noticed that as well, based on the 40 targets over the past three games.
I wanted to see if my opinion about the the play of Nelson was similar to the views of NFL scout Chris Landry.
I had an opportunity to talk with Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show this past Wednesday.
Landry agreed with me that he has seen steady improvement in Nelson’s game, especially in separating himself from his defenders.
“I think he is getting better,” Landry said speaking of Nelson. “He had trouble separating particularly in the earlier part of the year, but he’s getting better at that. They really need more guys who can get open and the protection has to hold up a little better that can make it all come together.
“I didn’t expect him [Nelson] with his work ethic and his toughness to be anything but gradually getting better. Yes, it’s been a bright spot.”
Landry then went on to talk about the state of the NFC North and the Packers.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the NFC North,” Landry said. “I’m not going to stand on the table for any of those teams. I still would look at the Packers and say you’ve got Aaron Rodgers and got to be able to fix part of this running game and I know it’s tough.
“That’s still to me the team to look out for, although every week I’m looking more and more like an idiot. I can’t trust Minnesota with their offensive line issues. I just can’t imagine…if Detroit wins this division, it may cause a lot of hand-wringing and hair-pulling. God bless them.
“We’ll see how this plays out. But this has been a mess. That division has just been a mess.”
There is no doubt about that. Even with the Packers losing three straight games, the team is just one game out of first place in the NFC North, as the once 5-0 Vikings, have now lost four games in a row.
The Lions are tied with the Vikings with a 5-4 mark.
The Packers have seven more games remaining on their schedule this season, including three straight versus NFC North opponents to close out the season.
But for those divisional games to become important, the Packers have to right their ship immediately.
Hopefully for the Packers, that course correction starts this Sunday night versus the 5-3-1 Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.
On August 6, Brett Favre will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Not too many people thought that this honor would ever be bestowed on Favre, as he started his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1991 very inauspiciously.
After being drafted in the second round out of Southern Mississippi, Favre’s rookie season with the Dirty Birds was sort of a disaster.
Favre hardly ever played. Part of the reason was because Favre was a party animal who stayed out late and also occasionally dozed off in meetings. Add to that, Favre also missed the team photo after a late night out.
When he did get to play, Favre attempted only four passes, without a completion. Actually, Favre did complete two passes, but both were to the opposition.
During the 1991 NFL draft, Ron Wolf was personnel director for the New York Jets. Wolf was intrigued by the strong-armed Favre in college, as he led the Golden Eagles to 29 wins as a starter, which included two bowl victories. Southern Miss also upset staunch opponents like Florida State and Alabama with Favre under center.
While Wolf was scouting Favre, No. 4 helped himself by being the MVP of the East-West Shrine game. Wolf was set to take Favre in the 1991 draft for the Jets with the 34th selection in the second round, when the Atlanta Falcons took him instead with the 33rd pick.
But when Wolf became the general manager of the Packers late in the 1991 season, he kept his eye on Favre. Then in February of 1992, Wolf shocked a number of people in the NFL, when he traded a first-round pick to the Falcons for Favre. Before he made that trade, he asked one of the people on his scouting staff to evaluate Favre on film.
That person was Ted Thompson and the future general manager of the Packers endorsed making the trade.
Wolf had also just recently hired Mike Holmgren as head coach. Holmgren had done an exceptional job as quarterbacks coach/offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, working with both Joe Montana and Steve Young. Wolf saw similar possibilities with Holmgren working with Favre.
The Packers already had a starting quarterback in Don Majkowski, who had been to the Pro Bowl just a couple years earlier.
The career of Favre with the Packers got off to an ominous start, when he came into the game in relief of Majkowski after the “Magic Man” severely sprained an ankle in the third game of the 1992 season versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
Favre was anything but impressive when he entered the game, as he tried to lead the Packers to their first win of the season after a 0-2 start. No. 4 was having all sorts of problems initially, as he fumbled four times. But as the game wore on, Favre got better.
The Packers were down 20-7 in the fourth quarter when Favre started to heat up. With 1:07 left in the game and the Packers down 23-17, Favre had to take his team 92 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
Favre did that in five plays, as he hit Kitrick Taylor with a 35-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left in the game, as the Packers won 24-23. For the game, Favre threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns.
Favre started the next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers leading the Pack to another win. The Packers finished 9-7 in 1992 with Favre under center, but narrowly missed the playoffs.
The Packers finished 9-7 again in 1993, but this time the team made the postseason as a Wild Card team. The Packers shocked the Detroit Lions at the Silverdome in the last minute of the game, as Favre threw a bomb across the field to Sterling Sharpe for a 40-yard touchdown pass to win the game 28-24.
Still, Favre was too inconsistent with his play in both 1992 and 1993. In those two seasons combined, Favre threw 37 touchdown passes, but also threw 37 interceptions.
During the 1994 season, there was some talk among the offensive coaching staff of the Packers to bench Favre and to give backup Mark Brunell an opportunity as a starter.
But between the steady coaching of quarterbacks coach Steve Mariucci and also Holmgren’s belief in Favre, the light suddenly turned on for No. 4 that season. Favre ended up throwing 33 touchdown passes that year, compared to just 14 picks for 3,882 yards. The Packers also made the postseason again as a Wild Card team.
Then from 1995 through 1997, Favre won three straight NFL MVP awards. Combined over those three seasons, Favre threw 112 touchdown passes versus just 42 interceptions for 12,179 yards. The Packers won three straight NFC Central titles during that time, were in three straight NFC Championship Games (winning two of them) and two Super Bowls (winning Super Bowl XXXI).
In the postseason during those three years, Favre threw 18 touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 2,090 yards. That adds up to a 99.2 passer rating.
The biggest attribute Favre had was his durability. Favre ended up starting 253 straight regular season games and 22 more in the postseason in his career with the Packers. No. 4 also had 160 wins over 16 seasons. 96 of those wins occurred at Lambeau Field (.762 winning percentage).
Favre also threw 442 touchdown passes for 61,655 yards while he was a member of the Packers.
Before Favre became the starting quarterback for Green Bay in 1992, the team had won just one division title since 1967 and had only won a single playoff game. That all changed when Favre came to town. Brett led the Packers to seven divisional titles, 11 playoff appearances and 12 postseason wins.
When Holmgren was head coach of the Packers, Favre was 9-5 as a starter in the postseason. After Holmgren was gone however, Favre did not have the same success, as he was just 3-5.
Overall in his postseason career with the Packers, Favre threw 39 touchdown passes versus 28 picks for 5,311 yards.
Favre also didn’t have the same type of production in the regular season the rest of his Green Bay career once Holmgren exited the team to head to Seattle.
Perhaps Favre’s greatest game as a Packer came on Dec. 22, 2003. That was the day after Favre’s dad Irv passed away after suffering a heart attack. Favre still decided to play that Monday night in Oakland versus the Raiders. What Favre did that night was simply incredible and heart warming. Despite playing with a heavy heart, Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdown passes in a 41-7 Green Bay victory.
In 2005, Favre had the worst season of his career in Green Bay, as he threw 20 touchdown passes, compared to 29 interceptions.
Also in 2005, Thompson had become the general manager of the Packers and his first ever draft choice ended up being quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Add to that, Thompson fired head coach Mike Sherman, as the Packers finished 4-12 that season.
Thompson then hired Mike McCarthy as head coach and Favre had a much better season in 2006, as the team finished 8-8. In 2007, Favre had the best season since his MVP days, as he threw 28 touchdown passes versus 15 picks, as he led the Packers to a 13-3 mark and a spot in the NFC Championship Game versus the New York Giants at Lambeau Field.
Favre ended up throwing a costly interception in overtime though, as the G-Men beat the Pack 23-20.
A couple of months later Favre retired. After giving his career in the NFL a second thought later that summer, Favre wanted to return. But by then the Packers were committed to Rodgers as a starter. The team and Favre had a messy divorce, as No. 4 was traded to the New York Jets for a third-round pick.
Favre played for the Jets in 2008 and led the team to a 9-7 record, but missed the playoffs. Favre threw 22 touchdown passes, but also threw 22 picks. Favre then retired for a second time after the season.
In 2009, Favre did the unthinkable as far as Packer Nation was concerned. He joined the Minnesota Vikings. Not only did he join the Vikings, but he led the Vikings to a 12-4 record and the NFC North crown. Two of those 12 wins came against the Packers.
Favre also had the best year of his career, as he threw 33 touchdown passes versus just seven interceptions. He also had the best passer rating of his career with a 107.2 mark.
By like he did in 2007, Favre threw a costly pick in overtime, as the Vikings were defeated by the New Orleans Saints in the NFC title game.
The 2010 season was the exact opposite of the success Favre had in 2009, as he was just 5-8 as a starter and saw his consecutive starting streak end at 297 games. Favre also had the worst season of his entire NFL career, as he threw just 11 touchdown passes versus 19 picks for 2,509 yards.
Still, when one looks at the entirety of Favre’s career in the NFL, No. 4 put up some incredible numbers.
Numbers like 508 career touchdown passes versus 336 interceptions. Or 297 consecutive regular season starts. Three consecutive MVP awards as well.
Favre also had 45 game-winning drives. No. 4 was also named to 11 Pro Bowl teams and was first team All-Pro three times.
In July of 2015, Favre was even welcomed back to Green Bay for his inclusion into the Packers Hall of Fame and for having his jersey No. 4 retired, as he received several loud ovations from the crowd of over 67,000 strong at Lambeau Field.
“It was like I never left,” Favre said. “It was a great feeling.”
Favre became just the sixth Packer to have his jersey number retired, joining Don Hutson (No. 14), Tony Canadeo (No. 3), Bart Starr (No. 15), Ray Nitschke (No.66) and Reggie White (No. 92).
Favre officially had his No. 4 unveiled on the facade of Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night, with Starr on hand in a very emotional setting.
In less than a month, Favre will get the ultimate honor in the NFL when he is officially enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the 24th individual of the Packers to receive that honor.
The Green Bay Packers have a 9-4 record heading into the their Week 15 confrontation with the 6-7 Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
The Packers are currently the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoff picture as the NFC North division leader.
If the Packers beat the Raiders on Sunday, the team would clinch a playoff spot for the seventh consecutive year.
The first priority for the Packers right now is to ensure a playoff berth. A win on Sunday takes care of that.
The second priority is to win the NFC North division. A win in either of the next two games and a win versus the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on Week 17 would take care of that scenario.
If that happens the Packers would be no worse than the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs.
With all of that in mind, the Packers still have a real opportunity to overtake the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which would also mean a bye in the first week of the postseason.
The Carolina Panthers are currently locked in as the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a 13-0 record. There is a possibility of that changing, but the Panthers would need a collapse of epic proportions for that to happen.
The Cardinals are a different story, however. They have a very tough schedule down the stretch. Their final three games of the season are against the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, the Packers at home and the Seattle Seahawks at home.
If the Cardinals lost against either the Eagles or the Seahawks, plus lost to the Packers, the door would be wide open for Green Bay to get the No. 2 seed.
The Packers would need to win all three of their remaining three games for that to happen.
If that scenario happened, both the Packers and the Cardinals would be 12-4. Both teams would also have 9-3 records in the NFC.
The tiebreaker in that scenario would be the head-to-head game between the two teams. That would go to the Packers with a victory at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Could this really happen? It’s definitely a possibility.
The Cardinals are playing extremely well right now, but face a very serious test over the next three weeks. The Eagles are not a team that one should overlook. Just look at what happened when they played the New England Patriots a couple weeks ago.
The Packers seem to be gaining their stride, especially with head coach Mike McCarthy calling the plays again on offense, like he did last week versus the Dallas Cowboys.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the combination of Eddie Lacy and James Starks at running back played very well against the Cowboys under that scenario.
As did wide receiver Randall Cobb, who had his best game in a number of weeks with eight receptions for 81 yards.
The strength of the defense for the Packers has been their secondary and that would bode well against the Cardinals, with all the receiving threats that Arizona has at wide receiver.
A good pass rush would help as well and the Packers are currently tied for seventh in the NFL in sacks. That being said, quarterback Carson Palmer of the Cardinals has only been sacked 21 times.
Still, applying good pass-pressure doesn’t have to include a sack. The key is to interrupt the timing of a passing play.
After they play the Packers, the Cardinals will have to face the hottest team in the NFL right now, which is the Seahawks.
Bottom line, the Packers need to take it one step at a time. First get in the playoffs. Then win the NFC North for the fifth consecutive year.
At that point, if the possibility still remains, getting the No. 2 seed would be huge for the Packers. It would mean a week off for all the walking wounded on the team in the postseason.
But first things first. It all starts by winning at Oakland.
In their 30-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers received a lot of help from members of their 2013 draft class.
The number one pick in that draft class was Datone Jones. I wrote for Bleacher Report at the time, and I had the Packers selecting Jones in the first round in my final mock draft.
Going into the 2015 season, Jones had shown a lot of potential when he was healthy, but he had underachieved overall in two years with the Packers.
The 6’4″, 285-pound defensive end had only had five sacks in those two years.
In the first half of this season, the Packers used him exclusively when the team went to a dime scheme on defense. As time went on, the former UCLA Bruin showed that he deserved more playing time due to his stellar play.
The Packers have recently put Jones on the field when the team runs it’s nickel scheme as well. The nickel scheme is the one the Packers use most often on defense.
On Sunday versus the Vikings, Jones showed the coaching staff that they had made the right decision in playing him more often.
Jones had two of the six sacks that the Packers had it the game. Both came at crucial times. For the season thus far, Jones now has three sacks, six tackles-for-a-loss and two passed deflected.
The second pick of the Packers in the 2013 NFL draft was Eddie Lacy. I had my eyes on Lacy before the draft as well that year. In an earlier mock draft that I did for Bleacher Report, I had the Packers taking Lacy in the first round.
No running backs were chosen in the first round that year by any team in the NFL. But in the second round, the big names were starting to come off the board.
The Packers actually traded back six spots in that round, but were still able to select Lacy.
Up until this year, Lacy’s career in Green Bay had gotten off to a fabulous start.
In his rookie year in 2013, Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. No. 27 also caught 35 passes for 257 yards. That performance was why Lacy was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press. Lacy was also named to the Pro Bowl.
In 2014, Lacy was outstanding again. He rushed for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns. Lacy also had 42 receptions for 427 yards and four more scores.
But before the game against the Vikings, Lacy had struggled in 2015. Between ankle, groin, weight and fumbling problems, the former Alabama star seemed to be a shadow of his former self.
Before the contest against Minnesota, Lacy had rushed for just 308 yards and had just two touchdowns.
But against the Vikings, the old Eddie was back in town, as Lacy ran for 100 yards on 22 carries, which a 4.5 average.
This is the time of year when Lacy has really excelled in running the football for the Packers, at least based on what he did in 2013 and 2014.
In the last two seasons in November and December, Lacy has averaged 746 yards and nine touchdowns in those two months and has had a 4.57 yards-per-carry average.
After Sunday’s performance, Lacy looks to be on track to be very productive again as this season goes into the stretch run.
In the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, the Packers had three selections and they used two of those picks on offensive linemen.
The first pick was used on offensive tackle David Bakhtiari. The former Colorado Buffalo became the starter at left tackle for the Packers his rookie year and has never missed a start there in 42 games.
Bakhtiari has struggled this season at times because of a knee injury and has been called for holding a number of times, including a couple of times on Sunday.
No. 69 did not exactly have a great game against the Vikings, but the guy is a gamer who just keeps battling no matter what.
Speaking of injuries, the Packers lost starting center Corey Linsley to an ankle injury early in the game on Sunday. Linsley was replaced by the second offensive linemen the Packers took in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, JC Tretter.
The former Cornell star played about as well as a backup could play at the center position. It was like nothing had changed.
No. 73 missed basically all of his rookie year in 2013 because of a ankle injury, but was slated to be the starting center in 2014 before he suffered a knee injury in a preseason game.
That opened the door for Linsley to become the starting center and he has never given up that job. Up until Sunday, Tretter has just filled in as a backup at both guard and tackle.
Defensive back Micah Hyde was taken in the fifth round of the 2013 draft by the Packers. Hyde has played in 42 games since he was drafted, with 22 starts, both as a cornerback or as a safety.
The former Iowa Hawkeye has also excelled on special teams, both as a returner (three punt returns for touchdowns) and on coverage units.
No. 33 left the game on Sunday fairly early after he was beaten by tight end Kyle Rudolph of the Vikings on a 47-yard touchdown pass. Hyde hurt his hip trying to tackle Rudolph.
In the sixth round of the 2013 draft, the Packers drafted linebacker Nate Palmer.
In his rookie season, the former Illinois State star started two games at outside linebacker, and played in eight games overall.
In 2014, Palmer spent the entire season on injured reserve due to a knee injury.
This season, after a switch to inside linebacker, Palmer received an opportunity to start after starting ILB Sam Barrington was place on injured reserve because of a foot injury.
Barrington was also a member of the 2013 draft class who was taken in the seventh round out of South Florida.
Palmer has been up and down with his performance this year as a starter, but after he was benched in the game against the Carolina Panthers a couple of weeks ago, his play has gotten much better.
Against the Vikings, Palmer was in on four tackles and had one sack. For the season, Palmer has 39 tackles and 17 assists.
Bottom line, the Packers won a huge game against the Vikings on Sunday.
The draft class of 2013 played a big part in that victory.
If one was just a casual fan of the NFL, that person would look at the statistics that quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers has put up so far after nine games in the 2015 season and say they are excellent.
I mean, No. 12 has thrown 21 touchdown passes compared to just three picks for 2,270 yards. Rodgers also has a sparkling passer rating of 103.4.
What’s there not to like? A lot. Especially if you look at what Rodgers has done prior to this season from 2008-2014.
Rodgers was peppered with questions from the media about whether or not he is healthy on Sunday after the 18-16 loss to the Detroit Lions yesterday at Lambeau Field.
“Yes,” is the simple response Rodgers gave.
But if one looks at the tape from the last three games, you can see Rodgers wincing on certain occasions after taking a vicious hit from a pass-rusher.
In the past three games, Rodgers has been sacked 11 times and hit a lot more often than that.
Head coach Mike McCarthy gave a bit of different response about how Rodgers is feeling physically when he talked with the media.
“I don’t feel good about it,” McCarthy said of the physical punishment Rodgers has been taking in the past three games. “No one feels good about it. I’m sure he doesn’t feel very good.”
Yes, those last three games. The Packers were 6-0 before the past three games. Now the Pack is 6-3.
It’s one thing to lose to undefeated teams like the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers on the road, but when you lose to a 1-7 Detroit team at Lambeau Field, that really sets off an alarm button.
By the way, the passer rating for Rodgers in the last three games has been 69.7, 96.6 and 83.6. That’s a cumulative rating of 83.3.
That’s also over 22 points lower than Rodgers career passer rating of 105.8.
Something is amiss.
Rodgers was asked whether he is okay with current play-calling done by associate head coach Tom Clements.
“I think it’s been really good,” Rodgers said about working with Clements. “I think it’s been a good flow during the week, we’ve had good preparation. Tom’s in every meeting and there’s not a time where I say something about something I like or dislike in the plan that he’s not within an earshot to hear.”
No. 12 was asked if McCarthy should become more involved with the offensive play-calling.
“I think the way things are going are just fine,” Rodgers said.
When McCarthy was asked whether or not he should involved in play-calling again, the coach wasn’t sure that was the answer.
“I don’t think it’s that simple,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think the game of football is ever that simple. The way you play it is about the simplistic nature you go about fundamentals and so forth.
“But I’m looking at the amount of time and energy that’s put into the process of preparing for each and every game in the season. I like the way our staff works and I like the way they work with our players.”
That may all be true, but the plain fact is that even before the past three games, the offense just has not been very efficient in 2015. The last three games have just put an exclamation mark on the issue.
Let’s take a look at some of the numbers in the stat-line of Rodgers so far in 2015 and explain why they really need to be looked at closely.
First, the physical pounding. Rodgers has been sacked 22 times in nine games, which is eighth in the NFL in that statistic. Why so many sacks?
For one thing, Rodgers does have a tendency to hold the ball for too long, which explains some sacks. But the main reason for the sacks has been the sub-par play of the offensive line this season.
It hasn’t just been the rushers off the edge causing all the issues. It’s come from pressure up the middle of the offensive line as well.
Rodgers has completed 63.3 percent of his passes so far in 2015. That seems like a healthy number, but it isn’t. At least not for Rodgers. Going into 2015, Rodgers had completed 65.8 percent of his passes in his career.
That two percent differential doesn’t seem like much, but in a season when around 500 passes are attempted, that leads to around 20 more incomplete passes. And some of those incomplete passes can occur at key times of the game.
If you saw the game against the Lions on Sunday, you saw Rodgers throw a number of passes that were off-target to open receivers.
Again, something is amiss.
The average completion of Rodgers is just 7.3 yards. That’s 25th in the NFL. Rodgers has thrown for just 2,270 yards. That’s just 14th in the league.
Why is that?
The main reason occurred on August 23 when Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in a preseason game at Heinz Field versus the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Nelson has always been the deep threat for Rodgers over the past seven years. It’s hard to replace a weapon like Nelson, who had a 15.3 yards-per-catch average in his career in the NFL.
It’s also hard to replace a guy who had 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns, which is exactly what No. 87 did in 2014.
That injury put a lot of pressure on the other receivers for the Packers to produce. If that pressure wasn’t enough, the other receivers have been playing with injury issues themselves.
Randall Cobb is still dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in the preseason. James Jones, who re-joined the Packers as a free agent shortly after Nelson’s injury, has been slowed somewhat with hamstring issues.
Davante Adams has been dealing with ankle issues since the second game of the season. Rookie Ty Montgomery has missed the last three games due to a knee injury.
Against the Lions, the Packers gave Jared Abbrederis some reps at wide receiver and the second-year player from Wisconsin had a decent game with four receptions for 57 yards.
But as luck would have it, Abbrederis was forced out of the game with a rib injury after a 32-yard reception.
The Packers also have Jeff Janis on the depth chart at wide receiver, and even though he has the same size and speed that Nelson has, the coaching staff doesn’t feel comfortable giving No. 83 a lot of reps.
Janis has been very good on special teams, however.
As a group, the receivers have had issues going up against press-coverage and getting open at times. That leads to more time in the pocket for Rodgers as he looks for the next options in his progression.
More time in the pocket leads to more hits and more sacks.
One thing that always helps a passing game is a good running game. And right now the running game of the Packers has been way too inconsistent.
Eddie Lacy is a shadow of his former self compared to 2013 and 2014. No. 27 has struggled all season long with ankle, groin and weight issues.
In both his rookie season and last year, the colder the weather got, the more Lacy would excel.
In the last two seasons in November and December, Lacy has averaged 746 yards and nine touchdowns in those two months and has had a 4.57 yards-per-carry average.
But Lacy can’t seem to get untracked in 2015. Plus, he’s had issues holding on to the football.
James Starks has done a better job than Lacy at running back overall this season, but in the game he started against the Lions, No. 44 was held to just 42 yards in 15 carries. That’s a less-than-mediocre 2.8 yard average.
Once again, the offensive line has to be held accountable somewhat. Yes, I know that they have also been nicked up with injuries. But overall, the pass protection that Rodgers has received has not been good enough, nor has the run-blocking been where it was the last two seasons.
So, the response to what is wrong Rodgers is actually a myriad of answers. It’s a combination of things.
The play of the offensive line absolutely has to get better. Both in the passing game and the running game.
Whether McCarthy gets involved or not, the Packers have to put together better offensive game plans. The offense can’t start out like a snail every game like it has the past three games.
The receiving corp needs to get healthier. If all hands are available, like with Cobb, Adams, Jones, Montgomery and Abbrederis, I believe the Packers can better utilize their four-wide set, plus use someone like Montgomery or Cobb out of the backfield.
That leads to faster pass plays like slants, quick outs and quick curls.
The continued use of tight end Justin Perillo must continue. Perillo caught five passes for 58 yards and a touchdown on Sunday versus the Lions. Perillo looks like he can find a way to get open, while Richard Rodgers has struggled doing that recently.
In terms of the health of Aaron Rodgers, I’m sure he’s got some physical problems. But who doesn’t in the NFL this time of year.
In my opinion, the performance of Rodgers would certainly look similar to what we have seen over the past seven years with him, if those surrounding him on offense played better.
And so far in 2015, most of those players in the huddle with Rodgers on offense have not played up to expectations.
The offensive scheme has also been unsteady. I don’t care what it takes, but a coach’s job, no matter the sport, is to design a scheme to help the players succeed.
That has not happened with regularity over the course of the 2015 season, especially over the past three games.
The same holds true with the performance of the Green Bay defense as well.
Special teams was the one area of the team that had played consistently well over the course of the season so far, but even with some nice plays versus the Lions (like the onside kick recovery), the team also laid a couple of big eggs.
Like the 104-yard kickoff return the Packers gave up which set up a touchdown. Or with the game-winning 52-yard field goal attempt, which was shanked by Mason Crosby.
Bottom line, these are situations which have to be fixed right away. Why?
Well, thanks to the three consecutive losses by the Packers, the team now has to travel to Minneapolis to play the 7-2 and NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings next Sunday afternoon.
A loss to the Vikings would in essence put the Packers three games (two games in the loss column and also the tie-breaker) behind Minnesota in the race for the NFC North title.
In the past, Rodgers has always played well against the Vikings. No. 12 is 10-4 in his career versus the Vikes in the regular season. Rodgers has thrown 31 touchdown passes versus just four picks for 3,490 yards.
That adds up to a spectacular passer rating of 119.0.
If Rodgers plays anything like that on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium, the Packers will almost certainly win.
But Rodgers is going to need help to succeed against the Vikings.
Help from not only his teammates, but help from his coaches as well.