Just five weeks ago, everything looked rosy for the Green Bay Packers, who now need a victory over the Detroit Lions to remain in total control of their own destiny.
The Packers (7-4) went into their bye week undefeated but have lost four of their last five games since and are now in fifth place in the NFC playoff race. Green Bay has struggled terribly offensively during their recent downturn. The Packers, who average 23.8 points a game, have scored just 17.6 points in recent five-game stretch.
Green Bay has scored eight touchdowns during the stretch, tallying more than 20 points twice. The Packers have been held to less than 17 points in the other three games. Green Bay went into its bye week, averaging 27.3 points and 236.8 passing yards.
The biggest reason for the Packers struggles has been the play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It is not that Rodgers has been horrible, he just hasn’t been himself particularly lately. In the last five games, Rogers has completed 53.5 percent of his passes (112-of-208) for 1,193 yards to go along with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. To make matters worse, Rodgers is averaging a meager 5.74 yards per pass and has been sacked 15 times.
If Rodgers doesn’t pick up his play, he will finish with his worse statistical season since taking over the Packers starting quarterback job in 2008 — excluding the 2013 season when he made just nine starts due to injuries.
Rodgers is coming off his worst game of the season last week against the Chicago Bears. He registered a season-low QBR (21.0) and Rating of 62.3 as he completed 22-of-43 passes (51.2 percent) for 202 yards with one touchdown and one touchdown. ESPN reported that Rodgers said he lost feeling in the fingers on his left hand during the second half of the game.
However, Green Bay’s problems is not limited to Rodgers. According to NFL.com, the Packers have dropped a league-high 23 passes since Week 3.
Part of the reason that the Packers passing game, which ranks 23rd, has struggled is that No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson has been out all season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a preseason game. It also doesn’t help that leading receiver Randall Cobb has been charged with seven dropped passes, including five in the last four games, by Pro Football Focus. Rodgers has hooked up with Cobb, who has 53 receptions, only 56.4 percent of the time that he targeted him.
Despite Cobb’s troubles catching the ball and him getting double team, head coach Mike McCarthy said he doesn’t plan going away from the 25-year-old.
“It’s important for Randall to be a big part of our offense. That’s our focus each and every week.”
Also, running back Eddie Lacy has had fumbling problems lately. He has fumbled four times in the last five weeks, losing two of them. In addition, the Packers have several offensive linemen dealing with injuries including centers Corey Linsley and JC Tretter along with right tackle Bryan Bulaga as well as right guard T.J. Lang per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.
There is good news for the Packers as they are currently one game ahead of Seattle (6-5) and Atlanta (6-5) in the race for a wild card spot, so essentially they control their own destiny. Plus, Green Bay is one game in back of North leading Minnesota (8-3) and the two clubs meet at Lambeau Field in the final week of the season.
Furthermore, the Packers defense has been strong all season, and Lacy has racked up two 100-yard games on the ground the past games. Green Bay is 3-2 away from Lambeau.
Green Bay begins the backstretch to their season on Thursday against a Lions team that has won three straight and defeated the Packers for the first time since 1991 a few weeks ago. The game will be televised by CBS with kickoff set for 8:25 p.m. (ET).
Detroit’s resurgence has been keyed by their defense, which has allowed averages of 14.3 points, 55.7 yards rushing, and 271.7 total yards in the last three games.
The Lions have also been running the ball well the past two games while quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown seven of his 20 touchdowns the last three weeks. Stafford passed for 337 yards and tied a career high with five touchdown throws in Detroit’s 45-17 win over Philadelphia.
Following Thursday’s night game, Green Bay will host Dallas in Week 14. The Packers then travel west for games at Oakland and Arizona before hosting Minnesota.
[photo by Mike McGinnis]