Wow! One more week and the Packers might have had to close up shop. After losing Bryan Bulaga, Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson (again), the Packers were down to fielding it’s “B” team in Sunday’s win over the reeling Arizona Cardinals. Even with all the injuries, the Packers did win their fourth game in a row and moved into second place all alone in the NFC North behind the Bears.
The bye week comes at a good time for guys like Aaron Rodgers and others who are battling minor injuries, but for the big dogs it still might not be enough time to recover. There is no guarantee guys like Matthews and wide receiver Greg Jennings will be back in time for the Lions in Detroit November 18. Jordy should be back by then and maybe Sam Shields too, but Charles Woodson, Cedric Benson and Nick Perry will still be out.
The Packers took care of business yesterday none the less. The defense played pretty good and for the first time this year the Packers ran the ball extremely well. The presence of James Starks was the main reason for that. Starks looked like the guy that lead the Packers to the Super Bowl two years ago. Having him out there seemed to spark Alex Green who also had a good game. Long runs by Rodgers and Reggie Cobb may have skewed the numbers a little, but on a day when Rodgers admittedly wasn’t at his best, the running game picked up the slack.
Looking back at the first half plus one and the Packers are probably not too far off where they wanted to be. If not for the league they would be 7-2 and in great shape. Even at 6-3 they still have a chance to win the division and maybe get a bye. Personally I would prefer they win the division but not get a bye. The teams that get the byes have not been winning Super Bowls lately, I’m not so sure it is an advantage anymore.
In the division the Vikings are fading rapidly and I don’t think the Lions have the staying power in a strong NFC field. Only the Bears look like a good team and that is mainly because of an opportunistic defense. Offensively they are challenged because of Jay Cutler. With a running back like Matt Forte and a wide receiver like Brandon Marshall, they should be unstoppable. Instead they are a lowly 25th.
In the other divisions it looks like the Giants, Falcons and 49ers have things pretty much in hand. If the Packers can’t overtake the Bears they would be looking at a wildcard fight with the likes of teams like the Seattle (5-4), Tampa Bay (4-4), Detroit (4-4) and Minnesota (5-4), the latter two the Packers play twice in the last seven games. The remainder of the NFC teams, with the exception of Arizona (4-5) are 3-5 or worse and longs shots to get back in the playoff chase.
So just from a wildcard standpoint, if the Packers sweep the Lions and Vikings they are almost guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. And I don’t care how they get in, just as long as they get in.
The Packers have to get some semblance of health though if they are to make a run. You can’t keep losing star players and keep winning in a league with so much parity. Hopefully the bye week helps that and the late season return of Benson and Woodson provide a spark as well.
The Packers are still in the hunt at the bye, so I’m pretty happy. And since they aren’t playing anybody this week, confidence is high.