After a shaky start to the season, the Packers appeared to be back on course after three consecutive wins. However, going into week eight, the doubts have returned.
Green Bay is 3-5 after back-to-back losses to the Jets, Giants, Commanders and Bills, recording the first real losing streak of Matt LaFleur’s career. They won’t hit the 13-win mark that they managed to in each of his first three campaigns. At the moment, the playoffs look unlikely. Bettors have been deserting the Packers in the markets and their Super Bowl odds 2023 are climbing steadily.
Excuses have been forthcoming. Rodgers has a sore thumb, the offensive line is out of form, the special teams’ play has regressed to last year’s level. But while there is some validity in all these factors, it is hard to avoid the fact that much of the blame has to lie with Rodgers.
Is it Rodgers
One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Rodgers has not helped the Packers off the field in recent years. His delay in committing to the franchise this summer played a big role in the departure of Davante Adams, and his media missteps have not helped the organization in recent months. Above all, more is expected of Rodgers than from any other quarterback other than Tom Brady. He isn’t just one player, he’s by some distance the best player of the franchise, the one immovable object in this team.
He is certainly the leader of the Green Bay offense, so the fact that this offense is falling short of acceptable standards obviously reflects on him.
Ahead of their game against the Lions, the Packers rank 24th for points scored per game and are in the middle of the pack for yards gained passing and rushing per game. Those figures have been recorded in what has been a relatively easy run of games, three of which the Packers were expected to win. They still have to play the Cowboys, Eagles and Rams, and there’s another crunch game against the Vikings, who are already three games ahead.
The problem with Rodgers is easy to spot. His accuracy remains good, he’s completing his passes to a high standard and is not giving away easy interceptions. However, the trademark of his offensive brilliance has been the long passes, the big-time efforts that win games and demoralize opponents. This season, the stats show that on all measures, his deep passes are significantly less effective than usual.
Offensive line has been offensive
There are mitigating circumstances. His offensive line is struggling to protect him to the necessary level, partially due to poor performances but also due to injuries and lack of continuity. Rodgers is coming under pressure more often at a time when he arguably needs a little extra time to find his inexperienced or second-rate receivers.
The performances of running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon have led many to argue that they should be given more carries. But would the offensive line provide the necessary blocking? The stats suggest not as the Packers’ centers are rated third worst in the NFL for run-block win rate. With the passing game not functioning, putting more emphasis on the run would likely have diminishing returns and would drag out the process of Rodgers and his receivers improving.
There has been plenty of speculation that Rodgers has been making his feelings known to the franchise and called for reinforcements in the receiver corps and the offensive line, however, the Packers might justifiably argue that Rodgers could have done more to prevent Adams from leaving. That may or may not be fair, but one thing that he could focus on right now is getting more out of his receivers.
Allen Lazard is their most successful receiver to date, in terms of yards gained receiving, but he doesn’t rank in the top 30 in the NFL. Randall Cobb, Romeo Doubs and tight end Robert Tonyan are all outside the top 50. For an offense that has been one of the most dangerous passing units in the NFL in recent years, those are terrible stats.
Rodgers has shown in the past that he can improve the players around him and almost singlehandedly lift up the team. While there is more that can be done with the roster, the best way for the Packers to progress right now will be for Rodgers to get more out of his receivers and lead more effectively.