Aaron Rodgers. Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Do the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions now have the edge in the NFC North?


 

The unthinkable has happened to the Green Bay Packers. They will be without their star quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, for an extended period of time.

 Yesterday the reports on how long Rodgers will be sidelined went from three weeks to four to six weeks because of his fractured clavicle.

 

 

The good news is that Rodgers’ injury is not season-ending. The bad news is that he will miss more time than the three weeks some initially thought.

After Rodgers went down on the last play of the first series of Monday night’s loss to the Bears, backup Seneca Wallace took the reins behind center for the remainder of the game. Wallace failed to get much going on offense, only throwing for 114 yards with one interception. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket and struggled to make key third-down throws to extend drives.

In his defense, Wallace was thrown into the fire with very little preparation. In fact, Rodgers even said the Packers backup quarterback only took about four snaps in practice with the first team offense leading up to the game against Chicago.

Seneca Wallace chased by Julius Peppers and Shea McClellin. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Wallace will most likely look better with a full week’s preparation. He’s going to have to for the Packers to have any chance of pulling off a victory at home against Philadelphia.

Life without Rodgers is something the Packers will have to get used to over the next few weeks. On the bright side, the Green Bay ground game was still very effective without their star quarterback. Led by 150 yards rushing from Eddie Lacy, the Packers ran the ball against a Bears defense that loaded the box and did not fear the pass.

The Packers will probably continue to lean heavily on their second-ranked rushing attack.

Coach McCarthy has made it clear this week that the Packers will go forward with Wallace at quarterback and they will continue to play their kind of football. Don’t expect outside help. At least not this week.

I know things seem grim right now, but the Packers simply need to survive these next four weeks without Rodgers. Their playoff hopes are not doomed. At least not yet.

They currently sit tied at the top of the NFC North with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions who are both 5-3. They enter a stretch of games against teams with losing records. The 4-5 Philadelphia Eagles will be a challenge this Sunday, but the Packers should still be competitive if their defense plays up to par and Wallace makes some key throws in the game.

The next two games the Packers go on the road against the 2-6 New York Giants and host the 1-7 Minnesota Vikings. These are both winnable games for Green Bay, especially if you consider at this point Wallace will at least have another game under his belt running the Packers offense.

The tough one without Rodgers will be on Thanksgiving when the Packers go to Detroit to face a Lions team that will have a healthy Calvin Johnson.

It’s still too early to make any determinations, but there’s a good chance Rodgers will be back the following week against the Atlanta Falcons, who currently look awful (2-6) and have lost their top two offensive weapons (Julio Jones and Roddy White).

The Packers will then have Rodgers for the rest of December when they play Dallas (5-4), Pittsburg (2-6), and Chicago (5-3). There’s no reason to think Green Bay can’t win all three of these games with Rodgers under center.

Now, the NFC North is very competitive this year and the Packers may be pushed out of the playoff picture over the next several weeks. You don’t have to look further than the Packers own division. Both the Lions and Bears look like legitimate playoff contenders.

Joseph Fauria celebrates with Calvin Johnson. Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The Lions are beginning to gain some momentum coming off an impressive last-second victory against the Cowboys, and with a high-powered offense, they have a good chance at taking the division title this year. Their remaining schedule also is relatively easy. The only two teams they still have to play with winning records are the Packers and Bears.

The Bears will also get Jay Cutler back possibly by this weekend and Lance Briggs shortly thereafter. With the Packers limping along, either Chicago or Detroit could take the NFC North this season.

If the Packers do fall behind in the division title race, it will still be challenging for them to secure a wild card spot. Not only will they be competing with another NFC North team (either Detroit or Chicago), they will also have to stay ahead of the 6-2 San Francisco 49ers, the 5-3 Carolina Panthers, 4-4 Arizona Cardinals, and the 4-5 Philadelphia Eagles.

My guess is that if Seattle wins the NFC West then San Francisco will at least get one of the two wild card spots. That would leave one spot between Green Bay, Carolina, Arizona, Philadelphia, and either Chicago or Detroit.

Despite all this, there’s reason to be optimistic.

If the Packers are in fact without Rodgers for at least the next four weeks, the hope is that the Packers can at least split the next four games. If they can go 2-2 without Rodgers, and I think they can, then their chances in securing a playoff spot this season would still look promising. Like I said earlier, the games against New York and Minnesota look very winnable, and when Philadelphia comes to town it could be a tossup.

If Rodgers returns to the lineup against Atlanta on Dec. 8 and the Packers are 7-5, then it’s not out of the question they could make a run and go either 4-0 or 3-1 to finish out the season and get into the playoffs.

The worst thing that could happen over the next four weeks is if they don’t manage a single win and their playoff hopes diminish before Rodgers can even return.

But I think this Green Bay team under the leadership of Mike McCarthy and the rejuvenated run game can at least pull out two wins over the next four weeks.

Maybe they’ll surprise us and run the table with Rodgers on the sidelines. You never know with the Packers.

I guess all we can do is watch and hope that Green Bay is still competitive when they get their MVP quarterback back.

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Tags: Aaron Rodgers Green Bay Packers Playoffs Seneca Wallace Winning Isn't Everything, It's The Only Thing

  • Peter Maiz

    Hopefully we win 2 out of 4 and against all these teams, the secondary will have to improve. We’ll see how Seneca plays against Philly but if Seneca doesn’t adapt, we could lose al four. At least Matthews and Perry are back, I believe. And Detroit is unwinnable with Stafford and Megatron. It will be really hard to make the playoffs unless McCarthy comes up with a couple of miracles.

    • Dan

      Great points, Peter. Maybe hoping for 2 wins without Rodgers is wishful thinking. We’ll see how the team looks with Seneca this Sunday. I hope they can at least get some production on offense and our defense can play better than in the Chicago game.