Green Bay Packers news: Why they won; what’s ahead

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Jan 11, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) warms up before the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay’s Concerns To Watch

Vulnerable Calf

Dec 28, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) lies on the ground after an injury in the second quarter during the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

First and foremost, no issue is bigger on the potential outcome of next weekend’s contest than the state of Aaron Rodgers’ leg. The first half against Dallas was a major indication of just how much it can hamper him, but the second half showing gave hope that he can work through it and still perform at an impressive level.

Based on reports it sounded as if his calf was a bit worse-for-wear after the Dallas game, but reports coming out more recently have stated that it was feeling better a day after this game than it did following his previous last game (vs Detroit).

There’s still plenty of time for things to change — in either a good or bad way. Green Bay and their fans surely understand that the injury will not be allowed to fully heal until the offseason; it can only become slightly less of a short-term burden for Rodgers to play through until then.

If Green Bay is to pull the upset this weekend and overcome long odds in defeating the Seahawks in Seattle, Rodgers calf must not affect his abilities to make plays. Obviously his mobility will be down, but if he starts sailing passes like he was during the 1st half of the Dallas game the Packers chances go from low to nil.

Jan 11, 2015; Green Bay, WI, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) dives into the end zone for a touchdown past Green Bay Packers free safety

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

(21) in the third quarter in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Run Defense

While the Packers managed to get better in this area over the course of the season, against Dallas we saw more of the early incarnation (last in NFL for rush defense) than the improved second-half team (top-10 unit in last 8 games).

Led by DeMarco Murray (23 rush for 123 yards, 1 TD) the Cowboys managed 145 yards as a team. That is a worrisome total.

That could point to the second half run-defense improvement of Green Bay to be more about inferior competition than legitimate positive gains by the Packers; only one of the last eight teams faced by Green Bay was a top-10 unit in offensive rush DVOA (#4; Minnesota), and the last four regular season teams faced were all 22nd or worse (the last three were 28th, 31st, and 29th).

It was nice and necessary that Green Bay got better against the run — even if it was against more lacking rushing attacks — but unless the defense can find a way to put that to use versus a team with a legitimate running game, the Green Bay defense will be in for a long day and force the offense to carry them.

With that ferocious Seattle defense waiting on the other side of Aaron Rodgers more than ready to tee off on him and his offense, that could make for an ugly outcome once again.

Road Woes

Dec 14, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts to a call during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills beat the Packers 21-13. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Green Bay may have ended the season at 8-0 in the confines of Lambeau Field (9-0 if you include the win over Dallas), but outside of their home state the Packers were nowhere near as impressive, only managing a mark of 4-4.

I do think that oversimplifies things somewhat however. Three of those four losses were to what ended up being the top 3 in defenses in Defensive DVOA* (as well as top 7 in Weighted Defensive DVOA**). That isn’t an easy slate to face and should be taken into account if road woes are brought up against Green Bay.

That being said, the Packers have the unfortunate circumstance of happening to face one of those defenses here; Seattle is #1 in both Defensive DVOA as well as Weighted Defensive DVOA.

With how well they’ve played on that end, it will yet again difficult to move the ball against them. Green Bay will have to bring some of its scoring magic from Lambeau on the road against a quality opponent for once; if their prior road outings against such teams is any indication, that is hardly a given.

Missed Tackles

Sep 4, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back

Marshawn Lynch

(24) eludes a tackle by Green Bay Packers outside linebacker

Nick Perry

(53) to rush for a touchdown during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Green Bay faced Seattle, they managed to accrue a ridiculous 18 missed tackles (9 on Marshawn Lynch alone) in a 20-point loss. It was the first of four times this year where the Packers managed to miss double-digit tackles in a game (13 vs Saints in Week 8, 10 vs Bears in Week 10, 12 vs Bills in Week 15).

Green Bay has been much better as of late (11 total missed in past 3 games; 3 vs Bucs in Week 16, 4 vs Lions in Week 17, 4 vs Cowboys this week), but Seattle is a talented group that’s been playing drastically better of late than they did during a lackluster beginning to the year.

Their defense is almost certainly going to make points difficult to come by for Rodgers’ crew even if he had two bionic calves instead of just a bum one, so Green Bay’s defense will in turn need to make a point of slowing the Seahawks’ offense down and prevent them from extending plays and drives.

If they don’t, the Packers can kiss their chances of another Super Bowl appearance goodbye.

*Defensive DVOA is a statistic by Football Outsiders that measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent.

**Weighted DVOA is an adjustment on the usual DVOA ratings that gives more credence to the most recent results while lessening the impact of earlier contests

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