Packer Perspective: Next three games could make or break Packers season

GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 18: Brett Hundley
GREEN BAY, WI - AUGUST 18: Brett Hundley /

Three weeks from now we’ll either be talking about a potential December return for Aaron Rodgers, or looking ahead to an inevitable top-10 draft pick for the Green Bay Packers.

Detroit at home. At Chicago. Baltimore at home.

These next three games will make or break the Packers’ season. At 4-3, sitting second in the NFC North behind the 6-2 Minnesota Vikings, the margin for error is slim.

Crucially, two of the next three games will be played at Lambeau Field. Two are also divisional games.

If the Packers come away with two wins from three and leave Week 11 sitting at 6-4, consider it a great result. The team would be two wins better off than at the same stage in 2016. It would also increase the odds of a potential Aaron Rodgers return late in the season, even if only slightly.

Two wins from three could even be enough to tie the Packers for first place in the division. Minnesota hits the bye this week, but then faces tough matchups at Washington and at home to the LA Rams. That is followed up with three straight road trips to Detroit, Atlanta and Carolina.

Similarly, Green Bay’s schedule includes a number of games away from Lambeau Field late in the season, which makes winning the upcoming home games all the more important. Only two of the Packers’ final six are at home.

Looking a little closer, can the Packers actually pull off a pair of wins in the next few weeks?

First up is a Monday night showdown with the Lions, who are looking to snap a three-game losing streak.

The bye week may have come at the perfect time for Green Bay, and in particular Brett Hundley. Detroit is allowing 255 yards per game through the air. If Hundley can get into any kind of rhythm, he may find some success against the Lions No. 25 passing defense.

He’ll need to take care of the football, however. Detroit’s defense has 10 interceptions this season, tied for third-most in the NFL.

The key on defense will be slowing down the Lions’ talented receiving duo of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Rookie Kenny Golladay will also provide a deep threat if he’s able to return from a hamstring injury that has kept him out of four games.

The Packers have struggled to stop the run this year — allowing 125.7 yards per game on the ground — but Detroit’s running backs haven’t been efficient. Aaron Jones has almost as many yards (346) in four games as the Lions’ leading rushing Ameer Abdullah (369) has in seven.

The Lions don’t often enter a game at Lambeau as favorites, but that will likely be the case this week. But at home, this is a game the Packers could get something out of.

The team’s Week 10 trip to Chicago might be the toughest of the three, despite what the Bears’ 3-5 record might suggest.

Powered by Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard, the Bears are No. 4 in rushing offense. Howard has 662 yards and four touchdowns in eight games.

The Bears’ defense has also been playing at a high level. The unit is No. 10 against the pass, No. 12 against the run and is allowing 312 total yards per game, eighth fewest in the NFL.

More from Lombardi Ave

The only area Chicago has struggled is moving the ball through the air. Quarterback Mike Glennon was benched in favor of this year’s second overall pick Mitch Trubisky, but the rookie hasn’t offered much more in his four starts. Trubisky has completed under 50 percent of his passes for 512 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating is 60.1.

Only one team has been less productive throwing the football, and that’s the Packers’ Week 12 opponents. Baltimore has many of the same strengths and weaknesses as Chicago.

The Ravens are No. 10 in total defense, No. 5 against the pass but No. 30 against the run. Those numbers alone tell you all you need to know about how the Packers should attack them.

Like Chicago, Baltimore’s success on offense has come almost exclusively on the ground.

Joe Flacco hasn’t played well through eight weeks. The former Super Bowl MVP has thrown just six touchdown passes with eight interceptions and a 72.3 passer rating.

At Lambeau, this has to be viewed as a winnable game. It won’t be easy moving the ball on Baltimore’s defense. Just ask the Dolphins. But it’s one the Packers will need to win.

Next: Top 30 moments in Green Bay Packers history

The Packers need an Aaron Rodgers return to have any hope of reaching the playoffs for a ninth consecutive season. For that possibility to even be entertained, the team must win games without him.

The next three weeks will tell us a lot about the Packers’ destiny.