What are the Green Bay Packers’ biggest positives, negatives to take away from Sunday’s win at Cleveland?
The Packers narrowly squeaked out their seventh win of the season, and third with Brett Hundley under center. It took an overtime effort to defeat the winless Browns, but the Packers are still alive in the race for the NFC playoffs.
If Green Bay has any shot to end up in the playoffs, it will essentially have to run the table virtually the exact same way as last year. Already with six losses on their record, the Packers can’t afford to lose another game the rest of the way and are going to need help from the rest of the NFC.
Here are some positives and negatives from their win over the Browns.
Positive: Brett Hundley
Brett Hundley may have played his last snap under center for the Packers, who are expecting Aaron Rodgers to return next week against the Panthers. Hundley may not have put up the strongest of statistics since replacing Rodgers in Week 6, but he proved that he has a place in this league, particularly with late-game heroics.
Hundley was strong against the Bears, making several late throws in crunch time to seal the win for the Packers and end their three-game losing streak. Hundley then threw for 245 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions on Sunday Night Football on the road against the superior Steelers. A win over Tampa Bay was followed by a clutch showing against the Browns again in overtime.
Negative: Morgan Burnett
Morgan Burnett’s days in Green Bay appear to be numbered. The seven-year safety has seen his play slowly decline over time and is in the final season of his contract. The Packers selected Josh Jones in the second round out of NC State in part to prepare for the possible departure of Burnett, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career.
Burnett has developed a reputation as one of the league’s best play readers and most instinctive players. The problem, however, has been that upon reading the play, he simply fails to make it. Burnett has started all 16 games just twice in his career, and is surrendering more and more playing time to Jones.
Positive: Jamaal Williams
Jamaal Williams was the first of three running backs drafted by Ted Thompson in this year’s draft. Aaron Jones has shown flashes, but has struggled since sustaining an MCL sprain. Williams has been an extremely bruising, tough runner who looks like everything the Packers were hoping to get out of Eddie Lacy.
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Williams and Jones look like they could form an interesting tandem behind the offensive line. Jones is built as more of a receiving threat and outside-the-tackles runner, while Williams has been the bell cow in the trenches. The Packers are hoping that Williams continues on his touchdown streak that he started against the Steelers, and adds to his total of four on the season.
Negative: Geronimo Allison
The stunning disappearance of Geronimo Allison continues. Allison was extremely impressive towards the end of last season, with a particularly strong playoff game against the Cowboys. Allison had a strong game against the Bengals, prompting Aaron Rodgers to characterize his play as “excellent” afterwards in his presser.
Since then, it’s been as if Allison isn’t on the roster. He has a disappointing 15 receptions on the season for 196 yards and no touchdowns. Allison was looking to become another viable receiving threat for the Packers behind the aging Jordy Nelson and emerging Davante Adams. Randall Cobb‘s value to the team has also slowly decreased more and more, leaving the third and fourth receiver positions up for grabs.
Positive: Aaron Rodgers to the rescue
While it is by no means official that Rodgers will suit up for the Carolina game, his return is imminent. Brett Hundley did an admirable job in eight games, but it is no secret that Rodgers will transform this team back into a Super Bowl contender, provided they can reach the postseason. Crucial wins against the Buccaneers and Browns in back-to-back overtime games has kept the Pack alive and gives therm a reason to thrust Rodgers back into the lineup.
A broken collarbone usually takes 4-8 weeks to heal. Rodgers’ break is significantly more troubling considering it was to his throwing shoulder, unlike the collarbone injury he sustained in 2013. Green Bay has to be pleased with the effort they got out of Hundley, but it can now look forward to Rodgers returning to mask the dozens of flaws the roster has.
Negative: It took overtime to beat the Browns
There are multiple ways to look at this performance for the Packers. One argument is that the roster is depleted beyond belief. The Packers walked into this matchup with the Browns without their starting quarterback, starting running back, starting tight end, starting right tackle, and three of their top four cornerbacks (starting on opening day). That type of injury list will make you beatable against just about any competition.
On the other hand, the Packers were playing a team that has won one out of their last 28 games. A 1-15 season last year combined with 13 straight losses to open up this season make the Browns one of the worst teams in the history of professional sports.
The Packers still should have been in a position to blow out the inferior Browns. Instead, they had to play five quarters of football and wait for DeShone Kizer to throw one of the worst interceptions of the season to pull out a close win. The Packers may be getting Aaron Rodgers back, but they simply have to be better prepared to defeat inferior opponents.