It’s rare for a team with the lofty expectations of the Green Bay Packers to find themselves in a contest where it feels as though they have nothing to lose.
Of course, mathematically, they do have something to lose — a football game. A loss on Thursday night to the Arizona Cardinals would set the Packers behind the eight ball when it comes to securing a postseason bye for the third consecutive year.
Considering all of the turmoil stemming from injuries, a rough upcoming schedule, and what looks to be a stacked, top-heavy conference, the chances of claiming the #1 seed are beginning to look slimmer and slimmer.
Thursday night’s game in Glendale, AZ is shaping up to be a last-resort situation for the Packers.
Let’s say you have to face the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team. Aside from losing your reigning MVP quarterback or your head coach, I want you to craft the worst-case scenario for entering this game.
I imagine your answer would involve playing this undefeated team in their house, in primetime, on a short week, with your All-Pro left tackle, All-Pro cornerback and Pro Bowl edge rusher all out due to injury, your All-Pro wide receiver out due to COVID, countless other injuries including your starting center and #2 receiver, and as the icing on this terrible, terrible cake, you are without your defensive coordinator.
Did I mention you have to spend one of your two preparation days working virtually as per the NFL’s advanced protocols, leaving you with just one day of on-field practice before jetting off to the desert? Yeah, this is a total nightmare scenario for Green Bay.
While it feels as though the Packers are entering this game blind, Thursday night presents a unique opportunity for Green Bay, as they have absolutely nothing to lose!
Had the Packers showed up to State Farm Stadium with a fully healthy roster from top to bottom, and lost to the Cardinals, it would’ve been pretty demoralizing for players, coaches and fans alike.
Instead, all expectations have now been lifted and Green Bay are able to play freely, knowing the majority of the NFL already has this game penciled in as a loss for the visiting Pack.
The Packers have answered a lot of our questions through seven weeks of action. We’ve seen how they’re able to hold up without their best cornerback, and how the offense can stay afloat without their three best offensive linemen.
Now we get to find out the answer to the biggest remaining mystery: How does the Packers’ passing game function without the best wide receiver in football?
Make no mistake about it, Aaron Rodgers has proven on many separate occasions over the last two years that he can play well and win without #17 on the field.
Meanwhile, from a play-calling standpoint, Matt LaFleur has already shown he’s capable of designing an efficiently-functioning offense in the absence of great skill position players. Let last season’s Monday Night Football victory over the Atlanta Falcons serve as the perfect example of that.
Whatever you do, do not rule out the Packers offense on Thursday night. I’ve often perhaps controversially felt that everybody — and in particular Aaron Rodgers — is running at an increased level of focus and intent when Davante Adams is no longer in the mix.
It’s as though Rodgers knows he needs to be as resourceful and efficient as ever when the margin for error gets thinner. Not only am I excited to see how the Packers offense looks sans Davante, but I am confident that Matt LaFleur has a few tricks stored within a glass box that reads “Break in case of emergency”.
I want to finish off by wishing a speedy recovery to both Davante Adams and Joe Barry, and here’s hoping they’re back in the thick of the action sooner rather than later.