Green Bay Packers: Why the Early Season Struggles Could Be Helpful

Trent Stutzman@@trentstutzmanContributor IIIOctober 18, 2012

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 14:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers winces in pain in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on October 14, 2012 in Houston, Texas. Green Bay Packers defeated Houston 42-24.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Is it just me, or do the first six games of the 2012 season feel eerily similar to those of 2010?

Just like then, the Green Bay Packers are 3-3 with 10 games remaining. In both instances one loss was understandable (Chicago Bears then, San Francisco 49ers this year) and two were disappointers that could and probably should have been victories (Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins overtime losses then, Seattle Seahawks Inaccurate Reception and an awful collapse to the Colts in 2012).

In 2010, there were already major injuries through six weeks. Ryan Grant went on IR after only eight carries, Nick Barnett and Morgan Burnett played in only four games before suffering season-ending injuries and Jermichael Finley’s intended breakout year was cut short during Week 5 at Washington.

This year, Desmond Bishop was placed on IR before the regular season even began, and his replacement, the solid D.J. Smith, is now out for the year. Greg Jennings, who is maybe the most important offensive player not named Rodgers, has only appeared in three games because of a nagging groin injury. And newly acquired Cedric Benson was just finding his groove in the Green Bay offense when a foot injury put him on IR with the designation to return.

Just like then, the Packers now have their backs to the wall, trying to catch up with the Bears who are atop the NFC North. It’ll be a difficult road to travel, with all the accrued injuries and the tough second-half schedule.

But as long as the injuries don’t keep piling up and Green Bay can find its way into the postseason, I believe they’ll have a similar run to that of 2010.

What have we learned is the most important ingredient for a playoff team to be successful? That’s easy—a hot streak.

We saw it with the New York Giants both last year and in 2007, the Packers in 2010 and the Steelers in 2008. You want to be playing your best ball when the playoffs start.

That’s the main reason why Green Bay got demolished by the Giants in the playoffs last year.

They peaked in the middle of the season when it was nearly impossible to stop their high-powered offense. Meanwhile, the Giants were fighting for their playoff lives.

While the Green Bay starters rested during Week 17 and the Wild Card round of the playoffs, New York kept its chemistry and continuity going, passing brutal tests all along the way.

When the two teams met, it was obvious who had played football the entire year and who had either coasted or not played for the past three weeks.

The Packers did the same thing to the Atlanta Falcons in 2010. The Pack had to play their best week in, week out just to make the playoffs, while the Falcons had everything locked up well before the regular season ended.

We all know how that game turned out.

That’s why I hate it whenever teams with bye games in the playoffs sit their starters in Week 17 or 16. One week off is good to get your players healthy and rested for the playoffs, but anything more than that just makes them rusty.

Which is why I think the Packers are really not in that bad of a spot right now.

Instead of worrying about when and for how long they should rest Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, the Green Bay coaches are trying to figure out how to improve the line’s pass-blocking, how to better utilize Randall Cobb and how to adjust defensive schemes to ensure Matthews keeps getting good looks at the quarterback.

I’d much rather have a team desperate on the ropes than one cruising along, just waiting for the playoffs to start.

The one big question mark that could hold the Packers from making such a run into the playoffs is the ability of the backups.

When Green Bay was decimated with injuries in 2010, multiple backups stepped up to fill their respective voids, like James Starks and Bishop.

The Packers will need that kind of production from reserves again if they want another Super Bowl run in 2012. There are already big injuries on this team, and with ten more games left, there will surely be more to come.

Only time will tell if the Robert Francois, Alex Green and James Jones of this roster can satisfy the team’s needs—or, in Jones’ case, continue to do so.

If they can, I think another big run is coming.

The victory against Houston sent the message loud and clear. These players won’t give up, and they’re still very talented.

They got their hiccups out of the way early, just like in 2010.

Now, it’s time to roll.


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