With a loss on Thanksgiving to the Detroit Lions, the Green Bay Packers have now dropped to 0-4-1 in their last five games. Those five games, of course, have all been played without quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Now the Packers head into Week 14 with their entire season on the line. The only way this team is going to make the playoffs is by winning out. And even if that happens, they would still need the Lions and Chicago Bears to completely collapse down the final stretch.
Here's a look at everything you need to know heading into Week 14 for Green Bay.
|Detroit Lions||7-5||@ Philadelphia Eagles|
|Chicago Bears||6-6||vs. Dallas Cowboys|
|Green Bay Packers||5-6-1||vs. Atlanta Falcons|
|Minnesota Vikings||3-8-1||@ Baltimore Ravens|
The Packers really picked the worst possible time to have such an awful performance. Their loss to the Lions gave Detroit a rather comfortable lead atop the NFC North.
The only consolation is the fact that the Bears lost to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. However, with the rest of the NFC becoming rather competitive, it appears that the only way a team from the NFC North will make the playoffs is by winning the division.
The good news for the Packers is that they appear to have the easiest game in Week 14. The Lions travel to take on the scorching-hot Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears play the Dallas Cowboys, and the Vikings have a road game against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Packers, on the other hand, play the Atlanta Falcons, who are 3-9 on the season. If Green Bay can win this game and the rest of the NFC North loses, its chances of winning the division would be quite a bit better.
The only major injury from Thursday's loss was to center Evan Dietrich-Smith. Unfortunately, this proved to be a rather significant injury, as the Packers offensive line completely fell apart after Dietrich-Smith left the game.
But the injury report this week is quite a bit smaller than it has been in recent weeks. Heading into Week 14, there is only one injury Packers fans really care about, and that's the one to Mr. Rodgers.
The good news is that Rodgers has been in a joking mood about his injury, as we can see in this tweet from Jason Wilde of ESPN:
#Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, on reports he may be shut down for year: "I don't plan on playing 'til I'm 30." His 30th birthday is tomorrow.— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) December 1, 2013
Whether he'll play this week is still up in the air, however. In fact, there are a number of conflicting reports, as Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel wrote about earlier in the week:
Multiple reports over the weekend indicated the Packers would be conservative with Rodgers, and that he'd be lucky to play this week. Rodgers himself reiterated his desire to play, reportedly telling Fox Sports Los Angeles at an NBA game, "I'll be back and ready to go Sunday." The quarterback has been out since Nov. 4 with a broken collarbone suffered against the Chicago Bears.
Right now, it appears the only ones who know who'll be starting at quarterback this week are the Packers and Rodgers. As we continue to get deeper and deeper into the week, the status of Rodgers for Week 14 will be the only injury news for the Packers anyone cares about.
What Must Improve
Can the Packers beat the Falcons without Aaron Rodgers?
Is it too much to say that everything must improve for the Packers? When your team finishes a game with seven first downs and only 126 yards of total offense while giving up 561 yards of offense, there is plenty to improve on.
However, the biggest area of difficulty for the Packers last week was the offensive line. For starters, Green Bay gave up a ridiculous seven sacks to the Lions, including a safety.
If you dig a little deeper, there simply weren't many members of the offensive line who were worth anything during Thursday's game. As you can see in the chart below, only one offensive lineman finished the game with a positive grade, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required):
Via Pro Football Focus
The worst of the bunch was offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse, who managed a negative grade in only 16 snaps. In fact, he was so bad that the Packers eventually replaced him with Lane Taylor and Derek Sherrod.
If the Packers want to win on Sunday and remain alive in the NFC North, the offensive line is going to need to do a much better job protecting the quarterback.