The Green Bay Packers still have a shot at making the NFL playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers still have a chance to make the playoffs. As crazy as that sounds, it's absolutely true. Now it'll take three straight wins from Green Bay and some losses by the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, but there is still a chance.
Of course, the team can't have any more Thanksgiving Day performances over the final three games. In fact, what the Packers need are some players to step up in a way that hasn't been done before.
Today we're going to look at the five most important Packers to a playoff run. We've ranked them from most important to least important, but all five of the following Packers are necessary if the team wishes to extend its season past Week 17.
Yes, technically Dom Capers and Mike McCarthy aren't "players," but they're simply too important to a playoff push to not make this list.
Let's start with Capers. Until the second half of last week, the defense for the Green Bay Packers was playing some awful football. If the team wants to make a push toward the playoffs, Capers is going to need his defense to play at an elite level.
As for McCarthy, his play-calling and overall control of the team has been a little suspect over the past few weeks. These struggles have been revealed a little more with quarterback Matt Flynn a the helm.
Overall, the Packers need their two most important coaches to have near-perfect game plans for the final three weeks of the season.
Morgan Burnett missed the first handful of games for the Green Bay Packers. His return was expected to provide a major boost to the Packers defense.
However, Burnett has struggled in a major way this year. He's graded out as the No. 66 safety in the league according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
For Green Bay to get to the playoffs, it is going to need Burnett to become the anchor of the secondary that he was supposed to be. The Packers need him to get back to being a top playmaking safety.
If the Packers want to make a playoff push, Burnett needs to instantly improve his overall play.
It may sound a little crazy to have the most consistent offensive weapon this low in terms of importance. However, the Green Bay Packers have gotten to the playoffs before without a top running back, so it's possible they could do it again.
Of course, things are a little different this year, and Eddie Lacy has become a major part of the Packers offense. In fact, there have been times recently when Lacy has been asked to carry the team on his shoulders.
The good news for the Packers is that Lacy doesn't need to become Adrian Peterson over these last three weeks. However, he does need to continue to run hard, break tackles and keep the chains moving offensively.
With Lacy playing like the elite back that he is, the Packers' chances of making the playoffs are quite good.
There was a time when Clay Matthews was one of the premier outside linebackers in the league. Now there have been injuries this year, but even when he's been healthy Matthews simply hasn't looked like the same player.
The biggest area where the Green Bay Packers need Matthews to step up is in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He's only recorded six sacks in nine games on the year to date. That's not a terrible number, but it's certainly not as high as Green Bay has been used to in recent seasons.
The good news is that Matthews has started to play better the past two weeks. In those games, Matthews has a combined eight quarterback hurries.
There is no doubt that the defense needs to play better as a whole unit for the Packers to make the playoffs. However, the improvements need to start with Matthews getting back to being the elite defensive player that he has been.
Let's just get this out of the way: None of the players or coaches listed before really matter to a playoff push if Aaron Rodgers isn't on the field.
Sure, Matt Flynn got the Green Bay Packers a win without Rodgers, but the Packers can't expect Flynn to have that type of magic every week. They need Rodgers back in the absolute worst way.
The only needed proof of that statement being true is the 1-5-1 record that Green Bay has since Rodgers got injured. Anyone who thinks that the team can finish 3-0 without Rodgers is most likely a little crazy.
Is it possible that Rodgers is extremely rusty when he does come back? Of course, but the Packers will take a rusty Rodgers over Flynn any day of the week.
Simply put, Rodgers must get back on the field if Green Bay wants to make the playoffs this year.