Seven games into the Packers' season they stand at 4-3 and in relatively good position to make a playoff run. Their schedule matches up favorably compared to other teams and the talent is there for them to make it to the second season.
In honor of their current record, here are four reasons the Packers will make the playoffs and three reasons they will not.
Why They Will
1. Remaining Schedule
The Falcons have the easiest schedule moving forward, playing just three teams with records above .500 the rest of the season. The Bears, Cowboys, and Giants all play six teams with records above .500, while the unlucky Eagles play seven.
As for the Packers, they play just five teams with winning records, the best being the currently 5-2 Steelers. They have gotten the Vikings out of the way and lost to a very good Bengals team, but the Bears still have to play the Vikings twice, the NFC East is going to beat up on each other, and the Falcons have another matchup with the Saints looming.
There are games on the Packers’ schedule that are relatively easy wins (Detroit, Tampa Bay) and games which are probably going to be losses (at Pittsburgh), but the big games are against other playoff contenders in Dallas, Chicago, and Arizona.
Those will be deciding games in the Packers’ season.
Football is a team game.
It’s impossible to win with just one guy, but if you are going to attempt to do so, start with a quarterback.
Rodgers has been the highest-rated passer in the league this season and has thrown just two interceptions, which is a big reason the Packers lead the league in turnover differential.
The Packers’ defense is not good enough for Rodgers to be average the rest of the way and expect to make the playoffs.
If they earn a Wild card spot, it will be Rodgers that gets them there.
Questions of him holding the ball too long or being afraid to throw an interception still linger, but any way you slice it, he has played well.
Greg Jennings has yet to get going as a No. 1 receiver, but we all expect a breakout.
Rodgers has the poise and consistency to match his talents this season and it has really shown in his stats.
Now it’s time for it to show in the wins column.
Whether you blame Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy for the Packers’ struggles this season, the fact is this team has a ton of talent and has shown flashes of greatness over the last three seasons.
When healthy, they have the deepest receiving corps in the league, a top five secondary, a fantastic up-and-coming LB in Clay Matthews, and a defensive line playing very well.
Putting everything together is a completely different story, but the talent is there for the Packers to make a run.
If McCarthy and Capers can put their team in the best position to win based on the talents they have, there’s no reason the Packers can’t win 11 games this season.
They don’t need to be the New Orleans Saints to earn a playoff spot, and as of now the Packers have enough talent to win games.
The best part about the Packers is that they have time to get better. It will be on the go and during a potential playoff run, but the offensive line is settling down and is at least looking more cohesive than the first couple weeks.
Rodgers has developed good chemistry with Jermichael Finley and his consistency is back.
Coming into the season, everyone spoke of how it might also take more than training camp and preseason for players to get comfortable with Dom Capers' 3-4 defense.
Either way, the defense is a new wrinkle that everyone is adjusting to.
It’s not as easy as it is in Madden to just switch the formation and have three down linemen instead of four. Time will allow the Packers to continue getting comfortable in the scheme, and hopefully better results will form because of it.
Why They Won't
1. Team Rifts
It is somewhat concerning that Packers players are going to the media to air their concerns.
When Ted Thompson took over as GM, he explained how he wanted “Packer people” who were going to make the team better, as well as the organization. This meant staying out of trouble and not throwing players and coaches under the bus to the media.
Compared to other seasons, that's happening a lot this year.
Cullen Jenkins, Charles Woodson, and Aaron Kampman have been spotlighted for this and seem to be opponents of the new defense.
I understand it was a big loss to the Vikings that played with people’s emotions, but there’s no reason to call out a coordinator to the media.
Capers is highly specialized in the 3-4 defense and knows what he is doing more than any of the players on the Packers roster. He is doing everything he can to make sure the Packers’ defense is playing to its potential.
If this kind of garbage continues, the playoffs will be a distant memory and we will have to start wondering about next season.
Relationships are huge in the NFL and a player must be able to trust his coordinator and vice-versa.
Let’s hope they resolve this soon.
2. Offensive line
Watch one or two possessions for the Green Bay Packers and you will understand why this is such a concern.
Musical chairs is the latest game to be played on the Packers’ offensive line and it looks as though Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher will get starts this week.
Hopefully they can make things manageable for Rodgers when he drops back to pass more than three steps, but don’t count on it.
The theory of building an offensive line through the draft has fallen flat and the Packers have no back-up plan…unless you count Tauscher.
Unless the offensive line can pull something together during these last nine games, Rodgers is not going to make it through a full season. He cannot keep taking the hits he has been taking and be expected to stand upright for 16 games. What’s more, he can’t be expected to put up these numbers if he has a man in his face, three steps into his drop-back.
The run game has been average at best, feasting on the worst of the NFL worst, but then again the Packers always seem to be playing from behind against legitimate teams and must pass the ball.
The Packers will play some pretty good pass-rushers in the coming weeks, so let’s hope they find the answer soon or the Matt Flynn-era might start a lot sooner than we all want.
The Packers have the hunger to earn a playoff spot and even win a championship, but one has to wonder if they actually understand what it’s all about yet?
They have failed their tests against good teams so far and do not seem to have the discipline that a championship team needs. Part of this could fall on the coaching staff, but youth might have something to do with it.
The Packers are the league’s youngest team and have a lot of youngsters seeing a lot of playing time this season. Their veteran leadership is helping, but they have a lot of players who have yet to reach their potential.
When fighting to the death for a playoff spot, being cool under pressure is important and the Packers might not have that this season.
They have a head coach who has been to the playoffs before, as well as a defensive coordinator who has experienced just about everything a football coach can, but only time will tell if the undisciplined, young Packers can grow up to the postseason.
The penalties, especially the bone-headed ones (listen up, Johnny Jolly), will get a team nowhere. Unless that changes, the Packers will watch the playoffs from their coach instead of the sidelines.