Aaron Rodgers. Clay Matthews. Randal Cobb. Bryan Bulaga. That is honest to God the top 4 “most important Packers for the 2013 season” from Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee’s preseason list. Gone. Only Rodgers and Cobb have a chance to play Sunday, but I would guess that neither will. Also gone are regular contributors DuJuan Harris, Johnny Jolly, Casey Hayward, Jermichael Finley, special teams star Robert Francois, and intriguing prospects Jonathan Franklin and Brandon Bostick. Will all of those players gone, the Packers have an opportunity to not only unbelievably finish with a winning record at 8-7-1, but if they do so they can capture the division and return to the playoffs for the 5th straight season, and would be the only NFC team to complete that feat.
The fact that these things are even possible should tell you to lay off of General Manager Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy. No NFL team has this many contingency plans for when things go bad. There are plenty of NFL teams that experience just an average number of injuries and lose more games than they win. I do, however understand the angst over Dom Capers presence. Even when the team was healthy (read: the only time the team has stayed healthy) and went 15-1 as the clear class of the NFL, Capers defense let the team down. With the exception of a highly ranked defense in ’09 (one which folded like a lawn chair in the playoffs) and the Super Bowl defense of ’10 there have not been good results despite a lot of draft resources being utilized on that side of the ball by an evaluator with a sterling reputation.
1. Micah Hyde- he had a great game on Sunday and really appears to be another find for Thompson. He played well in the return game and the slot, I remember at least one pass defense and a TFL. If Packers come back healthier in the defensive backfield next season
2. Eddie Lacy- my goodness. Lacy has been extremely impressive, especially since Aaron Rodgers went down. He should be the run away winner of the offensive rookie of the year award given not only his very impressive statistics (263/1,112/10 & 33/242) but just how much he has meant to the team with Rodgers going down.
3. Jarret Boykin- this one is a little bit out of left field, but I really like the way that he plays. He had the Packers only receiving TD on Sunday, and his presence really excites me for 2014. Boykin has made it clear that when Randall Cobb is healthy, the Packers are still 4 deep at the position with starter quality players.
1. Pass rush- Roethlisberger had all day to throw and was able to lead a 38 point effort in bad weather against the Packers continuously hapless defense.
2. Matt Flynn- he didn’t play horribly and he did score 31 points, but he made mistakes that Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t have made. Rodgers is the best QB on the planet and there are lots of things that Flynn can’t do that he can, but there’s no denying his pick 6 put the team behind the 8 ball in the second half.
3. Injuries- it just sucks. I believe that any time that Rodgers and Matthews are together in the tournament, winning the Super Bowl is a possibility. The problem is that without Clay (and they will be without Clay) the Packers just don’t have enough punch defensively to win a playoff game unless AR scores every single time he touches the ball.
Bottom Line : The Packers are not where anyone thought they would be at any point in the season. If Rodgers had never been hurt, even if all of the other unfortunate injuries had still occured, the team would be 12-3 or 11-4 right now and probably resting the starters against this hapless Chicago team on the schedule for the upcoming week. As I said last week, I’m just here for the party. The Bears still suck.