The Green Bay Packers lost consecutive games for the first time since the 2010 season, dropping back-to-back games on the road against undefeated teams.
But despite looking awful for seven of the eight quarters against the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, the Packers remain one of the best teams in the NFC. There are noticeable flaws that need to be corrected, but Green Bay still has half a season to get back on track.
It is important now that Green Bay and its fans not look too far ahead. Earning the top spot in the NFC is now out of the Packers’ control, as they will need a substantial amount of help to pass the Panthers. All Green Bay can do is focus on winning one game at a time and hope Carolina is dealt a few losses.
More importantly, the Packers now find themselves in a battle with the Vikings for the division. After Minnesota beat the Rams last week, the two teams sit tied atop the NFC North standings. Green Bay still controls its own fate when it comes to securing its fifth straight division title, and the outcome could very easily be determined by the next four games on the Packers’ schedule.
Green Bay will begin a stretch of four games in a row against divisional opponents, including three games in a span of just 12 days. The Packers should be favored in each of those four contests, and if the Packers can sweep that span they would sit at 5-0 in the division.
The first game comes Sunday, when the Packers return to Lambeau Field for the first time since October 18 to face the Lions. Detroit maintains an NFL-worst record of 1-7 and is the perfect remedy for the Packers to get back on track. Losses to two undefeated teams aren’t necessarily reasons for panic yet, but if Green Bay fails to beat the Lions then there will be some major reasons for concern.
The hardest game of the four-game stretch comes the following Sunday against Minnesota. The Vikings are a better team than they were last year, when the Packers managed a three-point victory in Minnesota, and this game should be a tough matchup for Green Bay. If the Packers want to retain their division crown, this will be the most important game in the third quarter of Green Bay’s season.
Following the game against the Vikings, the Packers will play back to back Thursday night games, starting with the highly anticipated Thanksgiving game against the Bears. The Packers have been dominant at home and have excelled against the Bears lately. Combined with the retirement of Brett Favre’s number, emotions will be running high. The factor that makes this game most difficult is that it will be Green Bay’s third game in just 12 days, so fatigue will likely be setting in on the team.
Finally, the Packers close their stretch with a trip to Detroit to face the Lions again. Green Bay came out flat at Detroit last year, but this year’s Lions are much worse than the team that came within a game of knocking off the Packers for the division title in 2014. An away game against a division opponent is not an easy victory, but it is another contest that the Packers will have to win.
The quality of opponents over Green Bay’s next four games is not nearly as difficult as the teams the Packers have lost to over the past two weeks. But Green Bay looked pitiful on both sides of the ball in both of its defeats, and will need to play significantly better to avoid upsets against the Bears, Lions, and Vikings.
If Green Bay can right the ship and win each of the next four games, the Packers will be in prime position to lock down yet another NFC North title. On the other hand, losses to divisional opponents who the Packers are expected to beat could have disastrous effects on Green Bay’s ability to beat out the Vikings for the division.
The first priority of every season is to secure a playoff spot by winning the division. For the Packers, the easiest way to ensure the NFC North crown stays in Green Bay is to rebound from the past two weeks with convincing victories against Detroit, Minnesota, and Chicago.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .