Going in to Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Green Bay Packers are in a familiar, must-win situation. Fortunately for them, it’s a winnable situation for the week. In the next five weeks, however, they are going to need some favorable cards dealt their way along with performing at a higher level among several individual positions.
There is close to a laundry list of things that need to happen for Green Bay to even make the playoffs. In order for the latter items in the list to yield significance, these are the primary things that need to happen:
Key 1: Get the best football player in the universe (Rodgers, Aaron) onto the field as soon as humanly possible.
This is the obvious one, given he’s healed and the team has a shot at the postseason. Otherwise, tank the last game or two and get better draft positions. There’s no shame in tanking; just ask the NBA.
Key 2: All-pro performances from multiple players on defense are a must, in spite of the scheme.
Only a handful of things in life are certain: death, taxes, and no scheme adjustments from a Dom Capers coached defense. If Dom isn’t sent packing after this season, there’s no hope, and that is an undisputed fact at this point. The defense has enough talent to support their Hall of Fame quarterback when he’s on the field.
The massive problem is they are not put into positions to succeed enough. Haha Clinton-Dix rarely makes it into the picture on the TV because he’s told to play center field as if Barry Bonds circa-2000 (no ‘roids there, he swears!) is at the plate. There’s one world-class talent being laid to waste.
Josh Jones would be a front runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year if he was with a coordinator/scheme that knew what they were doing. It’s maddening to see such talent at safety put to waste.
The run defense is effective because they have a madman in Mike Daniels and a fast-developing stud in Kenny Clark (until his injury last week) mucking it up in the trenches. Blake Martinez is flying all over the place like a richer man’s version of A.J. Hawk.
Kevin King has all the physical tools to be an effective player. Still, we see the back of his helmet running at receivers as a result of perilous coverage schemes. He is already well conditioned by Dom to leave the middle of the field wide open at all times.
The one hope for the defense not being a total liability will be the ability to garner a pass rush. If Clay Matthews gets healthy and dials back the clock (hasn’t happened in 5 years), or if Ahmad Brooks and Vince Beigel make enough in advances in pressuring the passer, there may be a fighting chance against the playoff-caliber offenses. If not, then it’s game over unless Rodgers is back and lays 50+ against a playoff opponent–a tall task to say the least.
In 2010, all Dom Capers needed was:
- Charles Woodson playing at the peak of his Hall of Fame powers
- Clay Matthews getting screwed out of NFL Defensive Player of the Year
- Desmond Bishop making Nick Barnett an afterthought as the prominent inside linebacker
- Nick Collins nearing his completion in becoming LeRoy Butler 2.0
- Cullen Jenkins playing at an All-Pro level
- Tramon Williams having an all-time postseason performance
- Sam Shields having the best rookie season of any undrafted free agent this millenium
It took over half of Dom’s defense performing at All-Pro levels to get them to the Super Bowl. That’s the only way the Green Bay Packers will advance; their defense outperforms its scheme.
Key 3: Several other NFC teams need to lose multiple games
I’m not going to bother going into these scenarios because the Packers have to win out to even have a chance.
Crazier things have happened. The last game against the Steelers, for those who love equating things to nostalgic moments of yore, could be equated to the 2010 matchup vs. New England. There were multiple parallels to that game:
- Aaron Rodgers was sidelined, only to see the backup play an unexpectedly brilliant game
- The Packers’s season was already nearing life support going into the home stadium of a perennial AFC powerhouse
- It was a late season Sunday Night Football game where the Packers were written off by everyone
- Multiple players on defense had stellar performances
- Questionable decisions by the Packers coaching staff arguably cost them the game
- The opponent needed several ridiculous plays (New England’s onside kick return that was nearly a TD, for one) in order to pull off the victory
- Despite the loss, the fan base was energized by the performance and saw a team that played with heart
Will last week’s game against Pittsburgh be this year’s version of the 2010 New England game? Probably not.
The key word is: PROBABLY (wink wink, please God let the Packers pull off a miracle…)
________________John Piotrowski is a UW-Eau Claire alum, spending most of his life in western WI. He makes the trek east to Lambeau whenever possible. Follow him on twitter at @piosGBP.