The Return of the King

“Rise Again”

It has been eight weeks since Anthony Barr’s infamous hit put Aaron Rodgers out of action, and left the Packers season on life support. After a long eight weeks that have been filled with constant speculation, doubt, and frustration, The Green Bay Packers have managed to pick up the pieces of their thought to be shattered season and managed to piece their playoff picture back together. The Green Bay Packers reconstructed playoff picture began to become clearer late Tuesday night when Aaron Rodgers took to Instagram to reveal that he had been cleared to play by Dr. McKenzie and the Packers medical staff.

The Packers have officially moved from phase 1 of the post-Rodgers broken collarbone injury to phase 2, which is winning the final three games of the season with Aaron Rodgers back at quarterback. Many thought that I was crazy when I laid out a potential long-shot playoff scenario less than 24 hours after Aaron Rodgers went down with the injury to his collarbone, but here we are going into week 15 against the Carolina Panthers with a legitimate shot of having this dream scenario of going 10-6, become a reality.

Sunday’s Matchup:

I believe that this weekend’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers is the Packers biggest challenge to “running the table again”. The Panthers, with their home win against the, at the time, conference-leading Minnesota Vikings, shows that they are starting to play their best football of the season.

The Panthers front seven is playing at a high level and their rushing attack is thriving, which has allowed Cam Newton an easier opportunity to make big plays down the field. These current strengths of the Carolina Panthers football team play into the current deficiencies that the Green Bay Packers have experienced all season long. The Packers have had a habit of getting dominated at the point of attack. This domination has allowed opposing offenses to make big plays down the field, due to the Packers lack of a pass rush, and has allowed opposing defenses to alter their offensive attack by applying pressure to the quarterback, closing up running lanes, and jamming the receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Packers Game Plan:

Coach McCarthy spoke about how the technique of the offensive line needs to get better to withstand both the pass rush and run containment so that Aaron Rodgers will not be overexposed and have an opportunity to succeed in Sunday’s contest. Aaron Rodgers made it clear in his comments to the media, that he is not coming back to save the Packers; rather, he is coming back to play quarterback like he knows how, and hope that will provide a lift to all three phases of the team.

The bottom line is that the Packers will need more than just this magical Aaron Rodgers effect to come out of Carolina with a win on Sunday afternoon. The Packers need both a magical performance from Aaron Rodgers in his first game back, as well as a complete team transformation at the point of attack. The Packers must apply pressure, hit, and sack Cam Newton consistently throughout the game. On offense, the Packers must continue to provide a balanced attack and give the combination of Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones at least 30 touches. If the running and screen game can be an effective asset, Aaron Rodgers will be able to exploit some favorable one on one matchups and consistently move the ball down the field and hit on some shot plays.

Sunday’s Prediction:

This section is the hardest part of my article to write because I have been vigilantly preparing you for the triumphant return of Aaron Rodgers since week 6 in Minnesota, when the collarbone injury occurred. However, I have to be fair and point out that the deficiencies that I have observed over the last two weeks against the Buccaneers and the Browns have shown me that the Packers Achilles heel (the point of attack) will be exposed and exploited against the Carolina Panthers.

I believe that the Panthers and Cam Newton will have plenty of time to make throws down the field and that the tandem of Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart will prove to be too much against a fatigued fourth quarter Packer front seven. I cannot conjure up a scenario in my mind where I see the Packers winning this game against the Panthers in Carolina. Unfortunately, I am making this prediction with my head and not my heart. I see the Panthers coming away with a 35-24 victory and all but ending the Packers post-season playoff picture. So much for my dreamlike playoff scenario.

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David Michalski is a recent college graduate from Princeton New Jersey who has been a life long Green Bay Packers fan. Like the great Vince Lombardi, he values God, family, and the Green Bay Packers in that order. You can follow him on twitter at @kilbas27dave

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