With today’s slate of games, three of the four members of the NFC North played today, with the lone exception being Green Bay, as they healed up during their bye week.
Coming into today, Chicago had the division lead. By the time the day was over, they found themselves in a tie for last place (with Detroit) after a back-and-forth loss in the Windy City against the Patriots.
Welcome to the wild, wild west that is the NFC North division.
Even with the Packers having struggled to a three-win, two-loss and one-tie record through the first seven weeks, their set of games coming out of the bye will reflect how well this team is built and how serious of a contender this team is to make some playoff noise.
Sitting one game behind Minnesota in the win column, the Packers face St. Louis and New England out of the bye in consecutive weeks. With the way both the Rams and Pats have been playing, both sides of the ball for Green Bay need to be on the top of their game if they want to minimally get out of this stretch with one victory.
Both teams are beatable, but so is Green Bay, and we have looked like the more beatable team in the early part of the season so far. The mistakes the team has made are all correctable, but it is just if the team will make the necessary changes to stay competitive.
Even with the kind of team that the Vikings have this year and how they are looking to repeat their deep playoff run of last season, having tied them in week two was a much-needed boost for the team. While we had many occasions to actually win the game, having our defense hold tough in crucial situations means that if we can get over the constant mistakes the team makes, we can beat anyone.
Facing the undefeated Rams right out of the break, in LA, will be the season’s biggest test to date. St. Louis is the lone undefeated squad left in the league, and after a 39-10 drubbing of the 49ers, whom Green Bay barely defeated at home, moved to 7-0.
The Rams are the most solid team in the NFC, from offense to defense and special teams. Head coach Sean McVay and his staff won the offseason with acquisitions, adding Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Brandin Cooks through trades, as well as signing Ndamukong Suh through free agency.
The thin Packer receiving corps will be tested early and often, but hopefully, both Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb are able to rejoin the team and be put into the offensive game plan, taking pressure off Aaron Rodgers and helping open up the running game.
While in Los Angeles, Green Bay does have a chance to squeak out a victory Sunday. ESPN has the Rams favored with a 76.1% chance to win. While a 23.7% chance for the Packers is slim, it means it is not impossible.
If the defense is able to shut down Todd Gurley and force Goff into more passing attempts than he is used to, the chances for a mistake can increase.
Having to travel to New England the following week makes for a horrendous two-game stretch for any team to go through. Hopefully, at this point, the team is close to full health and the depth isn’t in question coming into this tilt.
Pitting two of the best (Rodgers is #1) quarterbacks of all time against each other always makes for a great matchup, but this matchup could come down to the defenses. While it is easy to say that since the Pats have a more balanced offensive attack and weapons, they earn the advantage.
Rightfully so, but hold on just a minute.
Rodgers has played two career games against New England, one in 2006 and in 2014. While his 2006 contest was in limited action and resulted in a season-ending injury, 2014 was a vintage AR performance that we have become so accustomed to.
In 2014, AR went 24-of-38, 368 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, although he did lose a fumble at home against the Patriots in the win.
Rodgers knows what it takes to show up in big moments, and he will (barring any sort of injury) will again bring his A-game and keep the offense alive throughout the contest. Whether the defense shows up is another question…
For Green Bay to remain relevant in both the NFC North and NFC conference playoff picture, they need to show up and at least win one game against St. Louis and New England. This two-game stretch will help the team figure out who they are if they are here to stay and what needs to be done in order to make a statement and get back to the Green Bay ways.
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Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23