Two weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers seemingly saved their season with a road win over an NFC North opponent. Now, after another rare home loss, they need to do it again.
In the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Packers traveled to Minnesota in Week 11 and knocked off the Vikings in a critical NFC North battle. The win got Green Bay back into a tie for first, but a loss to the Bears on Thanksgiving put the Packers behind the 8-ball once again.
The Packers still only trail the Vikings by a game in the division and still can get the tiebreaker with a win in the season-finale against Minnesota at Lambeau. So all the Packers really need to do is stay within a game of the Vikings until Week 17, then try to win a home game for a fifth straight division crown.
Sounds easy. But for a team that has lost four of five including back-to-back games at home, a place where they once unbeatable — nothing comes easy.
That’s why a win tonight over Detroit would be such a big deal. It’s not as if Green Bay will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. At worst, Green Bay would find itself tie for the final wildcard spot and in that scenario they would still only be a game behind the Vikings because it assumes a Seattle victory over Minnesota this Sunday.
Even with a loss there would be time to right the ship — only after losing five of six games, following a 6-0 start — how exactly do you do that?
Kansas City lost five straight at one point this season and now they have won five in-a-row. Maybe Green Bay can do something like that. All I know, is that at a time of year when teams are trying their hardest to be at their best — a team can’t afford mediocrity — which has defined the Packers in recent weeks.
And don’t look now, but in part because of the Packers’ woes, the 4-7 Lions, yes the Lions, are back in the playoff hunt. Hell with a win tonight they would trail Green Bay by just two games and could trail Atlanta or Seattle by just one by the end of the weekend.
So it’s not as if these are two teams with nothing to play for. The Packers have everything to lose; the Lions have it all to gain.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Green Bay has struggled so much recently. The defense has played well and they have run the ball — they just aren’t making the splash plays. And Aaron Rodgers has been anything but elite.
But the great thing about the National Football League is that every week offers the chance to write a new script and make a new statement. And the Packers need to make one this week.
Not because their spot in the playoffs is in jeopardy (although it will be) — because like some chick named Stella in a movie I’ve never seen — they need to get their groove back.
Winning games in the NFL isn’t easy and there is no switch you can flip. You need to have an identity — something you can hang your hat on. And right now, at least offensively, the Packers are struggling with that concept. They don’t know who they are.
This isn’t the same offense it’s been in recent years and not even the same offense it was to start the season. But looking back we shouldn’t expect it to be. But it still should be good enough to win.
Despite their record, the Packers are still as talented as any team in the NFC. They have enough good players to win the Super Bowl. They have a quarterback, a running game, a pro-bowl receiver, a solid offensive line, pass rushers, corners and they have depth.
Head coach Mike McCarthy vowed that there would be changes leading up to this game and maybe there will be. But the biggest change is simply that the Packers need to play better. Now it’s up to the coaches to put them in a position to be successful, but unless you know exactly what the game plan is it’s pretty hard to say they haven’t.
At the end of the day, players win games — they lose them too.
Football for the most part is a simple game. And like any sport you need your star players to produce. Do the Patriots win very much when Tom Brady plays poorly? They do but not as much.
Same can be said for the Packers and Rodgers. He isn’t the entire problem, but he hasn’t really been part of the solution either. He can question his teammates preparation all he wants, but that doesn’t change the fact that his accuracy has been dreadful for weeks now. He needs to play better — pure and simple.
The defense also needs to force more turnovers and the offensive line needs to get back to moving people off the ball. The receivers need to start making plays and the whole team needs to start finishing games.
A loss to the Lions tonight won’t be the end for the Packers but it could be the beginning of it. So they should do themselves a favor and get back to playing their brand of football.
It doesn’t have to be pretty. It wasn’t all that beautiful in Minnesota — it just needs to be a win.