The 4-3 Packers: 4 and 3 Reasons They Will and Will Not Make the Playoffs
Seven games into the season for the Packers, they stand at 4-3 and in relatively good position to make a playoff run. Their schedule matches up favorably compared to other teams and the talent is there for them to make it to the second season. In honor of their current record, here are four reasons the Packers will make the playoffs and three reasons they will not.
Why they will make the playoffs
1. Remaining Schedule
When one takes a look at the NFL playoff picture, it’s safe to assume the Saints (South), Vikings (North), and Cardinals (West) will win their respective divisions. The NFC East is a little cloudy with the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles all in contention. In the North, the Packers and Bears stand at 4-3 and in the South the Falcons are very much alive as well.
The Falcons have the easiest schedule moving forward, playing just three teams with records above .500 the rest of the way. The Bears, Cowboys, and Giants play six teams with records above .500 while the Eagles play a brutal seven games against winning record teams.
As for the Packers, they play just five teams with winning records, but the best record they currently play is 5-2. They have gotten the Vikings out of the way and lost to a very good Bengals team. The Bears still have to play the Vikings twice, the NFC East is going to beat up on each other, and the Falcons have another matchup with the Saints looming.
There are games on the Packers’ schedule that are relatively easy wins (Detroit, Tampa Bay) and games which are probably going to be losses (at Pittsburgh), but the big games are the ones the Packers play against other playoff contenders in Dallas, Chicago, and Arizona. Those will be deciding games in the Packers’ season.
2. Aaron Rodgers
Football is a team game and everyone knows that. It’s impossible to win with just one guy, but if you are going to attempt to do so, start with a quarterback. Rodgers has been the highest rated passer in the league this season and has thrown just two interceptions, a big reason the Packers lead the league in turnover differential.
The Packers’ defense is not good enough for Rodgers to be average the rest of the way and expect to make the playoffs. If they earn a Wildcard spot, it will be because Rodgers gets them there. Question marks are still there of him holding on to the ball too long or being afraid to throw an interception but any way you slice it, he has played well.
Greg Jennings has yet to get going as a true number one receiver but we all expect that a breakout is looming. Rodgers has the poise and consistency to match his talents this season and it has really shown in his stats. Now it’s time for it to show in the win column.
Whether you blame Ted Thompson or Mike McCarthy for the Packers’ struggles this season, the fact is this team has a ton of talent that has showed flashes of greatness over the last three seasons. When healthy, they have the deepest receiving corps in the league, a top five secondary, a fantastic up-and-comer in Clay Matthews III, and a defensive line playing very well.
Putting everything together is a completely different story, but the talent is there for the Packers to make a run. If McCarthy and Capers can put their team in the best position to win based on the talents they have to work with, there’s no reason the Packers can’t win 11 games this season.
There are weaknesses on the offensive line and defense that we will get to later, but you don’t need to be the New Orleans Saints to earn a playoff spot. Those weaknesses will have to clean up if the Packers ever want to become Super Bowl contenders, but as of now there’s enough talent on the team to win games.
The best part about the Packers is that they have time to get better. While it will be on the go and during a potential playoff run, the offensive line is settling down and is at least looking more in unison than the first couple weeks. Rodgers has developed good chemistry with Jermichael Finley and his consistency is back.
Even more so, the 3-4 defense continues to be taught by Dom Capers and hopefully picked up by the players. Coming into the season, everyone spoke of how the transition to the new defense might take more than training camp and pre-season.
For the majority of players on the team, the defense is a new wrinkle that everyone is adjusting to. It’s not as easy as Madden to just switch the formation and have three down linemen instead of four. Time will allow the Packers to continue getting comfortable in the scheme, and hopefully better results will form because of it.
Why they will not make the playoffs
1. Team Rifts
It might not seem like a huge deal at first glance, but it is somewhat concerning that players on the Packers are going to the media to air their concerns. When Ted Thompson took over as GM, he explained how he wanted “Packer people” who were going to not only make the team better, but the organization better as well. This meant staying out of trouble and not throwing players and coaches under the bus to the media.
However, this has begun to happen more times in the last couple weeks than it has in the past couple of years. Cullen Jenkins, Charles Woodson, and Aaron Kampman have been spotlighted for this and seem to be opponents of the new defense.
Understand it was a big loss to the Vikings and played with people’s emotions after, but there’s no reason to call out a coordinator to the media. Capers is highly specialized in the 3-4 defense and knows what he is doing more than any of the players on the Packers roster. He is doing everything he can to make sure the Packers’ defense is playing the best it can.
If this kind of garbage continues, the playoffs will be a distant memory and we will have to start wondering who will get picked off the team next season. Relationships are huge in the NFL and a player must be able to trust his coordinator and vice versa. Let’s hope they resolve this soon.
2. Offensive line
Watch one, maybe two possessions for the Green Bay Packers’ offense and you will understand why this is such a concern. Musical chairs is the latest game to be played on the Packers’ offensive line and it looks as though Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher will get starts this week. Hopefully they can make things manageable for Rodgers when he drops back to pass more than three steps, but don’t count on it.
The theory of building an offensive line through the draft has fallen flat on its face and the Packers have no back-up plan…unless you count Tauscher. Unless the offensive line can pull something together during these last nine games, Rodgers is not going to make it through a full season. He can not keep taking the hits he has been taking and be expected to stand upright for 16 games. What’s more, he can’t be expected to put up these numbers if he has a man in his face three steps into his drop.
The run game has been average at best as it just feasts on the worst of the worst in the NFL, but then again the Packers seem to always be playing from behind against legitimate teams and must pass the ball. The Packers will play some pretty good pass rushers in the coming weeks, so let’s hope they find the answer soon or the Matt Flynn era might start a lot sooner than we all want.
It’s not fair to say the Packers do not have the hunger to win a championship or earn a playoff spot, but one has to wonder if they actually understand what it’s all about yet? They have failed their tests against good teams so far and do not seem to have the discipline that a championship team needs. Part of this could fall on the coaching staff, but youth might have something to do with it.
The Packers are the league’s youngest team and have a lot of youngsters seeing a lot of playing time this season. The veteran leadership is there and is helping, but the Packers still have a lot of players who have not yet reached their potential.
When fighting to the death for a playoff spot, being cool under pressure is important and the Packers might not have that this season. They have a head coach who has been to the playoffs and coached big games before, as well as a defensive coordinator who has experienced just about everything a football coach can.
Time will tell if the undisciplined, young Packers can grow up in time to not lose out on the playoffs. The penalties, especially the bone-headed ones (listen up, Johnny Jolly), will get a team nowhere. Unless that changes, the Packers will watch the playoffs from their coach instead of the sidelines.
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