Mike McCarthy made it very clear that the Packers’ Sunday-Thursday-Thursday schedule is one that he can’t wait to get past. If the Packers can get a win at Ford Field, they will be able to exit that stretch and take advantage of the other side of the Thursday schedule and watch some games on Sunday and rest up a bit for the final, critical games of the 2015 season.
In his weekly podcast “McCarthy Unplugged” he told Larry McCarren, “You can feel your body changes every year and I’ll tell you what, this Sunday, Thursday to Thursday schedule now, this is like no other.”
If the Packers win tonight and the Vikings lose to the Seahawks (another game with big playoff implications), then the Pack can rest with their record keeping them on pace in the North. If, on the other hand, the Packers lose tonight, they will have extra time to think about the hole that they are in and be forced to watch to see if the Vikings take advantage of the chance to gain the clear advantage.
The Packers have been doing some good things, but just have not been able to get the win when they needed to. Against both the Lions and the Bears, they had the chance to get it done but came just a bit shy. The Packers offensive line has been winning the line of scrimmage and the defense has been stellar. In addition the Packers, for the most part, have been winning the turnover battle with plus 6 in that margin. This usually wins games. Not so for the Packers right now.
But the Packers were inches away in both games but unable to make the big play(s) when it mattered. In the Bears game the Packers were 3-11 on third down (27%), 0-2 on fourth down (0%), 0-2 in the red zone (0%) with 0% red zone efficiency. Drops and miscues hurt the Packers but against the Lions, they will have to make that critical third down or red zone play if they want to win the game.
Both defenses have been playing quite well of late in terms of scoring. While the Packers’ defense has given up only 16 points per game on average in the last three games, the Lions are giving up just 14.3 points in that same three game stretch. While much of that point total (for both teams) could be attributed to strength of opponents, that would appear to be irrelevant as the teams are playing head to head. The difference is that the Packers’ high powered offense has been all but non-existent this year. In the last three games, the offense has averaged 21.6 but that includes the 30 point performance against the Vikings. Which is case in point that this team can score against good teams when they make the critical plays.
As mentioned above, the “go to guy” and the “big play” have been two things that have been missing from the Packers offense thus far this season and the result is a “regular unleaded” offense in contrast to last season’ high octane. Drops have plagued the Packers wide receiver corps since week three. Up until that point, the team seemed to be catching everything thrown to them, after it…a different story altogether.
Aaron Rodgers is now on pace to have his worst career season in completion percentage, among other key quarterback stats. Again, Aaron and all of Packernation would trade all the stats in the world for that one necessary completion required to to beat the Lions if it comes to that.
Which brings me to my key point. It is December. Playoff football seems to start earlier and earlier in the NFL and with the Packers matchup with the Vikings looming at the end of the season, the Packers need a win (thank you Captain Obvious). But this team is inches away from getting back to form. Eddie Lacy is looking good and as of right now…has ZERO fumbles in the Detroit Lions game. Let’s keep it that way Eddie. The run game is going to be critical for a win and if the Packers didin’t learn against the Bears that it is time to start leaning on the run to open up passes over a stacked box…then they never will. But if Eddie gets around 20 carries, he will have close to 100 yards, if he has close to 100 yards, I think the Pack will win this game and could win BIG.
One can’t understate what a win against the Lions could do for the Packers tonight. Not just from a record standpoint, but also from a momentum/confidence standpoint. Don’t look now, but the Packers have tougher competition on the horizon. We need a win to get our confidence back and get on a critical December roll.
It all starts tonight, and if this team runs the ball and the receivers get sticky hands, this team can still get on a roll right when it counts. And coming out of a tough schedule Sunday-Thursday-Thursday, with a win…they also get the advantage of a little extra rest.