Analysis: Will Packers make playoffs without Rodgers?

Analysis: Will Packers make playoffs without Rodgers?
Posted at 11:06 AM, Oct 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-16 18:20:16-04

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Ten games without their best player, arguably the best player in football.

It's a daunting task the Green Bay Packers might be facing if it turns out Aaron Rodgers will miss the entire 2017 season with a collarbone injury. But the schedule shows there is hope.

As of this writing the Monday after, we don't know all the specifics and how long he will be out. What we do know is that to an extent, the Packers have been here before.

In 2013, Rodgers' left collarbone was injured, leading him to miss nearly half of that year's campaign. Without him, and with numerous other injury struggles, the Packers went 2-4-1 in the seven games relying on quarterbacks Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn.

Rodgers had led them to a 5-3 record before the injury, and in a weak NFC North, that was enough cushion to weather the blow and allow for the Packers to still be alive in Week 17 against Chicago 

As we all probably remember, Rodgers' last minute, 4th down touchdown bomb to Randall Cobb clinched the NFC North title on that fateful day.

But as we all can figure out, 2013 is not now. Brett Hundley is not Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers' injury list is long at critical key positions, including offensive line (where the Packers had no healthy linemen on their bench) and secondary. But it was long the week after Rodgers was injured in 2013 as well, with 23 players on some sort of injury list.

And the Packers survived.

With a 4-2 record in their pocket, the Packers' schedule gives them room for hope, based on current trends (which can always change as performance improves or decreases across the season):

- Oct. 22: vs. New Orleans (3-2) - This game is scary, not because of New Orleans' 26th-ranked defense which Brett Hundley and company should be able to take advantage of, but because of that guy who wears No. 9, Drew Brees. The key in this game is ball security. New Orleans is 3rd at not giving up turnovers, and its defense is 7th at forcing them. Probable loss.

- Oct. 29: Bye (much-needed, shall we say?)

- Nov. 6: vs. Detroit (3-3) - The division lead may be at stake in this contest. When Detroit is on its game, they can beat anyone. But it is prone to giving up passing yards, and the Lions' defense is not known  for getting. Protect Hundley, and this game is winnable. Winnable.

- Nov. 12: at Chicago (2-4) - This team is hard to figure out. One week, they can give Super Bowl contenders like Atlanta and Pittsburgh fits. The next, they play ridiculously subpar. They don't protect the football well and they don't force a lot of turnovers. A fundamentally sound team can beat them. Probable win.

- Nov. 19: vs. Baltimore (3-3) - Expect a low scoring contest. This team's defense, as is typical in Baltimore, is excellent - particularly against the pass. This kind of game is the one in which to depent on Ty Montgomery or Aaron Jones, so the return of health for the offensive line is key. Defensively, though, the Packers can make something happen - especially if they force turnovers, a Dom Capers-led-defensive specialty. Winnable.

- Nov. 26: at Pittsburgh (4-2) - This is one of pro football's best teams, with the best defense in football against the pass and a quarterback with experience who has his team thinking Super Bowl. They just ended the Kansas City Chiefs' undefeated streak. Nothing is impossible in the NFL, but don't count on having much hope in this contest. Probable loss.

- Dec. 3: vs. Tampa Bay (2-3) - They can move the football when Jameis Winston is healthy. The Buccaneers have thrown for 300-plus yards per game the last four weeks, and his backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick, is no slouch. But they also are prone to making mistakes in pass defense, and with the team's deep receiving corps, Hundley can find openings. Winnable.

- Dec. 10: at Cleveland (0-6) - This might be the worst team in pro football. Their defense is surprising stout, but their quarterback situation is a dumpster fire, worse than the Packers' without Rodgers. Probable win.

- Dec. 17: at Carolina (4-2) - One of the best defenses in the sport - a top 10 unit both against the run and the pass. Oh, and they have Cam Newton. That can mean multiple things, particularly when he is at his worst. But he has been near his best more often than not this year. Probable loss.

- Dec. 23: vs. Minnesota (4-2) - If Sunday is any judge, the Packers may be in trouble. However, with a healthy and experienced-developed secondary with Morgan Burnett, Kevin King and Davon House in the lineup, there is more hope. With a healthier-than-now offensive line, there is more hope. With a seasoned Hundley, there is more hope. Winnable.

- Dec. 31: at Detroit (3-3) - See my notes above on both the first Detroit matchup and the Minnesota matchup on Dec. 23. With the game in Detroit, it's tougher, but there is hope. Winnable.

The 10 games above would lead to a 2-3-5 record (probable win-probable loss-winnable). Of course, the Packers won't tie five times in the remaining 10 games.

It's reasonable to expect the Packers to to 5-5 or 4-6 in this stretch, which would make them 8-8 or 9-7 this season.

Probably not a playoff berth, but the postseason is still not out of the question in the topsy-turvy NFL.

Of course, if Rodgers can come back before that point, then the discussion changes. Or if the Packers find a quarterback which gives Green Bay a better chance to win than Hundley, then the discussion changes.

No one ever said the NFL was easy. Which is the pain, and the fun, of it.

Stay tuned.

What do you think? Will the Packers make the playoffs without Rodgers? Chime in below.