From Elation to Heartache in Seven DaysPosted:Oct 16th, 2017 11:49 am
What a difference a week makes. Was it just a week ago that Aaron Rodgers was doing Aaron Rodgers things, carrying the Pack to a comeback win over the Cowboys?
A Sunday later, we face a 2017 season with Rodgers in street clothes, Super Bowl dreams are likely dashed, but the playoffs are still a realistic goal. The way things are going, nine wins might be enough to win the North.
Let's start with the hit by Barr: it wasn't dirty. In my mind, it was a clean, hard, hit. They're playing football and defensive players are allowed to tackle hard. I've watched it over and over; I don't think a flag should have been thrown.
As I write this, there's been no declaration that Rodgers' season is definitely over, but I'm going to work under that assumption for now.
I actually have a lot of faith in Brett Hundley. This is his third year in the system and he is ready for his close-up. His performance on Sunday is pretty much irrelevant. The way offensive linemen were dropping, the Pack's main goal on this day was to make sure he came out of the game healthy. Give McCarthy a few days to get over the shock of losing Rodgers and he'll tweak the offense, trim back the playbook a little and devise an offensive gameplan that plays to Hundley's strengths.
The organization has to be considering bringing in another QB. After the game, McCarthy stated quite emphatically that Hundley and Joe Callahan are his quarterbacks. I would endorse bringing in Colin Kaepernick for a look. This team is good enough to win six of its last ten games, if they can get healthy up front and in the secondary. But having Joe Callahan as the backup is a bit frightening. We'll see if they change their tune over the next few days.
The Vikings trolls were out in force on Sunday, mocking the Pack's roster once Rodgers went down. When Lane Taylor left with ankle and knee injuries and the starting tackles aggravated injuries that have lingered most of the season, there was no way this offense was going to compete against a defense like the Vikings in their house. Add the fact that three starters in the secondary missed the game, and two others (Rollins and Brice) got hurt during the game and the Packers were down about ten key guys in this game.
With one game left before the bye, the team will likely be very cautious with the injured players. If all three starting linemen are out against the Saints, the Pack will be hard-pressed to cut Hundley loose. If they can get past the Saints, they'll be 5-2 at the bye. A 5-4 record the rest of the way could win the division. The next three games are Lions and Ravens at home, with a road game at Chicago in between. If they can win two of those, they're 7-3.
Then they hit the road for three of the next four. Let's say they lose in Pittsburgh and Carolina and win in Cleveland. The home game in that stretch is Tampa Bay. They can win that one. Now they're 9-5. They close with the Vikings at home and at Detroit. If they split those two, they're 10-6. Of course this assumes they remain relatively healthy, which has not been the case all season.
With Hundley under center, the margin for error is much thinner. The defense will need to step up and the running game will need to be productive. Life without Aaron is an entirely different reality. But in an NFC that appears to lack a dominant team, there's no reason to believe it's time to turn our attention to 2018 just yet.