Many Bears fans such as myself get the sense that Packers are on their way out in the playoffs based on the way they have looked at times this year. Even Aaron Rodgers talks about how mundane the Packers have looked at times. Plus there are fabulous teams out there this year like the Ravens, the Chiefs, and 49ers, plus the more season tested Quarterbacks Brees and Brady leading the Saints and Patriots. This looks like a solid playoff year and the Seahawks, Eagles, Vikings, Titans, Bills, and Texans are still alive as well.
If you watch the highlight clips, you’ve got to visualize Mahone or Jackson accepting the Lamar Hunt trophy and Brees or Garoppolo accepting the George Halas Trophy–setting up a fresh-look Super Bowl. But before we get suckered by the hype, let’s take one last look at where the Packers are at right now.
The Packers are taking a week off while the Saints-Vikings and perhaps the Eagles and Seahawks games determine their first playoff opponent. And let’s not forget that the Packers were 13-3 this season. I suppose most NFL watchers might say that the 49ers big 37-8 win against the Packers on November 24 was telling. And maybe it was. Or some might point to the Charges 26-11 win over the Packers as a bad omen. I can’t see much in the Eagles 34-27 win on September 26–a close match against a good opponent.
In the 49ers’ trouncing, Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones were both held to under 50 yards rushing for the day. Rodgers was sacked 5 times and threw for 104 yards. Garoppolo had long touchdown passes to wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle. The 49ers kicking game was strong, but their rushing yards total was mundane at best and Garoppolo threw for 254 yards–not something that would scare Tom Brady or Drew Brees. It was a solid win using all their tools. Kittle had 6 receptions for 129 yards.
Rodgers and his running backs turned in another subpar performance in the Chargers game. The Chargers Michael Bagley kicked 4 field goals. Phillip Rivers had 294 yards passing and the Chargers rushed for 159 yards. Rodgers had 161 yards passing the two leading Packers rushed for only 45 yards. When things go bad for the Packers this season they lose all their weapons on the same day.
For the Packers it is their running game that was improved the last 3 full seasons with Rodgers. In 2016, the top running backs gained 817 yards and Rodgers threw for 4,429 yards. In 2017, Rodgers was out for several games. In 2018, the backs (Williams and Jones) picked up a bigger load with 1192 yards while Rodgers had 4442 yards. The running game received much more attention in 2019, when the Packers running backs (Williams and Jones) gained 1,564 yards rushing and Rodgers had a very respectable 4002 yards passing. Thus while the Packers offense fell apart in their 2 losses, the numbers for the season look pretty darn good.
What does it mean for the Packers in the playoffs? It’s hard to tell. A good defense might beat them up again, but they might go a long way. I suspect that the Packers might have a hard time beating the 49ers if both teams meet for the NFC Championship. But I don’t see the Eagles, Seahawks or even the Saints shutting them down completely. For the Packers first game, it is likely to be close one.