Only two of the 16 games on the Week 16 NFL schedule don’t feature at least one team still in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately, Packers-Jets is one of them, and that is why we’ll get that lower level Fox duo of Kenny Albert and Ronde Barber.
The storyline of the week revolved around whether or not Aaron Rodgers should play in these last two games. I don’t really understand the debate. If he’s healthy, he should play. If he’s not, he shouldn’t. I understand that no football player is completely healthy in week 16, and Rodgers appeared to strain his groin on the Hail Mary throw at the end of the half. He is listed on the injury report with knee and groin injuries, but has been a full participant in practice all week.
Could he suffer a significant injury in the final two games which could impact his offseason and possibly next season? Of course. So could any player. This is about laying down a baseline in the locker room for every player. The dude who will make two million bucks per game starting next season is there to try to improve each week and win each week and that’s the expectation of everybody on the roster.
The young players on offense who will get the snaps on Sunday, from the trio of rookie receivers to the backs and linemen, can all be evaluated more fully when they are playing with Rodgers. The coaches, many of whom will be looking for jobs in a few weeks, will be better off by trying to win these last two games.
Rodgers has said all the things you’d want to hear from him. That he is a leader of this team and he expects to be out there leading his team. There’s also the undeniable fact that he does not want to be part of the first Packers team in 100 years to finish a season winless on the road. This game matters to him.
So what should we expect from the Packers against a Jets team that’s lost seven of its last eight games and might be coached by Mike McCarthy next season. Whoever replaces Todd Bowles will be tasked with developing rookie QB Sam Darnold, who’s back from injury and has shown flashes of brilliance, interrupted by typical rookie mistakes. The Jets need to follow the Bears’ lead and surround him with better skill players in the offseason. He’ll go into this one with Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse has his top receivers and Elijah McGuire as the lead back. They need serious upgrades all over the offense.
Defensively, they have the aggressive blitzing mentality that Bowles’ teams had in Arizona, without all of the success. Though they have been good on third down this season and in the red zone.
The Pack will lean on Jamal Williams to carry the running game (with Aaron Jones now on IR) and Rodgers will look early and often to Davante Adams, who is within reach of some long standing Packers receiving records. I would like to see which young receiver gets a chance to leave his mark, and hopefully that will include tight end Robert Tonyan. That position may get a complete makeover and the Pack should see what they have in him. They just poached WR Allen Lazard off the Jags practice squad and put him on the 53 man roster. He may turn out to be a tight end for the Pack. We’ll see if sees any action in these final two games.
Defensively, undrafted rookie Tyler Lancaster continues to impress and will get two more opportunities to show whether he belongs in the D-line rotation in 2019. Of course, much depends on whether Mike Pettine is still running the defense next year. Other guys with a chance to show they deserve to stick on the side of the ball: Dean Lowry, Antonio Morrison, Kyler Fackrell, Bashaud Breeland and Eddie Pleasant.
It’s not optimal that the only thing on the line for the Pack these last two weeks is their ultimate draft position. But there is plenty to observe in these last two games and it begins with how Rodgers finishes.
Packers 20 Jets 16