Packers XLV

Pack's Title Hopes Hinge on 3 Things: Health, Health and Health

Posted November 9th, 2012 @ 03:11pm

Yes, there are some eerie parallels to the 2010 Packers season, but forgive me for not ordering my Super Bowl tickets just yet in the loaded NFC.

It's beginning to feel like the early season stumble (Colts) and highway robbery (Seahawks) will make it difficult to catch the Bears for the NFC North. The Pack doesn't have any more wiggle room for losses in the back half of the season. If Chicago can split its next two, they'll be in prime position.

In 2010, the Pack suffered a pair of ugly losses--to the Skins and Fins--and then got on a roll. Those losses happened in large part because Clay Matthews was out, nursing a hamstring injury. Well what do you know? Matthews is back on the sidelines and there's no guarantee he'll be able to play either of the road games coming out of the bye. You think the Lions and Giants aren't licking their chops about gameplanning for the Pack without #52? It makes sweeping those games much more difficult.

The second half of the Pack's season, with five division games, will be defined by the return of the walking wounded. Think about it: if the Pack played this Sunday, they'd likely be without ten (!) opening day starters: Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, Nick Perry and Desmond Bishop on defense; Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, John Kuhn, Cedric Benson and Bryan Bulaga on offense.

That feels a whole lot more staggering than the situation the 2010 Packers faced (ultimately with 15 guys on IR).

Here's where we are: the one guy the Pack needs back immediately is Matthews. Best case scenario is he misses the Lions game and is back for the Sunday night game in New York. But the team will be extra careful that it's 100% before they allow him to play and it wouldn't surprise me if he misses up to three games.

It's beginning to sound like Bryan Bulaga's hip injury may end his season. Until last week, the one unit that had not been hammered by injuries was the offensive line. Bulaga's injury impacts two spots, as TJ Lang moves over from guard and Evan Dietrich-Smith moves in to the left guard spot (just in time for his buddy Mr. Suh next Sunday). I don't think this unit is that much worse than the starting unit, but if one more guy goes down, the team will have to move an undrafted rookie into the starting line-up.

My hope is that by week 14, the team will have a much healthier lineup for the stretch run, with home games against the Lions and Titans and the Bears and Vikes on the road. If they can go 2-1 leading up to that point, they'll be 8-4 and hopefully will have back Matthews, Woodson, Shields, Benson, Nelson, Jennings and Kuhn.

Every team deals with injuries, I get it. But the Pack is dealing with more than their share. They've proven they can play with anybody: witness their dominant efforts over the Bears and Texans. With a reasonably healthy squad (give me back Matthews, Jennings, Nelson and Woodson) the Pack will be a fearsome playoff opponent no matter where they're seeded.

I think we can all agree after witnessing the very different last two post-seasons, it doesn't matter whether the Pack is #1 or #6, just get into the post-season party reasonably healthy and this team has a chance to go all the way. The NFC is loaded, with tough defensive-minded teams like the 49ers and Bears, a proven winner in the Giants and the hot, but 0-for-January Falcons. The Pack can beat any of them, as long as their depth chart is done being stretched as thin as a slice of Zaffiro's pizza.

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Comments (7):

OSSG, the other game to watch is whoever is playing da Bears. Go Texans!

on November 10th, 2012 at 05:17pm

There should be an asterisk on the Packers' 6-3 record at this year's bye. For the Seattle game, certainly, and maybe for Indy, too. The Pack could easily be 8-1 now, 7-2 for sure; which would have been a big help to their playoff positioning in view of the injury plague. The worrisome thing about this year's injury bug in comparison to 2010 is it's cutting into the team's core. Two years ago Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Chad Clifton weren't on the IR or extended PUP lists. Now Collins and Clifton are already gone, Jennings, Woodson, and Matthews are and have been out for extended peiods and Raji has also missed some games. Biggest worries now have to be the offensive line and running game. It wasn't there consistently before and now the injuries add a further threat. But the prospects are for the return of Jennings and Jordy Nelson to the receiving corps in the next couple of weeks and, in time, Matthews and Woodson should be rejoining the defensive lineup. Just maybe Cedric Benson gets back in December for the final push. The path for another NFC North title probably requires a sweep for the second straight year of the division. Tennessee at Lambeau should pose no real problem. So winning at the Giants, while nice revenge for last January, isn't so essential to get to 12-4. The Bears have Houston, at San Fran., the Packers and at Detroit on their remaining schedule. They just "bearly" squeaked by the Lions at Soldier Field so that final game is no "gimme." They could lose 3 or 4 down the stretch. Either way that season finale for Green Bay at the Metrodome is going to mean something.

on November 11th, 2012 at 09:19am

I know it is a bit late and not to split hairs but Desmond Bishop was put on IR before the season started. His replacement who was the starter on opening day(Smith) is now on IR. Makes you wonder if the reason they play so well with the injuries is so many of these players are playing for future jobs meaning every play matters. We can only hope they continue to step up as they did 2 years ago.

on November 12th, 2012 at 07:04am

Great column Davy....only thing I would have added is....where in the loop is Derod Sherrod?? He is suppose to be back....but is he ready ?? The only thing for this weekends games to watch is our second favorite team ( that's whoever is playing the Vikes)...this week the Lions....GO PACK GO !!

on November 9th, 2012 at 05:41pm

Dave, thank you so much for posting something & informative during the Packer's bye week. Not much else to read about the Packers otherwise during this slow stretch. I agree we need all these guys back soon but healthy & in the meantime the young guys need to step up to play high quality Packer football. Looking forward to getting all or most of our starting "horses" back for the stretch run. As always, Go Pack!

on November 9th, 2012 at 10:19am

You are an elite football mind Dave! Thanks for the insight. There's reason to be optimistic in Titletown; always!

on November 9th, 2012 at 11:00am

Not only is there no Packer game but there's also no Siny on Sunday.

on November 9th, 2012 at 12:21pm

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