Somehow, the Green Bay Packers are still in the playoff hunt.
They lost five games in a row at one point this season, and before their win against the Chicago Bears last week the Pack had lost seven of eight. Yet, after a 24-12 Monday Night Football victory against the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay could clinch a playoff spot.
Will their season extend past Jan. 8? That is highly unlikely. The Packers currently have the sixth-best record among the NFC wild card teams, and their next game is in Miami against the Dolphins. Even if they somehow win their next three games, they still need a lot of help to back their way into the playoffs.
If a miracle happens, great for the Packers. Maybe not hosting a playoff game will bring back vibes from the 2010 season and spur Green Bay to a championship. Aaron Rodgers’ professional, and personal, standing has taken a hit this year. A championship this season could turn the narrative on Rodgers’ career to a forever positive.
At two games under .500, the chances for an appearance in the second season are slim. However, what they have shown lately is a team that might be able to carry Rodgers through the rest of his contract extension, and possibly to championship No. 2 in the near future.
It wasn’t the Packers’ intent to lose Davante Adams after making Aaron Rodgers the highest-paid player in the NFL. Unfortunately, for them, arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver no longer wanted to play in northern Wisconsin. He booked for Las Vegas, and left the Packers with a receiving corps that was at the same time both old and unproven.
Per usual, the Packers did not spend their best NFL draft picks on wide receivers. Instead, they selected a couple of perceived projects. They are explosive, but also not widely publicized talents — FCS star Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs of the 2021 National Champion Georgia Bulldogs. The athleticism in both was evident, but it wasn’t likely that these rookies would be able to quickly catch on with an aging Rodgers. Also, Watson dealt with injuries during the summer and the first half of the regular season, stunting his progression.
There were a great many struggles in Green Bay’s passing game. Also, with the defense underperforming, the Packers’ 2022 season derailed quickly. Even when Doubs’ game-breaking talent briefly made an appearance in Week 8 against the Buffalo Bills, he got hurt the following week.
Two weeks later, Watson’s athletic gifts finally went on full display against the Dallas Cowboys when he averaged 26.75 yards per reception and scored three touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, speedy Watson — who ran a 4.36 40-yard-dash at the combine — has hauled in four more touchdown passes since.
Against the Rams, Doubs returned from injury, and for the first time, both wide receivers would get to run out of the same huddle while displaying significant comfort in the offense. In fact, all of the Packers’ top pass catchers were healthy last night, and Doubs and Watson were the most productive players of that group.
Watson was a second-round selection and Doubs was picked in the fourth round. Expecting these two rookies to be Rodgers’ main targets in the twilight of his career is a tall task. The Athletic’s Kalyn Kahler reported last week that the future Hall of Famer doesn’t formally teach his hand signals to new players. Yet, they are still quizzed on them the day before games.
This clandestine operation is supposed to keep information in-house, but in a year in which Rodgers had to rely on rookie wide receivers more than ever before, his being so secretive might be able to explain the “mistakes” that he lamented earlier this season. How are new workers supposed to know what to do, especially on the fly, if the information is intentionally withheld?
Then again, maybe it has all worked out. The rookie wideouts appear to be the best in their position group, and also legitimate playmakers. All the early season strife might lead to the Packers back atop the NFC North in 2023.
That of course assumes that Rodgers’ injured thumb on his throwing hand is giving him as much trouble as his signals might have caused Watson and Doubs this season, as opposed to him turning 39 years old on Dec. 2.
In order for him to finally clutch that elusive second Super Bowl trophy, next season they need to give the appearance of lifelong friends from OTAs through the postseason.
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