You could make the argument that no team in the NFC North has played worse than the Packers over the last 4-5 weeks, which is a stunningly weird and depressing thing to write. The Lions are suddenly streaking, the Vikes are consistently solid if not spectacular, and the Bears - rejuvenated under John Fox, Adam Gase and Vic Fangio - have played some of their best football in the Jay Culter era. The Packers meanwhile, continue to free fall, which is the main subject of this week's Quick Outs. So open a bottle of vodka and enjoy:
After the latest upset loss to a less talented team, the time to abandon the idea that the 2015 Packers rank among the NFL's elite has arrived. The offense simply doesn't possess the spark of previous seasons, and the defense, while significantly improved, can't cover up that crucial defect. To put a finer point on it, the Packers had never lost two home divisional games with Aaron Rodgers under center. That changed with the loss on Thanksgiving.
Green Bay's season isn't over. At 7-4 with a win already banked against the Vikings, the Packers can still win the division without any outside help. Still, this version of the team looks far from a safe bet to run the table. Winning three or more games could prove incredibly challenging, especially if this team doesn't get healthy.
That said, the Packers' realistic ceiling is a division title and perhaps a playoff win. This is no longer a true Super Bowl contender.
This game was a smoldering dumpster fire of football incompetence. Davante Adams is simply not an NFL caliber receiver and should be cut immediately to give a practice squad player with a future a chance. Eddie Lacy's numbers look good but he basically cost the team two touchdowns.
The Bears are still rebuilding, yet their makeshift defense was more than enough to stymie the Packer passing game and their offensive personnel is far superior. Zach Miller would be the best TE on the Packers. Alshon Jeffery would be by far the best receiver. Forte and Langford or Lacy and Starks? I know who I go with.
The brain drain and talent drain on the.Packers reached critical mass today. They were stupid and played horribly, and deserve all the criticism they'll get.
Take a look at any Black Friday video online and you'll see soccer moms putting up more of a fight for a sweet deal on a blender than the Packers showed last night.
This is obviously a problem, but it's far from the Packers only problem, which, well, is the biggest problem of all. At almost any point in the last eight years the Packers weakest area was pretty identifiable - their inability to contain the read option, protection from the offensive line (more so in the early years of the Rodgers era), etc. Now though? I really have no idea. This is seemingly a diseased team and the infection has metastasized throughout almost every area. The coaching isn't good, the receivers are beyond terrible, the offensive line suddenly can't protect, and while the defense played pretty decent last night, it was pretty clear from the get-go in the battle of wits between Adam Gase vs. Dom Capers, which one was playing chess, and which one was playing Connect-Four.
And perhaps the most troubling thing of all is that the team's great equalizer, their all-world QB - is playing his worst football since his first season as a starter. We know Rodgers isn't fully healthy, but there are now legitimate questions about his mental state as much as his physical. He's played on a broken foot, a strained calf, and, a broken collarbone. Rodgers can play with pain. The question is, can he play with his current crop of receivers? I tweeted last night that it's time to wonder if Rodgers' lack of trust in the guys he's throwing to has more to do with him, than it does his receivers and today I stand by that statement even more. Adams is obviously inspiring jack-squat in terms of confidence these days, but yet, Rodgers continues to throw to him with Jeff Janis - potentially the team's most dynamic threat athletically right now - filling out his Christmas list on the sidelines.
I get it though. Janis might be playbook dumb and he almost certainly doesn't run the routes he does know as cleanly or consistently as Rodgers would like. But at this point, it might be time to tell Rodgers, "tough crap, work with him." And if not Janis, someone else. That might mean more interceptions. Hell, it might even mean more ugly losses, but at 7-4, these are stumbling blocks the team still has time to get over. And besides, isn't it worth the risk when you're already falling on your face?
In recent years, the Green Bay Packers' defense has often hung the offense out to dry, forcing Aaron Rodgers and company to put up 35 or more to earn a win. This week's loss, much like the one to the Lions two weeks ago, was a perfect example of the offense returning the favor. The defense was stellar early on, forcing four three-and-outs on the Bears' first five series, and was generally making Adam Gase' offense look like the Packers of recent weeks.
Then, with a 7-0 lead, Eddie Lacy fumbled and the wheels fell off.
The defense was forced into a short-field situation, and gave up a tying touchdown. All in all, that is a somewhat excusable result. The Bears got the ball at the Packers' 34, by far their best field position on the day. Outside of that drive, the defense gave up just 10 points to Chicago, a respectable number, and allowed fewer than 300 total yards. And although the Bears broke the Packers' streak of forcing at least one turnover in 16 straight games (which dated back to the New England game a year ago), the final stand by the unit after Aaron Rodgers' late-game interception gave him and his playmakers a second chance to go win the game with plenty of time left.
And what did they do? They promptly failed to convert a comeback attempt for the third time in four weeks, as four straight passes from the eight-yard line fell incomplete.
How many balls does Davante Adams need to drop before he gets benched for a significant period of time? How many times will Tom Clements run the ball on five straight plays before passing the ball five times in a row? When will we see Aaron Rodgers, who has historically been an excellent passer on the move, sent out on a rollout or bootleg to move the pocket and help his receivers get a little separation?
Finally I'll touch on Adams again, who had an unbelievably bad night. Against the Panthers three weeks ago, he caught ten of 21 targets for 79 yards, a poor game from a per-target production standpoint. Last night was incredible, as he caught just two of 11 passes for 14 yards and was credited with three drops (so says Pro Football Focus). That equates to 1.3 yards PER TARGET. I'd love for someone to run the numbers and see if that's an all-time low.
At least one heartwarming event took place last night - Brett Favre's return and Bart Starr's appearance at halftime. Despite the game's result, it was magnificent to see Bart grinning and back on the field at Lambeau one last time, and it was great to see Favre welcomed back by the Packer faithful. Despite what happened while the clock was running, Starr's face will be the thing that I remember about this game when I think back to it years from now.
A lot of people have been acting like this game was the tipping point for the Packers. What I saw was, unfortunately, more of the same from the past month. No one can catch a pass, Rodgers is rattled like no one has ever seen, and the defense is the only reason these games are even competitive. Something, anything, needed to change four weeks ago, and still nothing has. Gone are explosive plays. Gone is Rodgers sitting in shotgun pre-snap and playing mind games with the defense. Gone is any level of offensive consistency.
I stripped the "elite" tag from this team after the game in Carolina. No realistic fan has Super Bowl aspirations at this point. The good news is they still control their own destiny within the division and hosting a playoff game is not out of the question...yet. Then again, is that really an advantage after watching their last two home games?
The most frustrating part of all this is watching the offense fail to produce time and time again. They come into games with a gameplan that rarely works, but don't make proper in-game adjustments to fix it. It is as if the coaching staff just sits back and waits for Rodgers to bail them out. Does McCarthy need to go back to calling plays? I don't know, but it certainly cannot hurt. I don't care what they do to tweak the offense at this point, but just do something. ANYTHING.
Moving forward, I am holding onto optimism. There is time to right the ship and the only thing that matters is how you are playing at the end of the season. Their play of late is certainly not setting themselves up favorably in playoff scenarios, but their name is still there. Step One is always to make the playoffs. That is still a real possibility. From there, anything can happen. (Remember 2010?)