Mike Vieth - Yes
If Aaron Rodgers comes back, I’m saying yes they will make the playoffs. They will sneak into the sixth spot and then the rest of league needs to look out. The last time the Packers snuck into the last playoff spot was 2010 and I think we all remember how that season ended. I’m not saying a Super Bowl Championship will happen but I’d expect the Packers to make some serious noise in the playoffs.
They would be one of the more dangerous sixth seeds in recent memory and getting back the best player in the league just at the right time would be a huge factor. Add to the fact that Rodgers and the Packers have been written off by the media will be another huge motivator to drive them through the playoff push.
Bob Fitch - No
Sadly, I don’t see it happening. Can they beat the Browns? I would certainly hope so. But from there, matchups at Carolina against the Panthers and home against the Vikings leave little hope. The Panthers haven’t beat anybody that’s good except a three point win over the Falcons in Week 9 and a three point win over the Patriots in Week 4, back when the Pats’ defense was the worst in the league, so a win against Carolina would be a surprise but not completely out of the realm of possibility. The Vikings, however, have survived what are normally catastrophic injuries and built a complete football team with a lot of talent, and winning both of those games seems very unlikely even with Aaron Rodgers back at the helm. While I agree with Mike that Green Bay would field a very dangerous playoff team with a revived running game and a slowly improving defense, they won’t be getting the opportunity this year.
Shawn Wagner - Yes
As Mike said, if Rodgers is back for the Carolina game, I believe Green Bay can make the playoffs. They must win out and Rodgers gives them their only realistic chance to do so with Hundley’s inconsistency and a defense that is mediocre at its best. When it’s not a given that Green Bay can defeat Cleveland this week, it’s difficult to predict playoff chances.
However, the Packers have a strong running game that Rodgers has rarely had in his tenure as quarterback, and the defense is slowly coming around when time of possession is near even in the ballgame. When a key player goes down, other players and units are forced to pick up the slack. The Packers have seen progressions in some of those areas which may make them enough of a force to finish on a multiple game winning streak like last season.
If Green Bay closes strong it’s very possible to make the postseason based on the schedules of other wildcard teams, many of whom play each other down the stretch. A Packers win over the Panthers in two weeks would bring Green Bay a game closer and give them a head-to-head tiebreaker in the event of another Carolina loss. Carolina has one more matchup with Atlanta as well, which will help and hurt one of those playoff contenders. Meanwhile, Seattle and Dallas play each other over the next few weeks and don’t have easy remaining schedules. If Green Bay can take care of its own business to finish 10-6, including a win over Detroit, the rest may sort itself out in the Pack’s favor.
Jon Meerdink - No
There is certainly reason for hope if Aaron Rodgers does return. The Packers’ defense is capable of losing to anybody, but having the ultimate field-tilter on your side makes any game a toss up at worst.
But that’s assuming that Aaron Rodgers is the play extending, thunderbolt throwing, penalty drawing MVP-caliber quarterback he was pre-injury immediately upon return, and there’s just no reason to assume that will be the case. It will likely take a little while for Rodgers to return to full capacity, if that ever happens this season. Don’t forget that short of his miraculous fourth down throw to Randall Cobb in Chicago, Rodgers was largely pedestrian (by his standards) after he returned from his last injury, and that one wasn’t to his throwing shoulder. In two games after he came back from injury, he was 42 of 65 passing for 495 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.
On top of that, the Packers will still need a lot of help to make the playoffs. It’s not impossible, but I think it’s unlikely. If it comes down to another Week 17 win in Detroit, I wouldn’t bet against Rodgers. Just don’t forget that’s still almost a month of perfection away.
Paul Noonan - Nope
This team has to be perfect to make the playoffs, and there is too much about it that is imperfect. While it may seem an easy thing to beat the lowly Browns and then get Aaron Rodgers back for a triumphant run, consider that…
- Brett Hundley is really bad, likely to have multiple turnovers in any given game, and capable of losing to the Browns this week.
- We’ve all been assuming Aaron Rodgers will be back immediately. The team is signaling that this is the case, but his injury is serious and some skepticism is warranted.
- When Rodgers does return, if he comes back right away, Carolina’s tough defense will be waiting for him in a tough road game.
- The last three Packer games are tough, with two of three on the road against quality opponents.
- The Packer defense is capable of being lit up by just about anyone, and it’s easy to see the Thielen/Diggs combo putting up a huge game while Rodgers struggles against the Viking defense.
There are just too many ways that this can go south. Last time this happened, the Packers got every break possible with the division turning into a complete dumpster fire, but that’s unusual, and unlikely to repeat itself. On average you get an average number of breaks, and for a Packers team that needs to be perfect, that isn’t good enough.