After a long three years of waiting, the Green Bay Packers are back in the postseason. And on top of it, they own the second seed in the NFC and will advance to the divisional round of the playoffs without having to win an opening-round game.
But will the extra rest and time to prepare help the Packers or hurt them?
NFL history would suggest that the prime seeding is a surefire advantage. According to a recent USA Today piece, teams with a first-round bye have advanced to the Super Bowl 46 times since 1990. Only 12 times has a team seeded three through six advanced in that same time frame, which includes the 2010 sixth-seeded Packers.
But with Aaron Rodgers as starter since 2008, Green Bay has been hit or miss after a bye week, with especially limited postseason experience in this position. The team is 3-3 in the divisional round with Number 12 under center, but just 1-1 after a wildcard bye. Those games in and of themselves do not inspire confidence.
The first was a memorable loss to the New York Giants in the 2011 season in which the Packers cruised to a 15-1 regular season record. However, they stumbled early and often in a resounding 37-20 defeat. Even the Packers’ lone win after a first-round bye came with plenty of rust. A 26-21 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 was the ultimate decision, but the result was clouded over by the Dez Bryant catch-no catch controversy. If that play had been determined to be a touchdown, there is a more than reasonable chance the Packers would have once again lost a home divisional playoff game (though the offense was clicking late in that game).
Looking at regular season results, it continues to be difficult to predict how Green Bay will fare after a one-week layover. In Rodgers’ starting tenure, the Packers are 7-4 in games following the bye week, not including a loss in 2017 without the injured Rodgers. But since 2015, the Packers’ record is only 1-3 and they received a 37-8 drubbing earlier this season from another playoff competitor, the 49ers. However, it is important to note that three of those four losses have come on the road in difficult environments: Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
While the Packers have been very successful at Lambeau Field in 2019, they have had a hard time re-capturing their mojo from one week to the next.
On one hand, a week off could benefit a Green Bay team that looked lethargic and incapable for a majority of the game in Detroit last weekend. It is one more week for a very healthy team to regroup and game plan ahead, and one less game that stands in the way between the team and its Super Bowl aspirations. On the other hand, the break in action could further break the team’s rhythm, particularly on offense. Another slow offensive start this postseason could dig a hole against a high-octane offense like that of the New Orleans Saints, who are widely expected to be the team’s upcoming opponent.
This writer’s personal belief is that a first-round bye in this year’s playoffs will be a blessing for the Packers who have ridden an “ugly” five-game winning streak into the postseason since their San Francisco letdown. But one cannot overlook the team’s inconsistencies after a break, particularly in the midst of its own wildly inconsistent 2019 regular season.