If there is truly no place like home, then the Green Bay Packers should be in good shape with two of their final three games at Lambeau Field and a first-round playoff bye on the line.
On Saturday, the Packers will host the Carolina Panthers with the two teams trending in very opposite directions, particularly the Panthers with seven losses in their last eight games. But that is not the only opposite noticed this week. In comparison to Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers has seen an extremely productive season following the draft choice of a first-round quarterback and the Packers are reaping the benefits.
Today’s musings dive into that contrast, while covering a pair of injury-related topics.
Offensive line remains stable the entire game for a second week in a row
That Aaron Rodgers has only been sacked 14 times this season (exaggerated by four sacks against Tampa Bay) is incredible considering the constant re-shuffling across the offensive line due to injuries. However, for the second straight game last Sunday, the Packers’ starting linemen played every offensive snap. That two-game stretch marked the first such streak for the unit all season.
Only five times all season long has the Packer starting line been able to remain intact for the entire course of a game, also doing so in Weeks 3, 8, and 10. The stability of that lineup — featuring David Bakhtiari, Lucas Patrick, Elgton Jenkins, Billy Turner, and Rick Wagner — helped prevent a single sack on Sunday. Assuming center Corey Linsley departs Green Bay in the offseason as a free agent, the production of this particular five-man group provides some optimism as pass protectors heading into the 2021 campaign.
First round quarterback? Differing results for Rodgers and Favre
The term “adversity” is way too often overused to describe difficult situations in the sporting landscape. But perhaps the term could be perfectly applied to the situations Rodgers and Favre have faced with a first-round quarterback being drafted in the latter stages of their careers. At least for now, however, the production of Rodgers in the year following the draft pick is a stark contrast to that of Favre.
Back in 2005 when Rodgers was drafted, Favre was not warm to the idea of an era ending, according to a quote years later from Favre via Essentially Sports.
I think, from a stress standpoint, after last year which was a great year for Aaron, they almost got to the Super Bowl with nobody….Now he’s at the age I was when we drafted him. 35-36, in that area. You know you start realizing that ‘the end is much closer than what you pictured when you came in.’ He finally got a little dose of, you know, a new regime. ... When Aaron was drafted, I was the only guy from that team from initial time that I had joined the Packers and I say that from a coach and a player standpoint… I say that because sometimes I felt like the odd man out even though I’d been here longer than everyone. ... I felt like the new guy, the odd guy. He’s starting to get a little sense of that, you know, new coach comes in, drafts a young quarterback. By no means does Aaron feel threatened by that but it’s just kind of a slap in the face like…you look around and you go ‘All the guys I started with are gone.
Whether it was the injury to Javon Walker, the health of the running backs, or a need for a change in the offensive system, the 2005 season was brutal for Favre. He set a career high with 29 interceptions to just 20 touchdowns and posted the second-lowest quarterback rating of his career at 70.9. The Packers as a whole were not good either with a 4-12 season, the lowest win total of Favre’s career in Green Bay.
Likewise, Rodgers has dealt with periodic injuries to important receivers and running backs in 2020. But Jordan Love is instead witnessing a resurgent career from Rodgers, who now has a 39:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The stress and sense of not fitting in that Favre mentioned appears to be replaced in Rodgers with a renewed sense of fun and energy from a player destined to prove critics wrong and build up younger offensive teammates. What kind of relationship Rodgers and Love have is anyone’s guess, but it certainly is not detracting from Rodgers’ play this season. Perhaps the pick motivated him after all.
The Carolina offense is beaten and battered by injuries this week, an advantage for Green Bay
Earlier this week, it was announced that Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey will likely not suit up for the game this week against the Packers. That Green Bay will not have to deal with the rushing and receiving threat of the All-Pro is an advantage in itself, but so are some of the other injuries to the Carolina offense.
As of Thursday, it is questionable if blossoming wide receiver Curtis Samuel will play as well. Samuel has had a strong follow-up to his breakout season a year ago and brings his own level of danger as a receiver and occasional runner. Also questionable is left tackle Russell Okung with a calf injury, while his top replacement option, Greg Little, landed on injured reserve earlier this week. Guard Dennis Daley is also doubtful with a concussion.
The Panther injuries should help a Packers defense figuring to be at nearly full strength after several players were removed from the injury report on Thursday, including Rashan Gary, Za’Darius Smith, Jaire Alexander, Darnell Savage, Kevin King, and Chandon Sullivan. With Teddy Bridgewater winless in his last seven starts for Carolina, the Packers are facing the Panthers at a good time for keeping pace for the top seed in the NFC.