Few teams have been inundated with injuries the way the Green Bay Packers have been this season. But the Packers have found a way to survive injuries to players like Bryan Bulaga, Randall Cobb, and Jermichael Finley and remain one of the top teams in the NFC. They’ve been able to do so in large part because of the play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. However, now that Rodgers has joined the list of injured players, and will miss roughly three weeks, is this one injury too many for the Packers? Can they survive three weeks without Rodgers?
At first glance, it would seem like Green Bay has a manageable schedule for the next three weeks, with home games against the Eagles and Vikings, and a road game against the Giants. However, without Rodgers that schedule may be harder to traverse than people think. While the Eagles have been maddeningly inconsistent this season, they’re also coming off a 49-point outburst last week, and if their offense performs close to that level against the Packers, the Green Bay offense could have a hard time keeping up with Rodgers and key skill position players on the sidelines. The Giants shouldn’t be considered an easy win either, as they’ve won their last two games and possess enough talent to give the Packers problems, especially with Green Bay being far from full strength. Minnesota may seem like an easy win as well, but without Rodgers nothing should be taken for granted.
With Rodgers, the Packers would have been considerable favorites to win all three of those games. But if they lose one or possibly two of those three games because Rodgers is injured, it could have a lasting effect on their season, even after Rodgers returns. Following Green Bay’s loss to the Bears on Monday night, the Packers are now in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC North along with Chicago and Detroit. It’s unlikely that that all three teams will be able to make the playoffs, which means that in the NFC North there could be a thin line between winning the division and missing the postseason altogether, and if the Packers trip up during Rodgers’ absence, it could make all the difference at the end of the season.
What makes Rodgers’ injury particularly worrisome is the fact that it’s on top of all the other injuries the Packers have been forced to endure this season. Backup Seneca Wallace would have a far easier time filling in for a few weeks if the rest of the Green Bay offense were at full strength. But while Rodgers has been able to get by a lackluster group of receivers, such a task won’t be so easy for Wallace, who was just 11 for 19 for 114 yards Monday night against a Chicago defense that’s average at best.
Against the Bears, Green Bay converted just one of their nine third-down opportunities, which is a concern for the Packers after Wallace did not look impressive throwing the ball down field. The Packers will try to establish the run more with Rodgers out, and that has a chance to work with the emergence of rookie Eddie Lacy, but even with close to 200 yards rushing and nearly seven yards per rush against the Bears, Green Bay was still unable to score more than 20 points without a reliable passing attack.
Being without Rodgers for three weeks doesn’t necessarily signal the inevitable collapse of the Packers, but it puts them in a difficult spot while being in the midst of a tight division race. Rodgers is the primary reason why Green Bay has been able to withstand all of the other injuries they’ve had to key players this season, and he was easily the player they could least afford to lose. Between their running game and their defense, the Packers may have enough to endure three weeks without Rodgers. But the margin for error is thin in the NFC North, and a few games without Rodgers could end up making a big difference.