COMMENTARY | The Green Bay Packers were able to pull out a big 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14 and kept themselves alive in the playoff race. Things looked very shaky for the Packers at halftime, trailing 21-10, but they came out and took control in the second half. The Detroit Lions lost to the Philadelphia Eagles as well, which makes the playoffs even more of a real possibility.
Despite the win over the Falcons, the Packers have a lot of work to do to make the playoffs. They are currently sitting at 6-6-1 on the season, while the Lions (7-6) and Bears (6-6) are in the division race as well. The Bears are facing off against the Dallas Cowboys tonight in yet another big game for the Packers that they aren't even participating in.
Green Bay was able to figure things out defensively in the second half and did not allow the Falcons to score a single point. The secondary has been a huge problem ever since Aaron Rodgers went down and has been one of the main reasons that Green Bay last five straight games. If the Packers want to shock the world and make the playoffs, they are going to have to play good defense for the last three games of the regular season. Things certainly don't get easier for the Packers, as they will face the Cowboys, Steelers, and Bears in their final three games.
If the Packers do win the remainder of their schedule, the Bears will not be a problem. Assuming the Packers defeat the Cowboys and Steelers, the win over the Bears would eliminate Chicago from contention. That being said, Green Bay does not control their destiny when it come to the Detroit Lions. Detroit will face the Ravens, Giants, and Vikings in their final three games, which is a favorable schedule. The Ravens and Giants games will be tough contests and the Vikings are playing solid football as well, but the Lions are a much better football team on paper than all three.
One extremely encouraging piece of news for the Packers is that Aaron Rodgers is yet another week closer to returning. It is very possible that he returns for their game against the Dallas Cowboys next week, which would be a huge addition for them. Just having their franchise leader and superstar back will energize the team and improve the offense. Eddie Lacy will have a much easier job as well with defenses having to respect the aerial attack much more than they have in recent weeks.
Defensively the Packers have to step up and play every game like they played the second half of the game against the Falcons. Big plays have to be stopped and they need to force a turnover or two. If they are able to get their defense to play consistently good football, their offense should be good enough to escape with victories, especially if Aaron Rodgers returns.
The Packers still have their backs against the wall, but they are breathing much easier following their big win over the Falcons. Green Bay needs to win each game from here on out and hope for a loss or two by Detroit, but they are very much in competition. Over the next three weeks, Packers fans will find out just what their team is made of. Each game will be filled with the pressure of a season on the line, but the Packers need to stay grounded and focus on one game at a time.
Evan Massey lives in Indianapolis and has followed the Green Bay Packers for the past 16 years. He has written for many sports websites including ProSportsExtra.com, Hoops-Nation.com, ProFootballSpot.com, and NaptownsFinest.com. Follow Evan on Twitter at @massey_evan.
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