Here at Shutdown Corner, we want to help. So once a week, we'll go in and examine a team coming off a bad week, bad month, maybe a bad decade (you're in luck, Cleveland), and see what fixes can be made to turn around the season. So step aside, we've got this. Next under the microscope: the Green Bay Packers.
Where they stand: 5-4, tied for second place, NFC North
What's gone right: An awful lot, really. This was a team that appeared headed for a playoff berth before Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone a couple weeks back. In fact, take a look at those teams we've already covered. You can probably smell their stench all the way up here. There's not a single one of those teams that's realistically going to make the playoffs outside of the NFC East teams, and they don't count. The team ranks third in total offense per game, behind only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, so that's perfectly excusable. This is a team that, if everything breaks right (ouch, sorry ... poor word choice), could find itself in the NFC Championship.
What's gone wrong: Well, when one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history goes down, chances are it's going to have a deleterious effect on your short-term prospects. Rodgers is now claiming that he'll be back by Thanksgiving, which seems noble but insane. The defense is middle-of-the-road across the board, which is fine if you've got a quarterback who can go for 35 a game but not so good if you've got a quarterback who can't get the offense going faster than 35 mph.
What we'd fix: The defense has to get tougher against the pass; Green Bay ranks 21st in that category. It'll require a complete change in offensive mindset, but the team has to think ball-control, short-gain plays rather than the Rodgers-esque air-it-out schemes that have been Green Bay's hallmark. Nobody in the game has Rodgers' touch at quarterback, and certainly nobody who's just joining up with the team. This is the season-long equivalent of holding the ball until halftime to prevent further damage.
The road ahead: Green Bay has seven games remaining, including three against potential playoff rivals (Detroit, Chicago, Dallas). Winnable matchups include the Giants, Falcons, Vikings and Steelers. But 9-7 isn't good enough to breathe easy; the Packers will need to win all the winnables and at least one of the playoff-rival games to secure that wild-card slot. With Rodgers in the lineup, this would be a no-brainer. Without Rodgers, the Packers are going to have to hope Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzein can guide them past sputtering or underachieving teams like New York and Minnesota, their next two opponents.
Is there hope? Without a doubt. But it all hinges on Rodgers. If the Packers are able to survive while he recuperates, he can haul them to the sixth seed all by himself. But the problem is that the NFC is highly competitive, and as we've already seen this year, throwing a quarterback into a new system is only slightly less gruesome than throwing him into a tiger pit. Good luck, replacements.