As teams get mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs, we’ll give you a jump on their offseason by examining what went right, what went wrong and what needs to change before next season.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
When Aaron Rodgers orchestrated a thrilling last-minute drive against the Dallas Cowboys to win an outstanding game in Week 5, the Packers were 4-1. Then Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone on an unnecessary hit by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr a week later, and when he went on injured reserve for good this week the team was 7-7 and out of the playoff race. Rodgers came back for Week 15, but a late rally against the Carolina Panthers fell short and the Packers’ faint playoff dreams were dead.
What went right: When the Packers were healthy, they looked like the team we thought they would be. The Packers’ defense was good enough, Rodgers was at the top of his game and they were finding ways to win. There were some bright spots in a disappointing “What if?” season: Davante Adams became a true No. 1 receiver. The Packers found a couple promising running backs in Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. Blake Martinez has finally solved the Packers’ long-running middle linebacker riddle. Front seven players like Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Mike Daniels had nice seasons.
What went wrong: Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone.
Will the coach be back?: While I don’t think the Packers’ staff did a great job of elevating everyone with Brett Hundley at quarterback, Mike McCarthy isn’t going anywhere. But if you wonder if Aaron Rodgers has carried this coaching staff a bit, the 2017 season provided you plenty of evidence.
Do they have a quarterback?: Yep.
Quick free agent fix: The Packers finally tried free agency by signing tight end Martellus Bennett, and he was an infamous debacle complete with a drag-out fight with the team and its medical staff after he was cut. That experience might cause general manager Ted Thompson to never try free agency again. If the Packers do look at any free agents they could use some help on the interior of the offensive line, perhaps at wide receiver and since Bennett was a bust, tight end is still a need.
Quick draft fix: The Packers will have to decide if Jordy Nelson’s decline is due to Aaron Rodgers being out, or that Nelson is fading at age 32. The Packers will need to restock receiver whether Nelson is back or not, though they’ve had good success picking receivers outside of the first round. Assuming better health on defense fixes that side of the ball, especially in the secondary, the Packers might attack the offensive line in the draft. The more protection for Aaron Rodgers, the better.
Give it to me straight, can my team make the playoffs in 2018?: No matter how good the Vikings have been this season, one has to assume the Packers will be favored to win the NFC North in 2018.
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