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The Green Bay Packers couldn’t have looked any worse than they did on Sunday night at the San Francisco 49ers.
Except that the same can be said about their awful Week 9 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Good teams have bad days. It happens. But this is two bad days in a short stretch. Is it worth wondering how good the Packers really are?
The Packers didn’t look like Super Bowl contenders on Sunday. They were absolutely overmatched by the 49ers in a 37-8 loss. They didn’t look good in any aspect. Aaron Rodgers had 104 yards on 33 attempts. It was the worst yards per attempt of Rodgers’ career. It was the second-worst loss for the Packers in a game that Rodgers took a majority of the snaps (the worst was a 38-8 loss to Arizona in 2015, h/t to WTMJ). As we saw in that loss to the Chargers, and even in some wins like early-season games against the Bears and Vikings, when the Packers’ offense is bad it is really bad.
What do the Packers do at an elite level? Even if we want to believe Rodgers is still a top quarterback, the lack of weapons in the passing game makes him less dangerous. Nobody other than Davante Adams scares anyone. The Packers were 14th in points scored and 21st in yards gained before Sunday night’s game. They were 15th in points allowed and 28th in yards allowed. Their special teams are average at best; they somehow have minus-11 punt-return yards this season. Perhaps the best thing to be said about the Packers is they don’t turn the ball over. Their eight turnovers are tied for second-fewest in the NFL. That’s only going to take you so far.
It’s worth wondering if the Packers are even the best team in the NFC North. Their loss dropped them into a first-place tie with the Minnesota Vikings, who have looked like the better team recently. Minnesota is a more well-rounded squad. Even the longstanding argument that the Packers have the better quarterback might not be true this season. Kirk Cousins ranks third in Pro Football Focus’ grades, and Rodgers ranks seventh. If you don’t love PFF’s grades, Cousins has way more yards per attempt, more touchdowns, a better completion percentage and a better passer rating than Rodgers. Sorry Packers fans, these are facts. Maybe Rodgers will show up bigger when it counts, but it’s not like teams quake in fear of him anymore. It’s hard to figure out an area of the game in which the Packers are clearly better than the Vikings. And the second game between the teams, which comes in Week 16, will happen in Minnesota.
The Packers aren’t a bad team. It’s hard to get to 8-3 without being very good (though analytics folks will argue the Buffalo Bills are doing it). They’re very likely to make the playoffs even if the Vikings edge them in the division, and Rodgers is still capable of greatness. Nobody will want to see them in January because of Rodgers’ ability to get hot. But Sunday night showed that the Packers have flaws. Or, better yet, they don’t have any discernible strength. When they face a team like the 49ers, who do have plenty of obvious strengths, it’s harder to figure out how the Packers can make a playoff run, or even win their division.
Here are the Power Rankings after Week 12 of the NFL season:
32. Cincinnati Bengals (0-11, Last Week: 32)
I feel comfortable saying the Bengals would have won one of the last two games with Andy Dalton at quarterback. Zac Taylor is going back to Dalton, which just makes the odd decision to turn to Ryan Finley at midseason look worse. That bad decision is a big reason 0-16 is looming.
31. Washington Redskins (2-9, LW: 31)
Instead of a freakout over Dwayne Haskins Jr. missing the kneel-down for selfies, one player told ESPN’s John Keim that the Redskins were more upset at clock management that allowed the Lions 16 seconds at the end when they should have had no time. It was nice to see a reasonable response to a moment that was sure to be blown out of proportion.
30. Miami Dolphins (2-9, LW: 29)
That seemed more like the Dolphins team we saw early this season. A blowout loss to the Browns isn’t that bad. The Dolphins are off the 0-16 hook but don’t want to win enough to screw up their draft pick.
29. New York Giants (2-9, LW: 30)
Among the arguments for shutting down Saquon Barkley at some point — aside from saving valuable miles on Barkley due to the clock ticking louder for running backs than anyone else — is the Giants should want to lose. Would you rather go 1-4 or 2-3 down the stretch and have a later draft pick, or go 0-5 and draft Ohio State freak pass rusher Chase Young second overall (assuming the Bengals take a quarterback)? Right.
28. Denver Broncos (3-8, LW: 27)
It would be fairly crazy to not start Drew Lock the rest of the season. But for some reason the Broncos have been resisting it.
27. Atlanta Falcons (3-8, LW: 25)
Whatever happened with the Falcons defense for those two great games in a row, it vanished against the Buccaneers. Matt Ryan also vanished, which was much more surprising.
26. Detroit Lions (3-7-1, LW: 24)
Bo Scarbrough is a good story for a Lions team that needs some positive news. He was put into a significant role because of an injury to Kerryon Johnson, and has 153 yards on 32 carries (4.8-yard average) over two games. He has generally looked pretty good and presumably will have a chance to stick on the roster beyond this season. It’s a nice find after Scarbrough bounced around for almost two seasons.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7, LW: 19)
What has happened to the Jaguars defense? Derrick Henry ran through them, which happens. Henry is pretty good. Ryan Tannehill accounted for four touchdowns too. The Jaguars went from being the best defense in the NFL in 2017 to very good in 2018 to average at best in 2019.
24. New York Jets (4-7, LW: 28)
If Sam Darnold can continue his play from the last two games for the rest of the season, Jets fans will have a good reason to be excited this offseason. He has looked very good.
23. Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1, LW: 26)
The Cardinals have a chance to be a real spoiler the rest of the way. All five remaining games (Rams twice, Steelers, Browns, Seahawks) are against teams that are at least somewhat in the playoff race or battling for a good seed. At least this interesting team will have relevant games.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7, LW: 23)
Jameis Winston is going to put up one of the craziest stat lines in NFL history. As Greg Auman of The Athletic pointed out, Winston is on pace for 4,932 yards, 32 TDs and 29 INTs. It’s quite possible he could lead the NFL in all three categories, considering he leads in interceptions and is barely behind in yards and touchdowns. That sums up Winston’s career pretty well.
21. Los Angeles Chargers (4-7, LW: 20)
All-Pro safety Derwin James was activated off injured reserve and seems likely to play this week. Hopefully he’s 100 percent, and no less than that, because this is a lost season for the Chargers and James is too good to rush back.
20. Chicago Bears (5-6, LW: 21)
Where was receiver Anthony Miller all season? He had 17 catches on 30 targets through nine games after a promising rookie season. Then the last two games, he suddenly posted 12 catches on 20 targets. Whatever the reason for the uptick, it would be good to see Miller continue this the rest of the season.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5, LW: 18)
The Steelers better hope that Ben Roethlisberger comes back healthy. Mason Rudolph isn’t the answer and I doubt Devlin Hodges is either.
18. Carolina Panthers (5-6, LW: 16)
In D.J. Moore’s last four games, he has 101, 120, 95 and 126 yards. Last year’s first-round pick is becoming one of the best receivers in the NFL.
17. Cleveland Browns (5-6, LW: 22)
If the Browns make the playoffs, it would be one of the NFL’s best stories. At midseason, everyone assumed Freddie Kitchens would be fired, and Baker Mayfield looked like a second-year flop. And if you look at the Browns’ remaining schedule and the state of the AFC, it’s really not that crazy. Football Outsiders had the Browns with a 26.4 percent chance to make the playoffs after Sunday’s games.
16. Los Angeles Rams (6-5, LW: 13)
Whoa. Lamar Jackson is fantastic, but that was absolutely awful by the Rams. Was this the team that looked so good the past two seasons and made a Super Bowl? Everything about the Rams needs to be questioned. Is Sean McVay as good as we thought? Is Jared Goff worth half of his contract? Can the Rams even spin this back around after trading picks and spending so much on Goff and Todd Gurley? That’s the kind of loss that makes you wonder if the Rams’ window is closed already. It was that bad.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (5-6, LW: 14)
The Eagles’ injuries are obviously a factor in their offensive struggles. Carson Wentz also needs to play much better if Philadelphia is going to stay in the NFC East race. Both things can be true.
14. Tennessee Titans (6-5, LW: 17)
The Titans are creeping into the playoff race. Ryan Tannehill is playing very well. But the key is that the Titans finally have figured out that Derrick Henry is good and they need to feature him. That took long enough.
13. Oakland Raiders (6-5, LW: 12)
There was no more damaging loss on Sunday than the Raiders laying that egg against the Jets. With a trip to Kansas City coming up this weekend, a 6-4 start can turn into 6-6 in a hurry. The Raiders can still get a wild-card spot, but it’s a lot dicier now.
12. Indianapolis Colts (6-5, LW: 15)
The Colts would be looking great in the playoff race had they won last Thursday. Their conservative game plan was too conservative. But what’s done is done, and the Colts will need to win at least three and maybe four of their last five games to make the playoffs.
11. Dallas Cowboys (6-5, LW: 9)
It would be hard to find a worse special teams performance than the one Dallas put in on Sunday. A blocked punt led to the Patriots’ only touchdown. There was a missed field goal and other follies in the return game. That was the difference in a 13-9 win, and while Jerry Jones’ postgame comments have been assigned to his frustration with Jason Garrett, special teams coordinator Keith O’Quinn shouldn’t feel too safe either.
10. Houston Texans (7-4, LW: 11)
Stephon Gilmore of the Patriots has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL over the past two seasons, and he just held Amari Cooper without a catch. DeAndre Hopkins is coming off a big two-touchdown game. Hopkins vs. Gilmore is going to be fascinating to watch on Sunday night.
9. Buffalo Bills (8-3, LW: 10)
Rookie Devin Singletary had his first 100-yard rushing game on Sunday. He has three starts and has 276 rushing yards with a 4.9-yard average. The Bills’ third-round pick is looking very good.
8. Green Bay Packers (8-3, LW: 6)
The good news for the Packers is the four games they have, other than the game at Minnesota in Week 16, could be four wins: at Giants, vs. Redskins, vs. Bears, at Lions. The Vikings still have a tough game at Seattle on Monday night. The Vikings might be the better team, but the Packers have the easier remaining schedule.
7. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4, LW: 8)
One fallout from the Ravens’ demolition of the Rams on Monday night is it appears the Chiefs have a long road to the Super Bowl, assuming Baltimore and New England get byes. They should win at home in the wild-card round. Then they might have to win road games at the Ravens and Patriots. Good luck.
6. Minnesota Vikings (8-3, LW: 7)
The Vikings got to rest, and watch the Packers get blown out to give them a share of first place in the NFC North. That’s a heck of a bye week.
5. Seattle Seahawks (9-2, LW: 5)
From Weeks 5-10, Rashaad Penny had 20 carries for 87 yards. On Sunday he had 14 carries for 129 yards and a huge touchdown. The 2018 first-round pick has been mostly a bust, but perhaps the Seahawks plan to give him a bigger role down the stretch.
4. New Orleans Saints (9-2, LW: 4)
It will be forgotten because the Saints won, but it was another less-than-impressive performance. They really haven’t looked dominant for three weeks in a row. Thanksgiving night, and a rematch against a Falcons team that surprisingly destroyed them, will be very interesting.
3. San Francisco 49ers (10-1, LW: 3)
It’s possible that the 49ers or Seahawks could go 13-3 and be on the road in the first playoff weekend as a wild-card team. Both teams have tough tests coming up before they meet again in Week 17 so it’s likely there’s a loss or two coming for each team. It’s wild that the 49ers are 10-1 and can’t feel like a division title is in the bag.
2. New England Patriots (10-1, LW: 1)
It’s hard to get a read on the Patriots’ win because the weather conditions made the game against the Cowboys ugly for both teams. It was a win and that’s the most important thing. Seeing the Ravens play on Monday night, the Patriots need every victory possible. They want to catch the Ravens at home in the playoffs, not in Baltimore.
1. Baltimore Ravens (9-2, LW: 2)
Time for a change at the top. The Ravens looked unbelievable on Monday night against the Rams. Lamar Jackson is the most electrifying player not only in the NFL, but in all of sports. It will still be tough to pick against Bill Belichick and the Patriots if they face the Ravens again in the playoffs, but nobody is playing better than Baltimore now.
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