Make No Mistake About It, the Green Bay Packers' Season is Over
There was a time on Sunday when the Green Bay Packers seemed to finally be figuring things out on offense. Aaron Rodgers was completing tough passes and the team was moving the ball on the road against the Detroit Lions. Then, following two red zone interceptions, both the result of bad throws by the future hall of fame quarterback, the team showed the trainwreck it had become.
If there is any defense in the league that could make the Packers' offense look functional, it would be the last-ranked Lions' D. Instead, the dysfunction that has shown all season reared its ugly head and fans were forced to accept the truth, this Packers team isn't very good and doesn't seem to have any idea about how to get better.
Technically, the team isn't eliminated from post season contention just yet and, with 8 games left in the season, a lot could still happen. However, optimism aside, that doesn't seem likely.
The Packers have two very big things working against them in addition to their 3-6 record. First, their losses have been ugly. Yes, four of their six losses were by one score. But, even if the Packers would have found a way to win them, it would be hard to argue they deserved to win. It's not like they lost on a last-second score in a shootout. Instead, it was the other team gave them a chance to win and they blew it anyway.
All you have to do is look at their last drive during the Detroit game, where they nearly turned it over on two fumbles (both going out of bounds before the Lions could recover) before taking four straight shots into the endzone despite having both time on the clock and timeouts, giving them options. It demonstrated the lack of urgency on an offense that has looked like a mess at times. When your 38-year-old quarterback leads the team in rushing and has the third most total yards gained in a game, your offense isn't working.
In addition to the problems that have plagued this team from day 1, including dropped passes and receivers running the wrong routes, the injuries are going to play a big role in this team's chances going forward. The Packers entered the Lions game without Randall Cobb (the only receiver that has been reliable on third down) and lost two more receivers by the end of the first half and eight players total throughout the game, including Christian Watson, the 2nd-day draft pick they traded up for and can't seem to stay on the field for more than a play or two at a time. The injuries this season have prevented the team from finding a true #1 receiver (I'm not sold on Allen Lazard yet) or starting the same five guys on the offensive line two weeks in a row.
With the trade deadline now passed, their injury replacement options are going to be limited. Even if they get lucky and find a star at this stage in the season, it's not going to do them a whole heck of a lot of good if everyone else is still running the wrong routes.
All this being said, as a fan, I am going to look at the big picture. Every team has its ups and downs and, while this is a very ugly down, the Packers have proven they are a winning franchise over the long-term.
The jury is still out on Watson, who suffered two concussions in two weeks now and may not even make it to his second year at this rate and free agent signing Sammy Watkins looks to be a mistake. However, the Packers might have found hidden gems in Romeo Doubs and Samari Toure, and both could become consistent playmakers with experience. The Packers also have quite a bit of depth on the offensive line, giving them long-term options once the health issues are straightened out.
The defense, which has been subpar this year as well, also has a lot of raw talent and there's no reason to believe it won't improve. This might require a coaching change at defensive coordinator though since a lot of the issues with that side of the ball seem to be communication problems and lack of execution.
This does mean Aaron Rodgers might end his career on a losing note (if he decides to retire or the team parts ways with him). However, Jordan Love is waiting in the wings and could potentially start his era with a good core of playmakers to work with.
So, in other words, there's a reason to be optimistic. Just not about this season, which is all but mathematically over.