Real test for Packers in playoff push now begins over next 3 games

Dec 19, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) warms up before game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2022; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) warms up before game against the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

At 4-8 just a few weeks ago, the playoffs started early for the Green Bay Packers, essentially needing to win out — along with getting a lot of help — if they hope to make the actual playoffs. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Packers have won their last two games, but the real test begins in Miami.

Combined, Chicago and Los Angeles have just seven wins. Both offenses rank in the bottom third of the league by DVOA, the Bears have one of the worst defenses by that same metric, and the Rams were without Aaron Donald. In short, the Packers did what they needed to do, posting 28 and 24 points on offense — with being on the cusp of 31 against the Rams — and the defense holding both teams to a combined 31 points.

Next up on the schedule is the Miami Dolphins, who, led by Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, have one of the most explosive passing offenses in the NFL this season. The Packers, meanwhile, rank in the top-10 in number of big plays given up. There’s also something about a Kyle Shanahan-Esque offense that really feels like it’s going to give this year’s Joe Barry defense fits. With that said, the Dolphins defense is allowing almost 25 points per game, and overall, they find themselves on a three-game losing streak, so perhaps the Packers are catching them at the right time.

Following the Miami game, the Packers return home for matchups with Minnesota and Detroit. The Vikings have the division locked up but will still be playing for seeding within the NFC. Their offense has been among the best at scoring this season, but the defense has been among the worst in points allowed. Detroit, meanwhile, is one of the hottest teams in football, having won six of their last seven games. Something that Green Bay does have going in their favor is that these matchups are against divisional opponents, which are often close games, not to mention that Minnesota and Detroit are both dome teams coming to Lambeau Field in January.

"“We’ve played a couple teams we should have beat,” said Rodgers following the win over the Rams. “That being said, it’s still tough to win in this league and; weaid it earlier, I think we can beat anybody, we can also lose to anybody. But when you win a couple in a row, it starts to give you some confidence now playing against some better football teams down the stretch, that we can go to Miami and win.”"

Offensively, the Packers have been playing their best football of the season since Week 10, scoring 24-plus points –including two games over 30 — in four of those five games. The play of the offensive line, coupled with a strong run game and Christian Watson’s home run ability, have really stressed opposing defenses. The emergence of the passing game has been crucial, and we saw that against the Rams with how soft they were defending Green Bay, but as Adam Stenavich said, success on offense begins with the run game. The Packers will have the opportunity to continue building that momentum, going against three defenses that rank 26th or worse in points per game allowed.

The defensive side of the ball is the more concerning aspect for the Packers down this stretch. As they should have, they’ve held up well against Chicago and Los Angeles, two inferior offenses, but how will they perform against some of the more higher-scoring offenses in the NFL? Based on how this season has gone, it’s understandable to be concerned.

Overall, there have been miscommunications in the secondary, issues generating consistent pressure, especially without Rashan Gary, along with poor run fits and the defensive front struggling to shed blocks. Joe Barry has also been slow to adjust and oftentimes been too passive as a play caller. Now again, the defense has been better in most aspects over these last two games, but is that due to them turning over a new leaf or the opponent? I tend to think the latter.

Perhaps Aaron Rodgers said it best this past week; on offense, they need to go out there trying to score 30 or more points each week, and that seems particularly true with the upcoming opponents.

Over the last few weeks, the Packers have been able to take care of business on their end and also received quite a bit of the help that they needed up to this point. Their playoff hopes are alive and somewhat well at the moment, but all the help in the world doesn’t much matter if Green Bay doesn’t win, and that task is about to become much more challenging.