The Green Bay Packers are 4-3 and in the NFC playoff hunt as the team takes a week off during its bye. However, all is not perfect in Packer-land (we think you can guess one issue). FOX Sports Wisconsin looks at five questions as the Packers ready for the second half of their season.
What can be expected of Brett Hundley?
The question that will define the Green Bay Packers’ season. Hundley has showed signs of being a reliable quarterback after filling in for an injured Aaron Rodgers in Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings. Although he tossed three interceptions in that game (one off a deflection and another on an acrobatic one-handed catch by safety Harrison Smith), Hundley passed for 157 yards and a touchdown. However, he regressed in Week 7 while facing a worse defense in the New Orleans Saints, throwing for just 87 yards on 12-of-25 passing. It didn’t help that head coach Mike McCarthy turned to conservative play calling in the second half, either. If Hundley’s going to succeed, the Packers need to utilize his mobility and let him loose.
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Can the Packers stay in the playoff chase for Rodgers’ return?
Rodgers could reportedly return to the field in seven to eight weeks, slotting his potential return at Week 15 or 16. If he is back for the Packers’ Week 15 matchup with the Carolina Panthers, that means Green Bay (4-3) will play six more contests without him. But not all hope is lost. Already behind Minnesota in the NFC North by a game, the Packers will likely need to win at least three games to stay in the playoff chase. Three wins would put them at 7-6 with three games to play, and two of those within the division.
The three wins without Rodgers? Steal one on the road against the 3-4 Chicago Bears in Week 10, beat a 31st-ranked Baltimore Ravens offense in Week 11 at Lambeau Field and top the winless Cleveland Browns in Week 14. Sounds doable. Green Bay will need to do that -- and possibly more -- to extend its streak of eight straight postseason appearances (the other games: vs. Detroit, at Pittsburgh and vs. Tampa Bay). Would nine wins get Green Bay into the playoffs? The NFC is tightly bunched up right now -- 11 teams, including the Packers are 3-3 or better -- so maybe not. But eight wins certainly won't do it.
Can the defense do enough to keep Green Bay in games?
Green Bay’s defense ranks 22nd in the NFL in yards allowed per game (348.9) and 19th in points allowed per game (23.0), right around where it finished last year. Even worse, opponents are converting on 41.9 percent of third downs against the Packers, 25th in the league. If the Packers are going to win without Rodgers, the defense needs to step up like it did in first half on Sunday against New Orleans. Green Bay held the Saints to seven points at the break and intercepted quarterback Drew Brees twice in the red zone. But the defense faltered in the second half, allowing the Saints to score on their first three possessions out of the break and the Packers lost the lead, and eventually, the game. Hopefully, this defense can prevent the Packers from losing their 2017 season.
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Will Martellus Bennett get involved in the offense?
We’ve been waiting for the free-agent signing to gel in this Packers offense, but that’s been stalled by three dropped passes and a lack of red-zone targets. Bennett has yet to enter the end zone in green and gold, and he hasn't had more than 53 yards receiving in any game. Rodgers threw his way six times in Week 1 and 11 times in Week 2, but in the last three weeks, Bennett has seen a combined 10 targets. He’s hauled in 63.2 percent of his targets for a reception this season, well short of last year’s 75.3 percent clip with the New England Patriots.
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Will Davante Adams finish the year as Green Bay’s top wide receiver?
Green Bay is blessed with a trio of top-tier receivers in Adams, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Seven games in, all three are within 100 yards of each other. Adams leads the way in receiving yards (351) and targets (54), while Nelson (303 yards, 42 targets) and Cobb (261 yards, 38 targets) aren’t far behind. An argument could be made that Adams has surpassed Nelson, just from the fact that opposing defenses have begun to shadow Adams with their top cornerback. Without Rodgers, Adams might not touch his career high in receiving yards (997) from last season, but the Packers certainly need a receiver to step up for Hundley. If Adams can answer the call, he should officially take over the top receiver role from Nelson, who has led Green Bay in receiving in four seasons since 2011.