The good news? The Green Bay Packers have a chance.
The bad news? It’s still a long shot.
Technically, the Green Bay stayed alive in the NFC playoff picture with a 26-20 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But with quarterback Brett Hundley back to playing uninspired football and matchups with the Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Viking on the horizon, there’s still a lot that has to happen for the Packers to advance.
The New York Times, for example, has a prediction model that gives the Packers an eight percent chance to make their ninth consecutive playoff appearance.
However, with Aaron Rodgers eligible to return soon, there’s still hope in Green Bay.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Even if the Packers don’t make the playoffs, there’s no reason to view this as a lost season for GM Ted Thompson and Co. Converted receiver Ty Montgomery started the season as their only serviceable running back, but rookies Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones have slowly but surely established themselves as Green Bay’s future at the position.
Williams had himself a day, rushing for a career-high 113 yards on 21 carries and powering his way into the end zone for his third rushing touchdown of the season. With Hundley struggling -- he threw for just 84 yards on 22 attempts and was picked off once -- the Packers’ offense ran through Williams.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME
We can’t heap praise on the Packers’ running game with giving fellow rookie Aaron Jones a tip of the cap. He made his single carry count, scoring a 20-yard rushing touchdown in overtime to end the game. Jones ran straight into a pileup at the line, bouncing to the outside and speeding into the end zone. The drive featured impressive runs of all sorts from Packers’ ground game, as Williams, Hundley and ultimately Jones got in on the act.
Jameis Winston became well acquainted with the Packers’ pass rush, leading to one of the oddest touchdowns of the weekend. Winston inexplicably tried to throw it away as he was being dragged down by Kenny Clark, and Dean Lowry took advantage. The hulking defensive end scooped up the fumble and rumbled his way to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown and his first Lambeau Leap.
The Packers’ offense looked anemic at times -- they went three-and-out on back-to-back-to-back drives in the second half, failing to record a first down in the third quarter -- and were audibly booed at one point. However, the defense came to play. The Packers brought Winston down seven times, the first time they’ve reached seven sacks since 2015. Clay Matthews led the way, registering 2.5 sacks, while Clark had two of his own.
THEY SAID IT
"It was good to show it off a little bit. I was definitely winded right afterward." -- Packers defensive end Dean Lowry
“We're a better team today, not only because we won the game but how we won.” -- Packers coach Mike McCarthy
“Just the way we slugged it out, we’ll be a better team moving forward.” -- McCarthy
“All [running back Aaron Jones] needs is one. Big play. To come in and ice the game like that on one carry, you can’t really have better than that.” -- Packers quarterback Brett Hundley.
Benny SieuBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The Packers (6-6) hit the road a for matchup with the Cleveland Browns. If they can handle the winless Browns, there’s a chance. Aaron Rodgers is eligible to return in Week 15, when the Packers face the Carolina Panthers on the road. In this optimistic scenario, a healthy Rodgers leads the Packers to a win over the Panthers, beats the 10-2 Vikings at Lambeau, then holds off the Lions on the road. It’s a tall order, but then, running the table isn’t out of the question when Rodgers is around.