It’s been a rough week in Green Bay.
It started with the Packers being viewed as a surefire Super Bowl contender. It ended with some doubts about whether they can qualify for the playoffs, let alone make a championship run.
If expectations were too high early in the week, as coach Mike McCarthy suggested, they now appear too low.
The Packers’ stock started to drop after a less-than-inspiring victory at Lambeau Field against the winless Detroit Lions, and the free fall continued when a rash of injuries hit them hard.
The Packers lost starting safety Morgan Burnett for the season, and the same fate likely awaits linebacker Nick Barnett. When added to the news that Brandon Chillar and Mark Tauscher are likely out indefinitely with injuries, it left the Packers reeling.
But McCarthy’s throbbing headache got even worse after his two best players publicly questioned some of the Packers’ decision making. Aaron Rodgers expressed frustration about the Packers’ offensive strategy against the Lions, and Charles Woodson seemed befuddled when the Packers failed to address a gaping hole on offense by not trading for running back Marshawn Lynch.
And in one final punch to the stomach, the Packers watched helplessly as chief rival Minnesota landed talented receiver Randy Moss in a trade that could catapult the Vikings to the top of the NFC North Division.
If their circumstances get them down and the Packers start feeling sorry for themselves, they could easily get pummeled on the road Sunday by the Washington Redskins. On the other hand, if their roster is truly as deep and talented as advertised, this will be their chance to stare down adversity.
“I don’t think we’re blinking at all,” said linebacker Brad Jones. “We have a lot of talent on this team and everybody can play. I think you’re going to see a lot of plays by names they haven’t called before.”
Names like Bryan Bulaga, Charlie Peprah and Desmond Bishop will be thrust into the lineup Sunday to either put up or shut up.
Besides depth, also working in the Packers’ favor is that no dominant team has emerged in the NFC through the first quarter of the season. The Packers share the best record in the conference (3-1) with New Orleans, Atlanta and Chicago.
For all their troubles, the Packers should remain a contender as long as the injury bug doesn't bite elite players like Rodgers, Woodson, Jermichael Finley and Clay Matthews.
“That’s what makes a great team, you have to overcome the adversity,” said defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. “I feel like we’re ready for it. We’ve got some good players stepping in. There’s not going to be much of a difference.”
We’ll find out soon enough if he's right.
Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette.