Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers shows his frustration as he stands along the sidelines late in the fourth quarter during Sunday's game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
`EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Green Bay Packers’ season is slipping away, and they seem powerless to do anything about it.
The Packers stumbled to their third straight defeat on Sunday against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, 27-13.
Only once in coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure have the Packers been worse than 5-5 after 10 games, and that came in his first season.
The Packers can technically claim they are still in playoff contention, since they only trail NFC North rivals Detroit and Chicago by one game.
But unless quarterback Aaron Rodgers finds a miracle cure for his broken collarbone and can return either this week or next, the Packers’ postseason prospects will be nothing more than wishful thinking.
The Packers tried to make a game of it against a mediocre Giants team but fell behind early and never caught up.
“Right now I don’t have an answer,” said defensive lineman B.J. Raji when asked what the Packers must do to turn their once-promising season around.
In reality, there isn’t much the Packers can do without Rodgers. They simply aren’t a very good team with their superstar on the sidelines. Rodgers is the one that makes the offense hum, elevates the play of his teammates and covers up defensive deficiencies.
Without him, the Packers seem lost and are wandering aimlessly on offense. For the second straight game they produced just 13 points, and Scott Tolzien looked the part of a third-string quarterback trying to find his way.
The Packers can watch the film, make corrections and practice until the cows come home, but that isn’t going to change the basic premise that they can’t win without Rodgers.
McCarthy is a master at motivating his players, which is one reason the Packers have rarely suffered losing streaks under his watch. But he’s not a magician and can’t create a credible replacement for Rodgers out of thin air.
The Packers take pride in not using injuries as an excuse, and they love to promote their “next man up” philosophy.
But who are they kidding? They’re not even close to being the same team without Rodgers. His absence makes the loss of Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Bryan Bulaga even more pronounced.
Give guard Josh Sitton credit for being about as honest as anyone in the locker room regarding the injury plague.
“Any time you have big-time players down, guys who’ve been starters for a long time, it’s tough to fill in for those guys,” said Sitton. “Couple guys that are down now are real tough to replace.”
By his absence, Rodgers is making a strong case for being the NFL’s most valuable player. His return will instantly make the Packers contenders again.
But they are running out of time. The Packers likely can afford to lose just one more game the rest of the season, which would put them at 10-6 and in position to earn a playoff berth. Anything less than that will probably leave the Packers out of postseason competition for the first time since 2008.
“We’re not playing well enough to win right now, we recognize that,” said McCarthy. “We know what the issues are.”
There really is only one primary issue for the Packers, and that’s getting Rodgers back on the field as quickly as possible.
The defense has endured its share of problems in recent weeks, but the Giants’ loss can’t be pinned on that unit. Take away the touchdown and field goal the Giants scored off Tolzien interceptions, and the Packers defense was only responsible for 17 points, which is normally good enough to win.
Is there any doubt that with Rodgers playing the last three games the Packers would have won two and possibly all three? In that scenario, the Packers would be 7-3 or 8-2 and in command of the division race.
Without him, they are struggling to score points, can’t buy a victory and are teetering on the brink of playoff elimination.
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