There are far worse things than losing to a 12-2 team many consider the best in football.
But when you’re a division leader suddenly in a dogfight for a title many assumed was just their birthright this year and you start out down 31-0 before losing 38-8 in Week 16, suddenly there aren’t things much worse, especially given that Sunday’s blowout gives the Minnesota Vikings a chance to control their own destiny.
Saying the Packers aren’t very good won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been watching the NFL this year with a modicum of objectivity, but the good people of Wisconsin tend to view their team through cheese-colored glasses and you get the feeling that they still think these are temporary hiccups for a team that is almost always in contention for the Super Bowl.
And maybe Green Bay still is: There are plenty of “not that good” teams that’ll make the playoffs — perhaps as much as half the field — Washington, Minnesota, Pittsburgh/New York and the AFC South champion. There’s no shame in it. “Not that good” teams win the Super Bowl, especially these days, quite often — the 2012 Ravens, the 2011 Giants, the 2010 Packers and the 2007 Giants all come to mind.
But that’s a question for two weeks from now, when the Packers will open their postseason. For now, the question is “what’s wrong in Green Bay?” The answer, at least this year, is quite easy: Green Bay’s 2015 woes are all on reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. That’s not a popular sentiment and it’s not an obvious one, but if you were ranking the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now, just for this year without any knowledge of the past or prediction for the future, Aaron Rodgers isn’t a top 10 quarterback.
The all-time record holder for single-season QB rating has a worse mark this year than Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill, among others. He has fewer passing yards than the much-maligned Sam Bradford, ranking in the bottom half of the league in the category.
His completion percentage is a stunning 24th in the NFL — barely above 60%, worse than Matt Hasselbeck, Tyrod Taylor, Blaine Gabbert and Teddy Bridgewater, among many others. (He’s never been below 63.5% in his career or below 65.6% this decade.)
His touchdowns and interceptions are solid, as usual, but his yards per attempt is staggering — just 6.76 yards for every throw, tied for 28th in the league. That’s a full yard worse than he’s had since his rookie year and two yards worse than in his first MVP season of 2011. Make no mistake, every problem the Green Bay Packers have in 2015 begins and ends with Aaron Rodgers, the same way the many Packers successes of the past eight seasons did.
There are plenty of other problems, to be sure. The defense gave up 500 yards to a Peyton Manning offense, one game after allowing 548 yards to the Chargers. The special teams has been marginal at best. (Just an aside: If you don’t know the unit’s coordinator, you’ll laugh: It’s Ron Zook.) The offense entered Week 16 with a pathetic 50% conversion rate on 3rd & 1 plays. The entire offense is in the bottom quarter of the league in third-down conversion.
Mike McCarthy is so quietly successful that you wonder if he’d be overrated if he got more publicity.
Because of Sunday’s loss and two bad division losses in November to the Bears and Lions, the NFC North race is wide open and the Packers are in danger of losing a January game at Lambeau to possibly go on the road to a resurgent Washington team or, perhaps, a Minnesota team that would have beaten them the week before.
All is not well at Lambeau. And it’s all from the most unlikely source.