Packers notes: Improved health and troubling numbers coming out of bye

Ryan Wood and Jim Owczarski
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Green Bay Packers center Corey Linsley (63) helps quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) up after a sack against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field Monday, October 15, 2018 in Green Bay, Wis.

GREEN BAY - As the Green Bay Packers return from their bye week, coach Mike McCarthy expects a healthier roster after a week of rest, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

For the first time this season, McCarthy said he’s hopeful Rodgers can participate in the team’s first practice of game week, a non-padded session. Rodgers has participated in some padded practices this season, but none of the non-padded practices since injuring his knee Week 1 against the Chicago Bears.

It’s uncertain who will join Rodgers on the practice field Tuesday, which is one day earlier than usual with the Packers pushing up their game-week schedule to account for their upcoming West Coast trip. The Packers listed eight players as “questionable” for their last game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Among them, receivers Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Geronimo Allison (hamstring), cornerbacks Jaire Alexander (groin) and Bashaud Breeland (hamstring) and backup offensive tackle Jason Spriggs (ankle) were inactive. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), guard Justin McCray (shoulder) and safety Jermaine Whitehead (back) were active.

“Feel like we’re definitely going to be healthier,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said no determination has been made yet on whether receiver Trevor Davis or Jake Kumerow will be designated to return off injured reserve this week.

Numbers show inconsistency

The Packers (3-2-1) come out of the bye week in second place in the NFC North, percentage points behind the 4-2-1 Minnesota Vikings. They can boast the No. 4 offense in the league (421 yards per game) and the No. 8 defense (328.3).

And yet, they are in the middle of the road when it comes to scoring (No. 16, 24.7) and points allowed (No. 15, 24.0) as well as turnover differential (No. 15, plus-1). They are No. 8 in sacks (21) but have also given up five touchdowns of 20 yards or more.

The offense and defense have each lamented slow starts and it can’t be more glaring than a minus-37 scoring differential (100-63) in the first half of games. In the second half? The Packers are plus-41 (85-44). In total, the Packers have just a plus-4 point differential (148 to 144).

Of the six teams in the NFC with a winning record, the Packers rate sixth in point differential. The Los Angeles Rams (7-0) – the Packers’ opponent this weekend – are No. 1, at plus-107.

“We’re a couple plays away from being 4-2 or 5-1, and definitely a couple plays from being the other way,” Rodgers said after the Packers’ win over San Francisco on Oct. 22. “So we’re thankful to be 3-2-1 right now and realize what’s in front of us, and how this type of play might not get it done against the next opponents. We’ve got to play better.”

Facing long odds

According to oddsmakers, the Packers are big underdogs for Sunday's game in Los Angeles. The Packers opened the week anywhere from 8.5- to 9-point underdogs to the Rams. According to ESPN, it would be the biggest underdog the Packers have been with Rodgers as their starting quarterback (going back to 2008) and the largest margin in the regular season.  

"I mean being an underdog is good, so I have no problem," Packers corner Josh Jackson. "They really don’t expect out much of us, but we’ll come out with a win, then the roles will reverse."

Fullback added

There is once again a fullback at Lambeau Field, as the Packers signed free agent Danny Vitale to their practice squad. Vitale was a sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Northwestern in 2016, but he spent the last two seasons in Cleveland. He was released by the Browns on Oct. 12. A true fullback at 6-feet, 1-inch and 245 pounds, Vitale has never had an NFL carry. He does have seven career catches for 46 yards.

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