The Green Bay Packers will host the Pittsburgh Steelers and wrap up the AFC portion of their 2013 schedule this week. While this is a rematch of Super Bowl XLV, that seems so long ago and, as is often the case in professional sport, both teams have changed since then.
The Steelers have regressed this season and are all but eliminated from playoff contention. That does not, however, mean that they have stopped playing to win, as was evidenced in last week’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals. It was Pittsburgh’s most complete game of the season and if they want to spoil their opponents’ party over these next two games, they are peaking at the right time.
With just two games left, the playoff scenarios are shaping up and as well as the storylines. None is bigger than the status of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. On Friday, it was announced that Rodgers will not play against the Steelers as he could not be medically cleared from his broken collarbone. The Packers can’t afford to lose either of their last two games and they’ll have to rely on backup quarterback Matt Flynn to help them get past the Steelers.
While the news on Rodgers wasn’t what the team nor fans wanted to hear, the Packers need only look back one week to see what they are capable of without him. After going winless in their first four games after Rodgers’ injury, Green Bay has now won two straight. Those wins have put the Packers in position win the NFC North and get into the postseason by winning their last two games.
What seemed improbable is still within reach at this late stage of the 2013 season, but there is still a lot of work to be done in Green Bay. Let’s look at some of the keys that will factor into this week’s outcome and how the Packers can score a big win in their 2013 home finale.
The First Half Counts
Someone should remind the Packers that it is OK and possible to start fast and score in the first half. Although Green Bay has won their last two games, their first half performance in each was abysmal, to put it nicely. During that span, Green Bay has been outscored 47 – 13. They obviously overcame those deficits (11 points vs. Atlanta, 23 points vs. Dallas) to win, but we should also remember that was against the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys. Neither of those teams are known for their defense.