23

December

It’s Packers vs. Bears for the NFC North Championship

If the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday, they will be NFC North Champions.

Yes, the Packers might make the playoffs despite:

  • Playing the second half of the season without Aaron Rodgers.
  • Using four different quarterbacks.
  • Clay Matthews missing a stretch of games, then returning and playing with one thumb.
  • Randall Cobb being out most of the season.
  • Jermichael Finley almost breaking his neck.
  • Bryan Bulaga tearing his ACL in a scrimmage.
  • Andy Mulumba and MD Jennings playing prominent roles on defense.
  • Eddie Lacy missing two games early with a concussion and gimping around on a bum ankle the last couple of weeks.
  • B.J. Raji deciding to take a vacation after week eight.
  • 16 players on injured reserve (possibly with more to be added this week)
  • Marshall Newhouse still being on the team.

And that’s just all the stuff I can think of off the top of my head. It’s late at night, so I’m sure I’m missing a few things that should be on the list.

It hasn’t been pretty. Often, it’s been downright ugly and frustrating as hell. But the Packers still have a shot at the playoffs. Win and they’re in.

Welcome to the NFC North in 2013.

The 2013 Packers won’t go down as one of the best teams in franchise history, but they will go down as one of the most unique. They’ll also go down as one of the most resilient. It’s been a frustrating season, but it’s also been a whole lot of fun.

Here’s hoping the fun extends at least into Wild Card weekend.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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19

December

What Happened to Packers Defensive Lineman B.J. Raji?

Where have you gone, B.J. Raji?

The Green Bay Packers have desperately missed Aaron Rodgers ever since he went down with a broken collarbone in week eight. Over that same stretch, the Packers have also desperately missed B.J. Raji, even though the 337-pound defensive lineman played in every game.

Through the season’s first eight games, Raji was a force. He was energetic and explosive and spent a good amount of time in the opposing team’s backfield. It looked like the Raji of 2010 had returned and he was finally establishing himself as one of those elite defensive lineman who doesn’t put up big stats, but makes a world of difference each and every week beyond the box score.

Then Raji fell off the face of the Earth. He didn’t just regress, he disappeared.

It’s weird because there were no warning signs that Raji was about to go in the tank. He was one of the few players on the team that hasn’t battled injuries (as far as we know, anyway). He’s still young and he’s a free agent this offseason. All signs pointed to a good season becoming great for the former No. 9 overall pick out of Boston College.

Raji was credited for 11 solo defensive stops through the first eight games, according to Pro Football Focus. He only has two in the last six games. Also according to Pro Football Focus, Raji has finished with a negative run defense rating in every game since the Bears loss.

Even if you’re not into Pro Football Focus metrics, it’s painfully obvious that Raji has fallen off a cliff. He’s always been susceptible to getting completely wiped out of running plays, but it’s gone from happening every now and then to happening on a regular basis. Watch the Vikings tie or the final drive of the Eagles game. When the Packers desperately needed a run-stuffing play up front, there was Raji getting washed down the line or blown off the ball.

Rumor has it that Raji turned down an $8 million per season contract extension from the Packers earlier this season. At the time, the offer made sense. Raji is a big and athletic lineman who played well inside and was able to hold his own outside. He’s also durable, a rarity on the modern-day Packers. He wasn’t a superstar, but $8 million per year for the type of player that Raji was matched the market rate.

17

December

Packers Stock Report: Win and the Packers are in Edition

Packers QB Matt Flynn all fired up after learning he made it in this week’s rising category.

The Packers win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday was their best victory since winning Super Bowl XLV.

Sure, the Packers won 15 games and lit up scoreboards all over the NFL in 2011, but none of the 15 triumphs was as fulfilling as Sunday’s comeback over America’s (Most Annoying) Team.

Yes, the Packers persevered through a bunch of injuries and won a playoff game in 2012, but even the postseason win wasn’t as awesome as what happened in the Jerry Dome on Sunday.

Now that Justin “Robo Leg” Tucker connected on a 61-yard field goal that put the Packers back in control of their own destiny, the Frozen Tundra is buzzing about a possible repeat of 2010′s late-season magic. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before that happens, though.

Can the defense get it together for a full game? As the Packers offense goes, so goes the defense. If the offense sputters for more than a half, can the defense pick up the slack?

Will Dr. Pat McKenzie clear Aaron Rodgers? C’mon, Doc. Rub some dirt on the QB’s collarbone and let him play.

What’s wrong with Clay Matthews? The team’s second highest paid player can’t win a one-on-one matchup to save his life right now. He showed some burst when he rushed from the middle linebacker slot on Sunday. Perhaps that will get him going.

Who made this week’s Packers Stock report? That’s the most important question of them all. Let’s find out:

Rising

Matt Flynn
I was convinced that it was Tolzien Time at halftime on Sunday. Flynn’s release is so slow and everything he does seems to be a half-second behind where it needs to be. I thought McCarthy might give Tolzien and his stronger arm with a quicker trigger another shot after the first half debacle, but he stuck with Flynn, changed the gameplan around, and pulled out a victory.

Eddie Lacy
Lacy might not be able to run away from defenders, but he makes defenders want to run away from him with how hard and physical he runs.

12

December

Packers GM Ted Thompson is in a Slump

Maybe the shades are one way Packers GM Ted Thompson is trying to snap out of his slump

If Packers general manager Ted Thompson was a baseball player, he’d pull up his socks higher, hop over the foul line whenever he ran onto the field, put his hat on backwards, take four warm-up swings before each at-bat instead of three — anything to help change his luck and snap him out of this nasty slump.

Slumps are a combination of human ineptitude and a streak of poor luck. Good players eventually snap out of them, but every now and then, a long, nasty, confidence-killing slump can wreck a once promising career.

Thompson will snap out of the rut he’s currently in. It’s been a rough one, though, marked by a slew of injuries, questionable draft decisions and ill-timed contract extensions. Here’s who and what Thompson can blame for his slump

Himself
Thompson did nothing to upgrade the safety and backup quarterback position this offseason, both obvious positions of need. Instead of drafting a safety or dipping into free agency, Thompson stuck with his current players and the results have been dismal. It got so bad that Thompson cut Jerron McMillian last week, a fourth-round pick  a season ago.

As far as backup quarterback, I usually don’t get all wound up about that position because, in my opinion, if Rodgers goes down for an extended stretch, the Packers are screwed. Well, Rodgers went down and the Packers fell flat on their face. Where I fault Thompson here is for not recognizing just how bad B.J. Coleman and Graham Harrell were. The time to cut bait with both of them was the offseason, not training camp after all the other decent backup QBs were off the market and it was too late to draft another one.

The football Gods
I know every team deals with injuries, but what the Packers go through every season is ridiculous. It’d be easy to pick at Thompson’s recent draft classes coming up short, but it’s hard because most of the players have been injured.

Thompson has drafted 36 players since 2010. Of that group, 18 have suffered significant injuries at some point during their career. That list of 18 includes guys like Bryan Bulaga, Nick Perry, Derek Sherrod, Randall Cobb, Casey Hayward, and Jerel Worthy.