The Super Bowl aspirations of the Green Bay Packers pretty much vanished when Aaron Rodgers broke his right collarbone.
The problem the Packers face is that there are only two realistic paths for NFL teams to win the Super Bowl. The first path involves a historically good defense and the second path involves an elite quarterback. The Packers do not have a historically good defense and they will not have Rodgers for the rest of the season. On the bright side, a theoretical path to Minneapolis still exists. The NFL playoffs are a crapshoot, so if you can sneak into the post-season then anything is possible. Of course, the first order of business for the Packers is to make the playoffs. This is not as far-fetched as you might think, even without Rodgers.
The Packers have been competitive in recent history without Aaron Rodgers. Fun fact! Matt Flynn holds the Packers’ record for most passing yards (480) in a single game. Another Fun Fact! Matt Flynn led the Packers on the largest comeback in franchise history.* Single game trivia aside, the Packers were competitive with Flynn filling in for an injured Rodgers. The Packers were 2-3 in such games, with 2 of those losses coming by a combined 11 points. This is a someone encouraging precedent, and also a testament to Mike McCarthy’s ability to coach a football team. It seems fairly likely that Brett Hundley can replicate the relative success of Matt Flynn.
*Lynn Dickey also led a 23-point comeback versus the Los Angeles Rams in 2013.
Like Flynn, Hundley has spent several seasons on the Packers bench behind Rodgers. During this time Hundley has been mentored by Rodgers and become familiar with the Packers system. Furthermore, in limited action Hundley has demonstrated mobility and shown flashes of excellence. To put it another way, he is a very intriguing talent. While none of this means Packers fans will be saying “Aaron who?” in three weeks, it gives a legitimate reason to believe Hundley can be an average to slightly above average quarterback for the rest of the season. This would be enough to give the Packers a chance to make the playoffs.
The reason average play from Hundley could suffice that the rest of Green Bay’s schedule is generally favorable. Their remaining opponents include the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, and Baltimore Ravens – three teams that have oscillated between dreadful and mediocre. (Correction: the Browns have not been mediocre at any point this season). After this Sunday’s home game the Packers will have their bye week, which will give them a break to finally get healthy. Given this schedule, it’s within the realm of possibility that the Packers will finish the season 5-5, which would put them at 9-7 and in the playoff race. If they can do one better and finish the season 6-4 they will probably make the playoffs.
The injury to Aaron Rodgers is nothing short of a major bummer. There has also been a litany of other injuries to overcome, which does not bode well for the rest of the season. Even so, it’s too soon to write off the Packers and devote your Sundays to raking leaves instead of watching the Packers. There is a not terrible chance that Brett Hundley will lead a playoff run, and if Rodgers is healthy by then the Packers might be Super Bowl bound after all.