Packers vs Bye: Game(less)day Preview - 2021 Week 13

The Packers have a bye this week, so instead of previewing the upcoming opponent, let's look at the big picture and preview the rest of the season.

The last time the Packers had a bye, it was too early in the year.

They started the 2020 season 4-0, then had a bye on October 11th. They went to Tampa in their first game back, jumping to a 10-0 lead before a hit on Aaron Rodgers and a David Bakhtiari injury sent the offense into a tailspin, ruining the game. In 2019, Matt LaFleur's first season as the Packers head coach, they traveled to San Francisco immediately following the bye and lost in even more embarrassing fashion.

Matt LaFleur's Packers have never won after a bye, but more importantly, they've never lost after Thanksgiving.

Something's gotta give and I think that second one is going to win out.

 

WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL

The Packers defense has exceeded every sane, rational human being's expectations this year. De'Vondre Campbell has been one of the greatest Cinderalla Stories in the history of Packers free agency and Rasul Douglas in not far behind.

They've been missing arguably their two best defenders in Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith (who happen to play the two most critical positions on defense) for most of the season and have somehow produced like a top unit in the league. If these guys return in time to shake the rust off for the playoffs, they will be a squad that can win convincingly on defense alone.

Preston Smith is having a career year in terms of impact and Rashan Gary is establishing himself as one of the most menacing rushers in the league.

On the back end, young cornerbacks are stepping up and playing great, while the best safety duo in the league backs them up and shuts down nearly all attempts at big plays.

Even the role players on the defensive line (arguably the worse unit on the team outside of special teams) have stepped up and have not been a liability.

That's a complete defense.

As the team gears up for the stretch run, I would expect these guys to simply play better as they continue to gel. Don't forget most of these guys haven't played much with each other and they're still learning a new scheme from their new defensive coordinator.

They seem primed to step up with a very basic scheme. Remember last year when the players called a meeting and basically said "Don't overcomplicate the plays, just let us go out and do our thing?" That's what Joe Barry has embraced. The scheme, by NFL standards, is relatively straightforward. The reason no team has really been able to exploit a hole in the scheme like they did in the past is because they aren't winning on scheme, they're winning on execution.

These guys are in the right spot and they don't miss tackles.

They occasionally misplay a chance at an interception, but when Jaire Alexander comes back, they will capitalize on more of those opportunities... and when Za'Darius Smith comes back, there'll be a lot more opportunities.

When this group gets healthy, they are gonna give teams fits in the playoffs.

The bye is gonna help them get healthy.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

Aaron Rodgers has just started to play to form and the results have been scary for opposing defenses.

The running duo of Aaron Jones is AJ Dillon might be the most talented and capable tandem in the league and they give defenses with widely different styles (plus both can work well as receivers).

Davante Adams (who can do anything), MVS (one of the best deep threats in the league), Randall Cobb (who has been an assassin on underneath routes), and Allen Lazard (a big bodied, clutch possession receiver who lays the lumber in the blocking game), form the most diverse receiver group in the league.  

Marcedes Lewis (in-line blocking), Josiah Deguara (motion blocking), and Dominique Dafney (utility man) don't flash in the box score like the receiver group, but they also have a diverse skillset and can all come up with some catches when needed. Deguara, in particular, has started to shine recently as he recovers from his ACL injury.

On the line, the Packers lost All Pro Corey Linsely to free agency, haven't had All Pro David Bakhtiari all year as he recovers from his ACL injury from last year, and have now lost Pro Bowler Elgton Jenkins. But, as a unit, they keep blocking more than good enough for this offense to function. Lucas Patrick has settled in at center, Jon Runyan has built on a promising rookie season, Billy Turner is having a career year, and Yosh Nijman has been an absolute revelation after years of development. The line, somehow, has played well without any of their star power.

This offense has it all.

Look for the Packers to really push the passing attack as the season wears on. As a group of starters, they missed training camp and the preseason and haven't had a lot of practice recently because of injuries. The run game is humming, and they can lean on that any time they need to, but the passing game needs more work to establish and maintain rhythm and timing to hit on all cylinders in the playoffs.

 

OTHER NOTES

Look at the starting lineup and add Bakhtiari, Jaire, and Za'Darius - this is a team with no exploitable weakness. The defense can stop anything and the offense can score in any number of ways. Those are signs of a championship team.

Special teams has a great punter and a kicker with a history of success (let's be positive).

Matt LaFleur and Joe Barry are the best head coach - defensive coordinator combinations the Packers have had in quite some time.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Saints game was basically a 4th week of preseason. Since then, the Packers two losses have been a very close game on the road against a Super Bowl contender while missing Aaron Rodgers and a road division game where they missed a field goal, dropped 6 interceptions, and lost on a last second field goal.

Both of those scenarios are unlikely to play out again, so I think it's unlikely that the Packers lose again.

This team has overcome incredible odds (literally, they're 10-2 against the spread) in winning so much despite so many injuries to so many key players. Role players have stepped up, young players have developed, and veterans have played at their highest levels. Pretty much every player on defense is having a career year and the Packers offense is one of the most balanced and diverse attacks in the league. Yes, special teams is an unmitigated disaster, but this team, on the whole, is spectacular.

A signature win on the road on a short week against Arizona, while missing their top 3 receivers, top 2 cornerbacks, best offensive lineman, and best edge rusher (and lost their starting tight end during the game) shows that this team has the potential to win no matter what.

I think they will.

Prediction: Packers finish the season 14-3 and win the Super Bowl.

 

 

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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6 points

Comments (34)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Bearmeat's picture

December 05, 2021 at 07:42 am

Yeah. This is a pretty darn rosy take. “No discernible weaknesses?” OK. Hold that bus up. This team is a talented team, but it certainly has weaknesses. It’s beat to hell, and may not get healthier. There is very little from the downfield passing game. The kicking game is in shambles, as is the return game. And the defense has given up a bunch of 40+ yard plays.

It’s an excellent team. A team that can win it all. Definitely. But it certainly has weaknesses and certainly can be beat. The team has to not choke in January - something that the ARod and BLF led Packers have specialized in over the years. 2 titles in 30 years despite having 9 legit shots.

Pretty bad odds. You’ll forgive me if I’m not confident yet.

8 points
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Slim11's picture

December 05, 2021 at 08:20 am

"The kicking game is in shambles..."

Not there yet but it's close. About the same time the Packers started their SB drought (1969ish), the kicking game was in a shambles. In addition to no stability at QB, there was no reliable kicker on the roster.

In 1968, six converted FGs in the right place would turn a 6-7-1 record into 10-4. In 1969, the Packers made five or six FGs in 14 games. That is a kicking game in shambles.

Now, the team is dealing with a slump by Mason Crosby. At the same time, they changed holders just before the beginning of the regular season and the LS mid-season. Those are two big changes which greatly contribute to the current problems. In the Rams game, Crosby was 3/4 on FGs, so I hope his trend is reversing. He's hooking a little to the left consistently from what I see. That is correctable.

"2 titles in 30 years despite having 9 legit shots." I couldn't agree more. A lot of those shots were during the McCarthy years.

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Bearmeat's picture

December 05, 2021 at 10:28 am

Sherman in 03 and Holmgren in 97. But yes, 07, 09, 11, 14 all on MM.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 05, 2021 at 03:40 pm

03….Favre throws away a trip to the Championship game in overtime.
07.Favre throws away a trip to the Super Bowl in overtime.
09….Injuries devastated our secondary.
11….Following the tragic death of Philbins son, we went out and committed 4 turnovers.
14….That’s on Bostick. He was told “do not attempt to field the onside kick. “. And then he lined up and cost us game.

I don’t see how any of these are on McCarthy, or Rodgers, either

3 points
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barutanseijin's picture

December 05, 2021 at 08:42 pm

He did write "a lot" rather than "all"

But while we're at it:

'07: 4th & 26?

'11: Rodgers is the second best QB on the field and it wasn't really close. That team had a wet-paper towel D & needed Rodgers to do his MVP thing rather than turn the ball over twice. Coughlin outcoaches McCarthy once again.

'14: Rodgers again has a poor game in a big playoff game with a ~55 rating & a couple INTs. The team played not to lose by kicking FGs, telling Morgan Burnett to slide after INT and so on. That's on McCarthy.

Rodgers and McCarthy are still working off the bad football karma they earned in that Seattle game.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 05, 2021 at 09:42 pm

4th and 26 was in 03. Despite that play, the Packers had the ball and a chance to win.

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relleum61's picture

December 06, 2021 at 07:25 pm

4th & 26 was before '07 --maybe '03? '07 was the Farve "I am frozen and I wish we were in a dome" game.

'14 was the Rodgers calf game. If Rodgers is healthy, we win that game. I do put the rest of the game on McCarthy for coaching not to win. Burnett sliding with at least 20 open field yards in front of him still blows my mind to this day. If only Peppers yelled "run Morgan run! instead of signaling for him to slide. :(

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

December 05, 2021 at 10:35 am

I forgive you

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croatpackfan's picture

December 05, 2021 at 07:49 am

Bold prediction. Hmmm, bold? It is way beyond bold.

I LOL on your comment about Crosby. But I accept it. Lets be positive.

Only "fear" I have is that we all started to look way ahead. I trully believe in MFL mantra (not only his) that Packers are with record 0:0 before any game.

Nice overview, anyhow...

3 points
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jont's picture

December 05, 2021 at 08:01 am

I saw an article the other day that had 12 as the favorite for another MVP award. Frankly, it surprised me. He is playing well but the numbers aren't there-- not MVP numbers anyway.
It's early and no other player is clearly on top, but maybe I'm just not appreciating how well he's doing.

4 points
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Coldworld's picture

December 05, 2021 at 12:47 pm

Which QB is really playing to that kind of level this year though?

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jurp's picture

December 05, 2021 at 02:00 pm

MVP may not go to a QB this year - that would be a nice change. Not sure who get it, though, as I don't watch enough games.

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NoNonsense's picture

December 05, 2021 at 11:30 pm

Colts RB Johnathan Taylor maybe, he's having a very good year.

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dobber's picture

December 06, 2021 at 08:40 am

It's hard to deny a dominant runner on a team that you know if going to run the ball. I think this was why Henry had the inside track until he got hurt...we're seeing just how much that offense needed him--although, to be fair, the Titans have had a litany of issues in their WR and OL since then, too.

1 points
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dobber's picture

December 06, 2021 at 08:38 am

One or two of these contending QB will get hot, yet. This stretch run will probably dictate the MVP. Last year, ARod seemed to be the favorite from just prior to midseason on and had it sewn up by about week 14. I don't think that's true of any candidate this year.

If I had to guess, I'd say Brady is the guy right now....I think I just threw up a little...

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BruceIrons's picture

December 07, 2021 at 11:05 am

I feel the same. I think Rodgers has been great and he's doing things not many other quarterbacks do, but I haven't felt like this has been an MVP campaign.

It has, however, been a year that feels like it could legit end with a Lombardi.

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Lphill's picture

December 05, 2021 at 08:22 am

The Bucs and Cardinals have one maybe difficult game left , the Bucs have the bills and the cards the colts , packers may not pass the cards , maybe the 2 seed .

4 points
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jurp's picture

December 05, 2021 at 08:38 am

Let's be optimistic that the Bears do us a favor today before being creamed by us next week.

5 points
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Johnblood27's picture

December 05, 2021 at 08:49 am

duh bares might as well leave it all out on the field today and go for broke to win that game.

They will have zero chance of winning on the road, in prime time, vs the GBP next week.

I predict another "run the table" scenario, this time with a happy ending.

3 points
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SanLobo's picture

December 05, 2021 at 04:21 pm

No help from the Bears, but the Lions cane through for us today!

3 points
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barutanseijin's picture

December 05, 2021 at 08:44 pm

The Vikings are irrelevant, but the result of their game in Detroit was certainly amusing.

4 points
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dobber's picture

December 06, 2021 at 08:49 am

Maybe in the division, but they're lining up to be the first-round opponent of the #2 seed...which, as it stands, is the Packers.

I agree: being in a Detroit market, we got this game. This game drew the worst broadcast team and there were, what, 12 fans there? It was almost like watching a 2020 game again. Thanks to Zim for screwing the pooch, though. After that game, I'm waiting for the Vikings fans to shift their crowing against the refs from "the Packers always get the calls" and "the league loves the Packers" to the Lions...even though there were a couple spots where the Lions got shafted, too. At some points the Vikes fans will recognize that what they perceive as the refs being against them is really that they have iffy and undisciplined talent.

I don't think we'll be hearing from ImaPayne for a couple days...

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jurp's picture

December 06, 2021 at 03:47 pm

I went to DailyNorseman after the game. It was as could be expected - Zim sucks, the coaches suck, and the refs suck. The "fans" there really seem to hate their team. My question to them would be: "Why bother? There are plenty of other more productive ways to spend your time than watching a team you love/hate each week." Masochists, all of them.

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Crankbait's picture

December 05, 2021 at 07:47 pm

The worst thing that could happen to the Packers is if they get a bye in the playoffs.
Rogers needs to stay in a rhythm and that week off will screw it up.

5 points
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croatpackfan's picture

December 06, 2021 at 07:52 am

Good point! I told that several week ago. 2011 & 2020 are the best indicators...

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dobber's picture

December 06, 2021 at 08:24 am

Didn't seem to screw them up last year. I seem to remember them coming off the bye and running the Rams out of town on a rail...

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dobber's picture

December 06, 2021 at 08:37 am

AZ is getting healthy on offense at the right time. They got Murray and Hopkins (who is the key to that offense) back, but I see it differently: they've got 3 games against likely playoff teams (Rams, Doughboys, Colts) and one against Seattle, who isn't an easy out, as they showed yesterday. They just happen to have 3 of them at home. Don't be surprised if they drop 2 more, yet, though.

I agree on the Bucs: they've got a much easier road, but the Packers don't need to catch them, just keep pace. I don't think that Buffalo game lines up well for them.

I think the Packers can still lose 1 game and be in the running for the 1 seed.

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BruceIrons's picture

December 07, 2021 at 11:06 am

There's not a game left where I don't think I'll pick against the Packers.

If they win out, they just need the Cardinals to drop one game.

I'm staying optimistic.

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Since'61's picture

December 05, 2021 at 10:25 am

The Packers have a very solid team with good depth. However I believe that to reach the SB we need Bak and Alexander to return from their injuries at a minimum. Preferably we can get Myers back as well prior to the playoffs. I would like to have Z back as well but our defense has proven they can be effective without him. Alexander is the #1 priority for defense.

The better teams and coaches who we will face in the playoffs will find ways to expose our OL and our defense without Bak and Alexander at least.

Bak would solidify our OL against good pass rushing teams like the Bucs. We need Alexander’s experience to cover our opponents #1 WRs. We’ve seen Stokes and Sullivan exposed over the last 2 weeks. And we all know what the Bucs did to King last season.

Yes we will reach the playoffs. But seeding will be important and if we don’t have our players back the #1 seed becomes even more critical.

For now I prefer to take one game at a time and I hope that MLF and the Packers maintain that focus as well. GPG!
Thanks, Since ‘61

5 points
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Oppy's picture

December 06, 2021 at 09:48 am

It's really unfortunate that Jenkins was lost, not only because of the impact his loss of talent on the line presents, but also because it lessens the impact of getting David Bakhtiari back on the field.

WIth our depth at true tackle position doing an admirable job as of late, having Bakh back in the line up doesn't shift anyone else back into the left guard position, which means that we won't be shifting anyone into the right guard position, either.

Had Elton Jenkins still remained healthy, Bakh's return would have effectively returned Jenkins to LG, and shuffled the line and moved Newman back to the bench, effectively improving three positions across the line.. As it sits now, Bakh's return will simply send Yosh Nijman to the bench, and that's it, since Yosh is a pure Tackle and most likely will not be asked to play guard.

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relleum61's picture

December 06, 2021 at 07:29 pm

In theory, one could put Yosh at right tackle, move Turner to right guard and hope that Meyers returns to play center...in theory.

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Crankbait's picture

December 05, 2021 at 08:24 pm

Hats off to our new defensive coordinator ...do not know how he's doing it but he is keeping what's left of our defense playing tough and hungry and tackling much better than ever.
Our weakness Is the deep ball but if the coaching staff keeps King off the field when Alexander gets back our Super Bowl defense will be complete.
On the offense, all we need is to tie Aaron Rodgers down in a chair , cut his hair and shave off his beard , get Bach back and the SB is ours.

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BruceIrons's picture

December 07, 2021 at 11:08 am

Joe Barry has been phenomenal.

The deep ball has been an issue for the Packers at times, but the promising thing is that it usually isn't because of blown coverage - the other team is just making good plays.

Sometimes the other guys will make plays, but if you can limit mistakes, you're in really good shape.

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Roadrunner23's picture

December 06, 2021 at 07:36 am

Ok Bruce I’m in 😄👍

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