Seneca Wallace (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports)
With a healthy Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers were able to go 5-2 without Randall Cobb, James Jones, and Jermichael Finley, three of Rodgers’ top receiving targets, and without predominately the team’s best defensive player, Clay Matthews. Now, the Packers need to return the favor to number 12 after he suffered a broken left collarbone Monday night against the Chicago Bears. The injury could sideline Rodgers anywhere from three weeks to the rest of the season. Hopefully, he’s only hurt for three weeks and could return for the stretch run of the season. Whatever the duration of his injury is, the Packers can’t afford to lose much ground in the NFC North until he returns.
The first key is quarterback Seneca Wallace. Head coach Mike McCarthy tabbed Wallace as Rodgers’ replacement for this week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. First things first; Wallace is not expected to play at the level that Rodgers has played this season. Wallace will be asked to manage the game. He won’t be asked to throw for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns each game. If he can break 200 passing yards, the Packers will be in contention. Just look at what Alex Smith has done in Kansas City. Smith hasn’t been putting up the monster numbers, but he doesn’t turn the ball over, which is why the Chiefs are the last unbeaten team in the NFL. Wallace needs to protect the football and rely on the Packers’ new found rushing attack to give the team a chance at victory.
Speaking of that running game, the fate of the Packers season might hinge on the legs of rookie Eddie Lacy. Since week 5, Lacy has had the most rushing yards by any running back, including his 150 yard performance against the Bears. As a team, the Packers rushed for 199 yards on Monday night, an effort that will be needed in Rodgers’ absence.
The Packers defense will also by key until Rodgers comes back. Three of the next four weeks, the defense will face quarterbacks Nick Foles, Eli Manning, and Matthew Stafford, all of whom have shown they are capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Last week, Foles tied an NFL record with seven passing touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders. Packer’s fans know all too well how good Manning can be. Manning and his New York Giants have knocked the Packers out of the playoffs twice, both of which resulted in the Giants winning the Super Bowl. The most dangerous of the trio might be Stafford. In his last game against the Dallas Cowboys, Stafford threw for 488 yards, 329 of them going to Calvin Johnson in a Detroit Lions win. Johnson was inactive in the first meeting between the Packers and Lions, so he will be a major emphasis come Thanksgiving Day.
In my opinion, the Packers need to win two of these next three games while Rodgers is out. If he returns after three weeks and the Packers only lost one game while he was gone, the rest of the NFL better watch out. The key is to minimize the damage of being without Rodgers. Only losing one game will do just that. Let’s just hope Rodgers has a speedy recovery and is able to continue playing this season.