When the announcers last Sunday relayed that Aaron Rodgers had been injured my first reaction was, "Oh, ok, well he'll be back soon." which is exactly the level of comfort most Green bay fans have had for the past, oh, decade or so. After the game it sort of hit me that Rogers was not a lock to start next week. It had always been a given that faithful number four would be under center come gametime, but now I am starting to feel the pain of those who haven't had an ironman quarterback for the past 16 seasons.
Rodgers is not the only problem, I can take issue with almost every aspect of this Packers team at the moment. And I will.
Not only is starting without Rodgers a huge unknown; the crutch with which this team might be propped up, the defense, is even worse off. Cullen Jenkins is out for year (a huge loss) and with no Al Harris or Atari Bigby, the secondary is anchored by the quasi-injured and quasi-aged, albiet talented, Charles Woodson. Nick Barnett needs to step up his level of play and become a force in the middle of the field as AJ Hawk may be playing hurt or not at all. The young defensive replacements show promise, but tend make big mistakes in coverage that end up allowing opposing QBs to look downfield and move the ball far too easily against this once stingy D. Aaron Kampmen and pass-rush specialist KGB also need to make themselves heard, though they have offered solid play along with Johhny Jolly (who has just been flowing to the ball) and Brady Poppinga. The defensive front took a hit losing Jenkins and will have to be able to get pressure with a four man rush since the secondary will need all the help it can get. If the Packers are to win this game it will be the defense that wins it.
Aaron Rodgers might be able to play through pain, but the Packers are lucky to have a weaker opponent than last week. If he does start and can put up some first half points and the defense is holding up I would consider bringing in Flynn so Rodgers can minimize potential damage or re-injury (especially with their upcoming schedule). The offensive line seems to be so hit or miss. It is imperitive that they bring their top game and keep Rodgers from getting knocked aroun too much. If he has no time to throw and is getting hit I don't see the Packer's offense doing anything for them this week.
And finally, Ryan Grant. The injury to Rodgers would not be anywhere near as severe if Grant had shown any signs of life so far this season, but it looks like he's weighed down by that fat contract. The slow start has been attributed to his hamstring injury and missing parts of camp, but this guy is getting paid to produce. If Grant does not start building some momentum in this game then the one aspect that might save an Aaron Rodgers-less offense is lost. Grant has game changing ability, it has been documented, but he needs to start playing to his potential especially when the #1 QB is down.
My confidence in this team and in Rodgers was high after the first couple games. It would have been nice to win at Dallas, but I don't believe that anyone expected the Pack to. Losing to Tampa Bay with the way defense generated turnovers was unacceptable. Mistakes happen and games can be lost or won on a single play, but it is more than likely the outcome of bad plays versus good ones. And Green Bay made some bad plays in the loss (along with some help from the striped ones, but everyone has to take that sometimes). This week's game in Atlanta is a huge one for the Packers, it could be where the season turns downhill, or it could be the rebound we need heading into a tough stretch at Seattle and at Tenneesee with Indy at home in between. All these are winnable games, but they will take a huge effort by this young team. The Bears have a soft run coming up with away games at Detroit and Atlanta and then back-to-back home games against the other half of the NFC North which could give them a boost in divisional record and sole posession of first place if the Packers cannot dispatch their tougher opponents during the same stretch.
This is a time for worry, but also a time for hope in Green Bay. The next couple games have the potential to shape the rest of the season and let's hope they play like it.