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Can the Packers keep their postseason hopes alive until Aaron Rodgers returns?

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He could be activated as soon as Week 15, just in time to make the Packers dangerous down the stretch.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers picked up an overtime win on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 26-20. It kept them in the playoff race with a 6-6 record, despite losing two consecutive games prior.

Brett Hundley wasn’t exactly impressive in the win. He completed 13 of 22 passes for just 84 yards, and one interception. Luckily for the Packers they got good production on the ground from Jamaal Williams who had 21 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Their biggest surprise came in overtime, when Aaron Jones got his first carry of the game. He had a 20-yard touchdown that ended with him doing a Superman dive into the end zone to win the game.

The Packers still aren’t in a Wild Card spot. However, they still have an outside chance to secure one, especially if Aaron Rodgers, who broke his collarbone back on October 15 against the Vikings, gets back into the lineup when he’s eligible to return from injured reserve in Week 15.

So let’s take a look at the Packers, and what they need to get done in order to make their playoff dreams a reality.

They don’t do anything particularly well on offense or defense.

This doesn’t sit well with the Packers. Brett Hundley has had one truly good game since taking over for Rodgers. It came in one of the tougher games he’s played in, against the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football.

He completed 65 percent of his passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the close loss. The Packers were hoping that could translate into this week, but that wasn’t nearly the case.

As far as the running game goes, it seems for the past two seasons they’ve been just going week by week hoping things work. And for the most part, it feels like things have. They’ve had injuries to players like Eddie Lacy, Ty Montgomery, and others the past two years, but they always seem to manage to find a player to step into the role.

Earlier this season, it was Aaron Jones. In four games getting the bulk of the carries, he had two games of at least 125 yards and a touchdown.

This past week, it was the rookie Jamaal Williams. Williams hadn’t really seen any significant action until Week 10 against the Bears, but didn’t put together a performance that would blow you away until this past Sunday against the Bucs.

As long as the Packers keep finding these guys to plug in at running back, that’ll work. But it’s by no means a staple of theirs. However, it has to be a strength as long as Aaron Rodgers will be out — assuming Hundley doesn’t show improvement.

Defensively, the Packers don’t strike fear into opposing offenses, but they’re decent about not letting teams score too many points. They’ve been average in points given up this season going into Sunday’s game, surrendering an average of 23.4 a game.

Whenever Aaron Rodgers comes back, that seems like just good enough for him to work with.

Their remaining schedule isn’t easy, but that’s OK.

OK, the next one up isn’t one they should really have to worry about. The hardest part about it is that it’s a road game — but it’s against the Browns. Unless DeShone Kizer has the game of his life, there’s not a whole lot to worry about there.

After that, the Packers get to travel to 8-4 Carolina, who is coming off of a loss to the 9-3 Saints. The Panthers have been anchored by one of the best defenses in the NFL this season, especially when it comes to rushing. Prior to their loss to the Saints, they had won five-consecutive games.

After that, they’ll welcome the Vikings to Lambeau Field, who have now won eight-consecutive games, their most recent against the Falcons. With their stout defense and an offense that can occasionally light things up, there’s not a game they can’t win.

The final game of the season would be a trip to Detroit, who is also still in the mix currently at 6-6. The Lions have looked great at times this season, but haven’t won games against good teams — minus their Week 4 win against the Vikings.

Green Bay’s bid for a postseason spot will also depend on the other teams vying for Wild Cards, including the Falcons, Lions and Seahawks.

With Brett Hundley under center, that schedule seems bad minus the Browns game. However, if things go as planned...

They just have to get to Week 15.

That’s when they expect Aaron Rodgers to be back. Rodgers resumed practicing on Saturday, for the first time since his injury.

Clay Matthews is not a doctor, but it’d be hard for Packers fans not to be encouraged by his diagnosis of Rodgers’ status last week.

"I think we probably should have kept him off IR,” Matthews said after watching Rodgers practice.

"The way he's coming along, some of the balls he's throwing, accuracy-wise, everything a quarterback has to do is pretty remarkable.”

After being activated, he can play as soon as Week 15 against the Panthers. That would be the ideal timing for the Packers, who get to play the Browns in Week 14. Assuming that goes the way the previous 12 games have gone for Cleveland, that’s a win for the Packers no matter who is playing quarterback.

There’s no guarantee he’ll be ready to play when he’s eligible to return. Practicing well is one thing. Playing in a real game is another.

If Rodgers isn’t the quarterback for those remaining three games, however, asking them to win out is reasonable. But if he is, we know that he and the Packers would very well be capable of accomplishing that.

After all, he is the same quarterback who carried them from 4-6 to the NFC Championship game last season. In that six-game stretch, he completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,667 yards and 15 touchdowns with no interceptions. He was perfect.

If somebody’s going to come in and close out the season undefeated, it’s going to be Rodgers.


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