The Green Bay Packers finished the first half of the season with a 3-4-1 record. Here’s a look at how they have fared and what's ahead:
First-half rewind: Everything was set up for the Packers to go into their toughest stretch -- four road games in five weeks starting in Week 8 at the Rams -- with a near flawless record. They had three of their first four at home and seemingly winnable road games at Washington and Detroit. It had all the makings of a 5-1 or even 6-0 start heading into their Week 7 bye. But on the way to that fast start, Aaron Rodgers banged up his knee and expressed his unhappiness with the offense, all while the defense took longer than expected to adapt to new coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme. Had they been able to hold on and knock off the Rams instead of losing in the final minutes or upset Tom Brady and the Patriots this past week, the perspective at this point might be much different. Grade: Below average
MVP: Even slowed somewhat by his ailing left knee, Rodgers has produced some magical moments -- the comeback against the Bears after the injury in Week 1 and the game-tying and winning drives against the 49ers among them. By themselves, his numbers (15 touchdowns and just one interception) are what’s expected of a two-time NFL MVP, yet the offense still remains somewhat of a question mark. Part of that could be due to his completion percentage (60.6, which is on pace for the lowest of his career). Rodgers may have to continue to carry the Packers if they’re to make a run at the playoffs. The good thing is he has one of the most productive receivers, Davante Adams, on his side.
Biggest surprise: That Aaron Jones has not had the ball in his hands more. Coach Mike McCarthy messed around with a running-back-by-committee approach even after Jones came off his two-game suspension to start the season. Yes, Jones has limitations in pass protection and McCarthy wanted to keep him fresh for the long haul, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone around the league who didn’t think Jones should have played more given how effective he has been. With Ty Montgomery traded away, Jones should get the bulk of the work supplemented by some Jamaal Williams on third downs.
Hurdle to overcome: The road woes. Losses at the Redskins, Lions, Rams and Patriots have forced the Packers to play catch up away from Lambeau Field. And they still have to go to Seattle on a short week plus division games at Minnesota and Chicago in addition to the Jets. They're 3-0-1 at home and they might have to run the table there just to stay above .500 this season. If they can't, look for another offseason of major organizational change after last year's coordinator and general manager purge.