Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone during the first quarter of Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears. This devastating injury puts the Packers in a "week-to-week mindset," according to a statement made by head coach Mike McCarthy via Packers.com.
Said McCarthy,"How long? We don’t have our hands around the timeline yet. I know Aaron is very optimistic and he’ll do everything he can to get back in a timely fashion."
The uncertain timeline of Rodgers' absence from the Packers' starting lineup can bring about tremendous ripple effects—not only for Green Bay, but for the NFC North as a whole.
Currently, three of the NFC North's teams are very much alive in the 2013 playoff race:
|NFC North Standings Through Week 9|
This is an extremely close race for the NFC North crown, and it is a very inopportune time for one of the NFL's best quarterbacks to find himself sidelined due to injury.
First and foremost, the Packers need to find a way to win without Rodgers at the helm. McCarthy is already preparing backup quarterback Seneca Wallace to take over the position:
I’m preparing Seneca to be the starter, that’s the way our game planning has gone. But let’s not kid ourselves. If [Rodgers] walked into your office and asked for the ball on Saturday, what would you do? So we’ll just see what happens.
McCarthy's optimism of an early Rodgers' return is certainly warranted; however, the chances of his star quarterback returning anytime soon seem slim.
Going forward, Green Bay must provide Wallace every possible chance to find success in its offense. This is not as difficult of a situation as many would think. Wallace showed signs of being a capable game manager against the Bears in Week 9.
Wallace completed 11 of his 19 passing attempts for 114 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 53.4. Those are not the most impressive of numbers; however, he had very little time to prepare with the first-team offense for the contest.
This week, Wallace will have stronger chemistry with the rest of his offensive weapons and should become more reliable as a passer. After all, he will not be asked to do too much, as Green Bay has recently found a very explosive running game led by rookie running back Eddie Lacy.
Lacy was phenomenal on Monday, as he rushed 22 times for 150 yards—an impressive average of 6.8 yards per carry—and one score. Even complementary running back James Starks played well with six carries for 40 yards and a score.
Both backs proved to be game-changing assets to the Packers offense. Lacy and Starks each had long runs of 56 and 32 yards, respectively. Such a dynamic running game can be the greatest asset to a quarterback with limited starting experience on a particular offense.
Not only will a viable rushing attack help Wallace going forward, but he also finds himself in a great position in Green Bay's West Coast offense.
The Packers have flourished by using short, high-percentage passes to their dynamic receivers in space, which gives them an advantage over most secondaries.
Wallace will be able to utilize the skill sets of Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin to help him create yards after the catch. Each of these receivers are known to have big-play potential, and they can break into the open field for big gains once opposing safeties cheat forward in run support.
Simply put, this Packers offense is designed for success no matter who is under center.
If Rodgers does miss a significant amount of time—possibly in the realm of three weeks—Wallace will need to keep his team afloat. This is entirely possible when looking at the Packers' upcoming opponents:
|Packers' Next Three Opponents' Defensive Rankings|
|Week||Team||Rank vs. Run||Rank vs. Pass|
The New York Giants' ninth-overall ranking against the run is the only top-10 rated personnel unit that Wallace and the Packers are set to face over the next three weeks. If Wallace can avoid turnovers, there is no reason to believe that he cannot keep the Packers well in the race for the NFC North crown in that span.
If Rodgers can return by the Packers' Thanksgiving day game against the Detroit Lions, Green Bay will find themselves in very good shape for the remainder of the season.
Yes, the injury to Rodgers is certainly devastating to the Packers; however, the team has a solid core of talent and can provide Wallace a great chance to succeed in his absence. There should not be any unnecessary panic among the Packers or their fanbase.
Looking at the upcoming contests for Green Bay, there is no reason to believe that the Packers can not remain in the thick of things until Rodgers' return.
The injury to the Packers All-Pro quarterback will not shake things up in the NFC North as much as you may think.