Green Bay Packers rest on bye weekend before staring on finishing stretch of season
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Matt LaFleur won the NFC North in each of his first two seasons as Green Bay Packers coach, and he’s well on his way to making it 3-for-3.
However, in a city known for championships, division titles aren’t celebrated with commemorative banners.
Super Bowls are what matter.
The next step for LaFleur is to lead the Packers to their first title since the 2010 season. The uncertainty surrounding quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ future only adds to the sense of urgency.
Coming off back-to-back 13-3 seasons and appearances in the NFC championship game, the Packers are 9-3 at the bye.
While the records are similar, this is a different team. Last year’s club led the NFL with 31.8 points per game and was third with an average scoring differential of plus-8.8 points.
This team hasn’t been anywhere near as dominant, but LaFleur likes its mental toughness and how it could translate.
“I think every team’s a little bit different,” he said, “but, in terms of some of the adversity and showing the resiliency to be able to perform against some really good teams, it has been fun to watch these guys grow together, grow as a team, come closer together, more united.”
The Packers leaned on their star players to win in 2019 and 2020. And they’ve done that again, to some extent, with Rodgers ranking second in passer rating and Davante Adams ranking second in receiving yards.
But they’ve gotten little in contributions from 2020 All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (zero games because of last season’s ACL tear), cornerback Jaire Alexander (out eight games with a shoulder injury) and 2020 Pro Bowl outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (not played since the opener for back surgery).
Helping pick up the slack have been an unlikely assortment of players. Outside linebacker Rashan Gary, the 12th pick of the 2019 draft, and running back AJ Dillon, a second-round pick in 2020, are rising stars.
Veteran inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, who was signed in June, and cornerback Rasul Douglas, who was signed off Arizona’s practice squad in October and contributed pivotal interceptions against the Cardinals and Rams, have been anchors on a surprising defense.