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December will decide; November is passage

Aaron Rodgers injury takes us from heights to depths


David from Madison, WI

Just hearing the tone of the questions asked by the reporters to Seneca Wallace, it seemed so dang morose. Vic, what are some similar situations in the NFL you've seen, where teams have done better than expected after losing a key piece? I'm just glad Aaron's injury isn't a season-ending one.

The most dramatic example is from 1976. The Steelers lost Terry Bradshaw five games into the season and a rookie quarterback named Mike Kruczek won seven in a row, including a dramatic win in the snow in Cincinnati, in one of the best and most memorable games I've ever covered. Of course, Kruczek had the benefit of a great defense. Three of his seven wins were shutouts and three others included a total of 12 points allowed. Those were different days and they're not to be compared to today's game. Back then, you could win with defense and a strong running game; you could hide the quarterback. You can't hide the quarterback today, so this is not a similar situation. The 1989 Giants won the Super Bowl with Jeff Hostetler at quarterback, after Phil Simms was injured late in the season, but there was no salary cap back then so I don't think that's a similar situation, either. In recent years, the Packers won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season when they had to play without Aaron Rodgers for a couple of games late in the season, and the Steelers won the Super Bowl in the 2005 and 2008 seasons, despite having to replace Ben Roethlisberger for a handful of games. In other words, it can be done.

Jon from West Lafayette, IN

What does McCarthy mean by a week-to-week mindset?

He's trying to avoid trapping himself with his own words. Injury reports are issued weekly, so make it week to week. If he says Rodgers will be out three weeks and two weeks from now Rodgers is ready to play, then Mike McCarthy will be asked a battery of questions he doesn't want to have to answer: Was he misdiagnosed? Is he risking further injury? Did his replacement play so poorly that you're rushing Rodgers back? There's nothing to be gained by forecasting recovery beyond what you know to be true. In the old days, it wasn't a problem, but we weren't consumed as we are today by the need for injury information.

Scotty from Chicago, IL

Vic, after three weeks, it was questionable if we would make the playoffs. After seven weeks, it looked like we would get a high seed in the playoffs. Now, it looks like we are back to maybe not making the playoffs. Keep the faith, gang. We're right in the hunt.

My inbox is a place of great emotional swings. If I allowed, it would take me from the heights of optimism, to the depths of despair. I can go back to the emails I received just prior to Rodgers' injury and everything in the world is wonderful. I got a couple of emails asking me if the Packers could win out and get homefield for the playoffs. Minutes after Rodgers was injured, it's as though the world had come to an end. "There went 'The Man,'" Brad from Fort Collins, Colo., wrote. Maybe that's the best part of football; it lets us know we're alive by taxing our emotions. Here are the facts: We're only halfway through this season. There will be more wins, more losses and more injuries, and the big picture will change with each win, each loss and each injury. All we can do is watch.

Ben from Fox Point, WI

Is there a deadline sometime during the season when the players on PUP have to either be on the active 53 or be put on IR?

Starting the day after the conclusion of the sixth regular season weekend (Oct. 15) and continuing through the day after the conclusion of the 11th regular season weekend (Nov. 19), players on R/PUP are permitted to begin practicing for a period not to exceed 21 calendar days. Teams are permitted to restore such players to their active roster at any time during the 21-day practice period or prior to 4 p.m. New York time, on the day after the conclusion of the 21-day period.

Dan from Deerfield, IL

Players, not plays? Status: fourth and inches. Players: Forte and Jennings meet about three yards in the backfield. Jennings tackle gives Packers the ball on Chicago's 30-yard line. It seemed that Trestman called the wrong play and Capers called the correct play.

Yeah, terrible play. You have to make allowance for missed tackles by adjusting your scheme. That should've been a halftime adjustment, either that or Coach Capers should've vaulted out of the press box and landed on Forte before he got the first down. Either way, it's Coach Capers' fault.

Zane from Midlothian, VA

What do you expect from Seneca Wallace against the Eagles?

I expect him to play as a veteran quarterback would play. I expect him to use his mobility to avoid the rush, get the rid of the ball quickly and decisively, make adjustments at the line of scrimmage, find the open receiver and deliver the ball on time and accurately. I'm not going to tell you he has the strongest arm I've ever seen, but he knows how to play the position and if he gets the help from his teammates that's expected, he can win.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

Vic, would you agree the next two or three weeks could potentially make or break the Packers season?

I would not agree. Anybody that reads this column knows how I feel about December. When the December bell rings, it'll be time to survey the landscape and make it crystal clear as to what this team has to do to achieve its goal. The Packers can help or hurt themselves between now and December, but one way or another, they will be in the hunt when the Falcons come to Lambeau Field and what the Packers do in December and thereafter will define their season, just as it has in previous seasons. I love drama, but I don't like faking it. December is on the way. November is the gatekeeper.

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