The NFC Playoff Picture is Still Wide Open for Green Bay

Written by: Miles Jordan

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Jordan Love Throws a Pass

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 29-22 on Thanksgiving Day, resulting in Detroit's third loss of the season.

Green Bay's quarterback Jordan Love played a tremendous game, completing 22/32 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns. The most significant difference between games that the Packers have won and lost has been turnovers from their quarterback. In four out of the Packers' five wins, Love has not thrown an interception and only threw one interception in their Week 3 win against the New Orleans Saints.

Green Bay's win keeps them in contention for the NFC playoff picture. They are currently in the bubble and need to win out to have a chance to play in the postseason. What is most impressive about the Packers against a then 8-2 Detroit team is their offensive output, once again without the support of running back Aaron Jones.

Aaron Jones

Jones left the Packers' Week 11 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers with just over three minutes remaining in the first half after injuring his knee on a two-yard rush. The Packers' injury report classified Jones' injury as an MCL sprain and listed it as week-to-week. Green Bay has played a significant amount of their season without their Pro Bowl running back, leaving the RB1 position in the hand of A.J. Dillion. Dillon recorded 14 carries for 43 yards and three receptions for 38 yards. Without Jones in the backfield, Green Bay has had to rely heavily on their passing game throughout the season, which has cost them the opportunity to win games in multiple scenarios.

In five of the six losses Green Bay has accumulated, Love has thrown at least one interception, and three of those interceptions occurred in one-possession losses. Turnovers in one-possession games are the difference between finishing the game with another win added to your record or not, and in the past, when the pressure was on, Love was unable to deliver.

In Week 5 against the Las Vegas Raiders, Love threw a 35-yard pass to the endzone on third down and ten intended for Christian Watson with 51 seconds left in the game. What would have been a game-winning touchdown to his WR1 ended up being a game-sealing interception by Raiders cornerback Amik Robertson.

In Week 7, following the Packers BYE week in Week 6, the Packers took on the Denver Broncos, where Love threw for an underwhelming 180 and the game-sealing interception with 1:51 remaining in the fourth quarter. Love chucked a deep pass downfield to Samori Toure into double coverage, which allowed Broncos' safety P.J. Locke to jump in front of the pass and seal the game for Denver.

And in Green Bay's Week 10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, with three seconds left in the game, Love once again targeted Christian Watson, but once again, their opponent ended up taking possession of the football. Steelers safety Damontae Kazee was able to read Love and stepped in front of Watson to intercept Love's 16-yard pass.

Without these late-game mistakes by Love, the Packers' record could be 8-3, which would tie them for first place in the NFC North, rather than 5-6. If the Packers are to make the playoffs, Love needs to limit his turnovers since the more opportunities given to Green Bay's opponents, the more likely they will put points on the board. Aaron Jones needs to recover and be fully healthy if Green Bay wants a chance to not only enter the postseason but advance further than they have been able to in the past four seasons.

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The Packers take on the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, on Dec. 3 at Lambeau Field. As the temperature begins to drop in the Frozen Tundra, Packers fans hope their home-field advantage will help contribute to a win.