The Packers opened this week as a 10.5-point underdog to the Bills in Sunday night’s national TV game at Highmark Stadium. If the spread remains at 10 or better, it will be the first time in Aaron Rodgers’ career that he was a double-digit underdog going into any game.
It’s perfectly understandable. In fact, if you removed the name of the team and the quarterback from the statistical sheet, you might be tempted to make them an even bigger underdog against a Bills team that thrives on the national prime-time stage.
For one thing, the Packers have lost three in a row, to the Giants, Jets and Commanders. That’s after edging the Patriots in overtime at Lambeau Field. Green Bay, which won 13 games in each of the last three seasons, is 3-4 and three back of the Vikings in the NFC Central.
Rodgers, the two-time reigning league MVP, has been ordinary. He has completed 66.8% of his passes for 1,597 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Those would be decent numbers for an average quarterback, but not someone destined for Canton.
Rodgers clearly misses Davante Adams. But the great QBs win regardless of the receiving corps. Rodgers simply isn’t making the game-changing throws anymore. He’s 25th in the NFL in yards per attempt at 6.5. In the three-game losing streak, he’s averaging a measly 5.75 yards a throw, which would rank dead last over the full season.
The feeble Packer offense has been reduced to checkdowns (Capt. Checkdown, anyone?) and short throws. Rodgers didn’t convert a single third down against Washington, a first in his glorious career. The supposedly potent running back tandem of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined for 38 rushing yards against the Jets and 60 on Sunday against the Commanders.
“If we knew what the answer was right now, we wouldn’t be standing here,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “Whatever it is right now, what we’re putting out there, what I’m calling, it ain’t good enough.”
Rodgers, who said last week the Packers should simplify their offense (which seemed at odds with LaFleur), said after Sunday’s loss that he might need to do more and look to extend more plays.
Playing in Buffalo against the league’s top defense isn’t an ideal spot for a struggling quarterback looking to take more chances, but Rodgers sounds up for the challenge.
“This week, nobody’s gonna give us a chance going to Buffalo on Sunday Night Football,” Rodgers said after the loss. “It’s a chance to get exposed. Shoot, it might be the best thing for us.”
You never know in the NFL, but the odds aren’t with Rodgers and Green Bay. The Packers are 0-6 in Buffalo over the years, going back to 1979. That includes a 28-0 shutout in 1988 when the Bills scored two defensive touchdowns (by Mark Kelso and Leon Seals).
In 2014, a 10-3 Packers team came to Buffalo and lost, 21-13. Rodgers had statistically the worst game of his career. He went 17 of 42 passing for 185 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. His completion percentage (40.5) and passer rating remain the worst in any game in his career.
Is He Owned?
This week’s fantasy football finds are Carolina running backs D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, whose roles were expanded when the Panthers traded Christian McCaffrey to the Niners last week.
Hubbard, the nominal starter upon McCaffrey’s departure, rushed nine times for 63 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown, before leaving with an ankle injury in the Panthers’ 21-3 victory over the Bucs on Sunday.
Foreman, who became the lead back when Hubbard left, had 118 yards rushing on 15 carries, including a 60-yard jaunt. Foreman, who played at Texas and was a third-round pick by the Texans in 2017, had two catches for 27 yards. He rushed for 566 yards and three TDs for the Titans last year when Derrick Henry was sidelined by injury.
Hubbard, a second-year man out of Oklahoma State, is expected to be back for next Sunday’s game against Atlanta. He’s currently rostered in only 26% of ESPN leagues. Foreman is on 35 percent of ESPN fantasy rosters. Either would be worth grabbing if you need a back.
More Mahomes: The Chiefs star is now 55-15 in 70 career regular-season games. The 55 wins tie Hall of Famer Ken Stabler for the most in a QB’s first 70 starts in the Super Bowl era. Mahomes has 21,150 passing yards and 171 TDs, also records through 70 games.
The Chiefs’ Mecole Hardman became the first receiver to have two rushing touchdowns and a TD reception in the same game in the Super Bowl era. JuJu Smith-Schuster and MarquesValdez-Scantling became the first pair of KC wideouts to each go over 100 yards receiving in the same game in more than 20 years. Tyreek who?
It’s no surprise to see Mahomes and Allen rated 1-2 in the NFL in passer rating. But who would have imagined Smith would be third? Smith, who started two games over six seasons from 2015-20, has been the comeback story of the year for the Seahawks.
I’d say Brian Daboll is the frontrunner for Coach of the Year. The Giants are one of eight teams that have trailed in every game this season. They’re the only one with a winning record. Daboll’s squad is the first in NFL history to start 6-1 or better with every game decided by one possession.