5 Keys to the Packers Getting Back to the Playoffs

Looking at five keys for the Green Bay Packers to get back into the playoffs this season. 

After an offseason of big changes, the Green Bay Packers, along with the rest of the NFL, will be taking part in training camp soon.

It will be here before we know it. Then the preseason and then opening night, against the hated Chicago Bears.

Green Bay opens the season at Chicago and then home against Minnesota. Those are two games that will set the tone for the enitre season.

The Packers are going to need to win at least one but if they can't win either, then getting back to the playoffs is going to be an uphill climb.

When you think about it though, the Packers have some really nice pieces, Aaron Rodgers not included, to build around and there is no reason why this team can't contend for the postseason in 2019.

With one of the best players in the game and potentially one of the most underrated defenses in the NFL, I believe the Packers can make the playoffs and here are five keys to making it happen.

Let Aaron be Aaron

Obviously, Aaron Rodgers is the straw that stirs the drink in Green Bay. If he has an MVP caliber season, it's hard to see this team missing the playoffs for the third straight year. 

Last season, Rodgers played well, completing 62 percent of his passes for more than 4,400 yards. He also threw 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions. On paper, those numbers look great but in reality, Rodgers wasn't the player we have become accustomed to. He seem risk averse and just didn't seem to trust his receivers to make plays. He also took a lot of sacks. 

The Packers have some questions at wide receiver, but Davante Adams is still around and there is enough young talent for Rodgers to thrive. Now, it's up to new head coach Matt LaFleur to get the most out of him. 

Getting him to have fun playing football again would be a good place to start.

Unleash Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones rushed for 728 yards last season and scored eight touchdowns. He also averaged a ridiculous 5.5 yards per carry. So why was he never given 20 carries in a game? He only was given 15 carries or more on three separate occasions and while he has had some injury issues to start his career, with a new head coach, the hope is that Jones will finally be let loose.

As John Elway, Peyton Manning and even Tom Brady have shown us, there are few things better for an aging quarterback than a solid running game and in Jones, Green Bay could have a top-10 rushing offense. The offensive line is solid, especially with the addition of Billy Turner and draft pick Elgton Jenkins. It's time to let Jones do his thing and if he breaks down, so be it. Certainly, Jamaal Williams will still be a factor but it's clear that Jones is among the most talented skill guys on this offense and therefore it's also clear that he needs to touch the ball much more in 2019.

Get back to forcing turnovers

While the Packers defense wasn't necessarily bad last season, it was poor when it came to creating turnovers and in the NFL, no statistic is more relevant to winning than turnover margin.

Green Bay was even in that category last season but that was mostly because the offense was great at taking care of the ball, turning it over just 15 times. A few more interceptions wouldn't have been the end of the world and Rodgers still needs to avoid sacks, which tell an entirely different story, but if your defense can't force more than 15 turnovers, you aren't going to the playoffs.

In a division with Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit, three solid teams that have all been to the postseason recently, forcing 15 turnovers just won't get it done.

Even when Dom Capers defenses stunk, they still found a way to turn people over. With young stars in the secondary such as Jaire Alexander, Kevin King and Josh Jackson, as well as first-round pick Darnell Savage and a revamped pass rush, those game-changing plays should come this year. If not, mediocrity will reign.

Stay healthy 

This is something that basically every NFL team could say in July. Every team is counting on players that are coming off injuries or have a history of getting hurt. It's just the way it goes. The Packers need to hope that Rodgers and Jones can make it through the season healthy, along with King and Alexander on defense. 

Nagging injuries have been an issue for years in Green Bay and for some reason, the secondary always seems to get hit extra hard. With the addition of Savage and Adrian Amos at safety, the depth at corner is solid with Tramon Williams moving back there, however, no amount of depth can prepare your team for a catastrophic injury or two and hopefully, the Packers can avoid that in 2019.

Green Bay needs Bak back to his old self 

Turnovers are obviously a big key in determing who wins and losses in the NFL, yet sacks are another key factor. Green Bay allowed more than 50 sacks last season and one reason was the poor health of left tackle David Bakhtiari. 

When healthy, he is arguably the best pass blocker in the league and opposite him, Bryan Bulaga is pretty darn good too when he can stay off the trainer's table. But no matter what happens with injuries and personnel, the Packers have to find a way to get the most out of Bakhtari just like Rodgers.

At his best, he can silence even the best pass rushers in the NFL and that alleviates pressure from the rest of the offensive line. At times last season, Green Bay was without its top two edge protectors, which was another reason the team wanted Turner, someone with experience at tackle. 

Pass blocking used to be one of the Packers biggest strengths and if Bakhtiari can get back to playing at an elite level, it would go a long way towards reducing the number of sacks taken, which in turn, can help get the offense back to a playoff level. 

 

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Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Comments (40)

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Ferrari Driver's picture

July 03, 2019 at 03:46 pm

When you say Bakhtari is "arguably" the best blocking tackle in the game, I would suggest you may remove the word "arguably".

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ChrisPeterson's picture

July 03, 2019 at 04:43 pm

You are probably right. Just wanna see the big man back in his form next season. Think that will be huge for the offense if it happens.

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Lare's picture

July 03, 2019 at 04:03 pm

IMO, two keys to the Packers getting back to the playoffs are:

1. The team needs to avoid injuries. No matter how good you are you have to have key players play the season.

2. The Packers have to have a dominant offensive line. The game starts and ends in the trenches, if you don't control the LOS you don't win games.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 03, 2019 at 04:25 pm

Have no idea how special teams will do this year but none of us do. I do know this 'almost as a certainty' both the offense and defense will be significantly better this year than 2018.

Therefore, I agree keep healthy and the Pack could/should go deep in the playoffs. I am liking everything about this upcoming season.

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Coldworld's picture

July 03, 2019 at 05:21 pm

I would hope that Special Teams will be considerably improved. Our Punter and Long Snapper have more experience, hopefully we will actually have a punt returner who can make it on the field for a significant number of games.

In addition and most importantly of all, we have a new coach. I truly believe that this is an instance where a change in coaching is necessarily an improvement just for the fact of it having happened.

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murf7777's picture

July 04, 2019 at 10:07 am

Lare, I so agree with “win in the trenches”. I would add both thou, OL and DL. As much as this game has changed over 100 years much of winning starts and end in the trenches. If you have great lines it makes everyone else’s jobs easier and makes them better.

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ricky's picture

July 03, 2019 at 04:13 pm

What about special teams? And as far as staying healthy, there are players on the Packers you can't depend on staying healthy. That would include Bulaga and King for starters. And although "unleashing Jones" sounds good, he is still a relatively small back (5'10, and only 207), so betting on his staying healthy with more carries, when he couldn't stay healthy with fewer, is wishful thinking. I hate being a downer on this issue, but also want to be realistic. My hope is that the offense and defense both improve as the season progresses, as the guys get to know each other and learn the system. And if Rodgers can learn to play within the system with shorter, quicker passes, this could be that "special season".

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mamasboy's picture

July 03, 2019 at 05:06 pm

Wasn't Bakhtiari healthy up until the end of the year last year? Whats with the, if he can stay healthy stuff?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 03, 2019 at 06:32 pm

Bakh played 1032 snaps (96%). He played some snaps while injured, I suppose. I'd love to see Bulaga play 1000+ snaps.

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flackcatcher's picture

July 04, 2019 at 04:19 am

Bakh was never healthy. He was playing with a severe knee injury that went back to to the 2017 and never fully heal (by football terms) till this off season. Off the top of my head I think he did not start in the season opener, nor the next three games. But TGR is right, Bakh started and played the rest of the season on one leg. Both tackles played though career threatening injuries last year. Impressive.

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NMPF's picture

July 03, 2019 at 05:39 pm

What about MM & TT down the road kickin' rocks

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Bryan Chisholm's picture

July 03, 2019 at 05:58 pm

It seems so long ago the Packers were a team that had a swarm of tacklers to meet the ball carrier, or a guy that not only stopped men in their tracks in the open field, but drove them back consistently. Been forever since we had a MLB that could cover the middle and not be a liability againist the run and vice versa. Getting 3 and outs has been a luxury recently, so seeing a jump in turnovers just seems like a stretch.. but I'm still optimistic. Can't remember the last time I've seen a TE catch the ball and make a play afterwords.. all I see is Richard Rodgers going 2mph.. Bennet in shutdown mode.. Kendricks absolutely lost.. I think it's been since Eddie Lacy's rookie year that the defense truly had to defend the run and pass game against us.. the beauty of it all though.. literally all of this can change this season..

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Ryan3468's picture

July 03, 2019 at 06:15 pm

Hated Bears? Those Bears have been Lovie for a while. We dominated. They now have a great defense, and yet another dumb athletic quarterback. The only one in sports to hate is yourself. Embrace competition, and play to win. We definitely got the better safety out of the deal. You know what I hate? I hate we don’t have more years against Jay Cutler, and Lovie Smith. I hate that Jim Schwartz isn’t coaching the Lions in to the toilet. I hate that the Vikings have been making good personal moves and appear to have good coaching. We need a place to hand our hat. How about blocking, tackling, running the ball, throwing and catching the ball. Protecting the ball, and getting that ball back a few times. Great time to be a fan. We haven’t lost a game yet! Go Pack Go!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 03, 2019 at 06:36 pm

1. Savage needs to be pretty good.
2. The Smiths have to bring it.
3. Martinez needs to be healthy.
4. AR needs to be very good to elite.
5. Need health at OT.

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CoachJV's picture

July 03, 2019 at 06:42 pm

"Playoffs? Don't talk to me about playoffs... PLAYOFFS??? You kiddin' me???"

Hehehe... Sorry... I had to... LOL

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GLM's picture

July 04, 2019 at 08:34 am

I hope we are who we think we are!

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GLM's picture

July 04, 2019 at 08:47 am

Champions, of course!

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ricky's picture

July 04, 2019 at 09:49 am

"Playoffs?!?!?! I just hope we can win another game!!! Playoffs (disgustedly)."

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Since'61's picture

July 03, 2019 at 07:32 pm

The premise of the first point “Let Aaron be Aaron” is incorrect. Considering that Rodgers played through 2 serious injuries all season I would say that keeping Rodgers healthy needs to be job #1 in 2019. Imagine if he was uninjured in 2018, with more than 1 actual NFL WR or a TE that wasn’t lost or useless or an actual running game or an OL that didn’t allow a pass rusher to be unblocked on every play. Or a defense that got off the field before allowing a score. Or Special Teams that didn’t commit stupid penalties or fumble the ball on KOs that should be touchbacks.

So let’s start over:
1. Keep Rodgers healthy and he’ll be Aaron again.
2. On defense improve tackling, generate a pass rush, get off the field on 3rd down and make plays in the red zone.
3. Improve Special Teams by reducing stupid penalties.
4. Keep the OL healthy and have the OGs actually block
5. Actually include our RBs in the offense.
6. If possible keep the rest of our players healthy.

Thanks, Since ‘61

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Qoojo's picture

July 03, 2019 at 10:30 pm

To your #1, even the best QBs start to hear footsteps when hit enough times. I just hope to see an offense with some timing and quick throws, which means less opportunity to hit Rodgers.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 05, 2019 at 12:29 pm

No fair - that's way more than 5 things!

I kept debating whether my fifth should have been the health of Davante Adams or of the OTs. I went with the OTs.

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porupack's picture

July 03, 2019 at 07:47 pm

Definitely agree on 3 points; Jones, Rodgers, overall team health. Well...almost agreed on turnovers, but maybe;
1) Bak wasn't really the problem even if he wasn't 100%. The key, if you want a key is that the weakest link in the Oline has to be at least average, or just above average. The Oline has to be solid across, more than it has to have a superstar be a superstar and then have uneven talent. A Defense can rip that uneven talent apart even if Bak is at elite. So its that Right Side that is one of the keys for reaching playoffs IMO. They have to gel and be a plus, not a liability.

2) The TE group has to have a star emerge as a reliable option for converting 3rd downs and red zone. That has to be a key.

3) I'm ambivalent which is more essential, turnovers or a high rate of Defensive stops (3 and-out). A Defense with high rate of 3 and outs would indicate a more complete and consistent D. I think that is the key more so than turnovers. But I can't disagree with you either as turnovers are impressive and certainly show the D is performing as a unit as well.

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dobber's picture

July 05, 2019 at 08:45 am

"3) I'm ambivalent which is more essential, turnovers or a high rate of Defensive stops (3 and-out)."

We could look at 3-and-outs, 3rd down pct and TOP, which might point favorably in that direction.

In the last crop of playoff teams over the course of the 2018 season...
3-and-outs forced per drive:
3 playoff teams were in the top 10
5 playoff teams were in the bottom 10
(the Packers were 9th)

3rd down pct allowed:
5 playoff teams were in the top 10
3 playoff teams were in the bottom 10
(the Packers were 13th last season)

TOP allowed:
8 playoff teams were in the top 10
3 playoff teams were in the bottom 10
(the Packers were 21st)

Turnover margin:
7 playoff teams were in the top 10
2 playoff teams were in the bottom 10
(the Packers were 20th)

footballoutsiders.com/stats/drivestatsdef
teamrankings.com/nfl/stat/opponent-time-of-possession-pct-net-of-ot//

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Oppy's picture

July 03, 2019 at 09:34 pm

1) Let Aaron Be Aaron
2) Unleash Aaron Jones

....

When are you guys gonna realize these two things are mutually exclusive?

So long as you defend Rodgers' running the offense however he likes, you will not find Aaron Jones getting the touches he deserves.

Aaron being Aaron means he's going to continue holding the ball too long, eschewing the check down and taking too many sacks, generally ignoring the middle of the field, and not handing the ball off to the RBs as much as we might like.

I wish, hope, and beg for Rodgers to lead this team to victory in any and all ways possible. That said.. He could be the most insanely talented coach killer to ever grace a football field. I sincerely hope he spends roughly 80-90% of snaps in 2019 playing to the system to the best of his ability, and let him free-wheel that other 10- 20%.

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Ezra's Hotdog's picture

July 04, 2019 at 05:39 am

Could it be that's what we saw last year was McCarthy letting Aaron Be Aaron?

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MarkinMadison's picture

July 04, 2019 at 06:37 am

I think that is exactly right. Farve reached a point in his career where his decision-making hurt the team more than it helped it. People have to be managed (or coached, or whatever you want to call it). If #12 can't get on board with the concept of giving up a certain amount of his "freedom" then we've seen him play in his last Super Bowl. Unfortunately, it was also his first Super Bowl.

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Samson's picture

July 04, 2019 at 08:02 am

Oppy
You've read (and obviously believe) too many media hyped stories.... You sound like just another drama king spouting your uninformed opinions based upon what's racing in your head.

Please, give it a rest.... and let the upcoming season fill you with the facts.

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fastmoving's picture

July 04, 2019 at 10:16 am

yeah, only the own opinion (wellinformed of course) are facts and all the others are misslead by the bad media. Sounds like the wiged loser somehow. And its just so true like all his sensless stuff.
I would argue its just the other way around and argue the drama kings sitting at home and go nuts if someone wrotes something different than AR can walk over water.
Acually ist the best thing to speculate and think about the upcoming season or the next game. Its what its all about to being a fan. There are not much facts besides the W and Ls.
I would say that AR was not near his best in a couple of Seasons, even he had good help from his WRs and his o-line was not the worst one in the world. He did not take what the D gives him and hold on to the ball too long sometimes. Some they he should play more the system and some say he should keep his freedom. I would say he should do something in the middle and MLF should try to coach him, even to know nobody wants to give up his duties. No big deal about that, just normal stuff.

But I get it, if something goes wrong its the bad media, all the other players and whoever can be blamed. But if we win AR carries us on his shoulders.
Since he is here he played his contract out in some season but he also left a lot of stuff on the field in others. Thats my opinion, but hey, Im as uninformed as I can be and dont know what will be tomorrow. Im not even on the Packers roster, so I dont know the facts as good as you.

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Samson's picture

July 04, 2019 at 10:31 am

Thanks for another looong silly post on your part.... Here's some facts for ya...
AR... Two time NFL MVP, SB MVP, highest rated QB in the history of the NFL, considered by some experts as being the best QB ever, headed to the NFL HOF.

Go ahead, dis AR as much as you wish.--- The train's moving again. You may not be able to jump aboard during season 2019. -- Good luck. -- The ViQweens are always looking for new fans.

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Oppy's picture

July 04, 2019 at 01:00 pm

Media?

I've been quietly voicing my concerns about the ego and how it's been affecting play selection and execution for years, and it's been based on what I see on the field and direct statements made by the people involved.

I don't enjoy the drama, but it's there, it's real, and I'm concerned. Don't have to agree with me, but it'd be greatly appreciated if you voiced your dislike for my statements without always trying to take stabs at my character or ability to comprehend.

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Samson's picture

July 04, 2019 at 01:49 pm

Like I said....
Please, give it a rest.... and let the upcoming season fill you with the facts.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 05, 2019 at 01:21 pm

AR not using the middle of the field is supported by several sites that chart the location of pass attempts. GB is very low on passes attempts between the hash marks, or even between the numbers. Eschewing probably adds an element of opinion since it could be due to route concepts and/or the physical abilities of the receivers.

AR holding the ball a long time (2.95 seconds - 5th longest) is a fact. Several sites provide this information. Some good QBs on good offenses hold the ball a long time as well (Mahommes at 2.91 comes to mind) but most of the QBs who held the ball a long time have bad or at best indifferent offenses.

Some of the other things Oppy mentioned have some solid facts one can adduce in support of them, like a 66% pass to 34% rush rate (GB was 31st in rushing attempts in the NFL). AR is 9th in average intended air yards and he is 6th in the differential between average intended air yards and average completed air yards, though the latter is an efficiency measure more than anything.

I see no reason to believe that AR will not mesh well with LaFleur.

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GLM's picture

July 04, 2019 at 08:37 am

Have some faith, people...these guys are good. They know what they need to do. Like Reggie used to say breaking the huddle... "Dominate!"

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JackFactor's picture

July 04, 2019 at 09:04 am

Injuries, period. If Kevin King can’t play 12 games this year, that experiment is over.
The point about Favre is valid and that is why this intervention is so timely. Look at what Favre did in MN after that.
I really hope that Bulaga can play 10+, but I think they have to be ready for him to go down in the first two weeks.
Barring catastrophe, I see them winning the division. The energy will be high and a resurgent Rodgers will have him in the MVP chase again. PM in KC is due for a tougher year now that teams know how to scheme him.
I’m pretty excited for this season with the upgrades on D and Pettine’s D installed and ready to click. Jones being used more like Kamara will be fun to watch.
I’m not Homer enough to say SB, but I do think the division should be the Packers to lose.

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stockholder's picture

July 04, 2019 at 09:07 am

1. Unleashing Jones. If you don't, he will regress. 2. Let Arron be Arron. This sounds more like; To Be or Not To Be. A.: He won't Be if he holds onto the ball again. B.: He will Be if he gets the ball out. 3. Turn - overs. The Secondary is the key. Blown coverages, and poor tackling must stop. On paper: they show Lots of promise. They must be the strength of the defense. 4. Crosby K : He must not waste close games. Keeping the packers in it, and to Win it. ( Is a must.) 5. The OL must not be stupid. Penalties will hurt any scoring drive. The Offensive Line has the talent now. Play smart. How it Ends: The packers must earn the respect of the league again. Waiting for breaks, just doesn't happen. And hoping, isn't what we need now. We need attacking aggressive playmakers. Players who don't want to fail or make excuses. It's up to Rodgers to lead again. And the defense to get the Ball BACK!

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murf7777's picture

July 04, 2019 at 09:31 am

Football, like all business success, starts from the top. If you don’t have great, not just good management and coaching you won’t win consistently and/or win SB’s. If you have that the rest will fall into place by their decisions and leadership.

My top 3...

1. Great management/coaches
2. Franchise QB
3. Top 5 OL and DL

Recipe for a run to greatness!

The next 5 years will determine Murphy’s legacy or lack thereof.

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sam1's picture

July 04, 2019 at 01:46 pm

It appears the Packers are expected to do more than what will probably be accomplished this year! Remember lots of new chemistry has to be found for this whole thing to come together. Winning more than 9 games will be a definite challenge!

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

July 04, 2019 at 02:18 pm

Unleash the beasts on defense.
Our D has plenty of talent now. Athletes. Playmakers.
And Pettine is smart.
I anticipate & salivate over what this D could be like.

I want opposing offenses wearing body bags when we're done with them.

Our O will be fine if 69 & 75 are out there. And 12 of course.

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Nonstopdrivel's picture

July 04, 2019 at 04:07 pm

"The Packers are going to need to win at least one but if they can't win either, then getting back to the playoffs is going to be an uphill climb."

This is such an inelegantly crafted sentence. Try this:

"If the Packers can't win at least one of these games, getting back to the playoffs will be an uphill climb."

It says the same thing in ten fewer words and packs far more punch. You could substitute "returning" for "getting back" to make even it more concise.

And that's just one example. This article is riddled with long run-on sentences in which it isn't clear what the main idea of each sentence is. A couple minutes of thoughtful editing would help your writing shine.

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PAPackerbacker's picture

July 05, 2019 at 04:34 pm

I would put "stay healthy" as the #1 thing for the Packers to make a run for the playoffs. And included in this is protecting Rodgers. And #2 is to develop the running game. Get Aaron Jones more than 12 touches in a game. And #3 to force more turnovers. The talent is there to unleash the hounds and let them play. And #4 let Rodgers do what he needs to do. He has proven many times he can read defenses and adjust as the game progresses. And #5 get the talented young receivers chances to show what they can do. They just need to take snaps with the first team to develop chemistry with Rodgers.

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