Aaron Rodgers said he can’t remember a five-game stretch as difficult as the one the Green Bay Packers will embark on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Four tough road games in five weeks, described by Rodgers as an “important stretch,” will push the Packers to the limit and reveal if coach Mike McCarthy’s team is playoff worthy in 2018.
Rodgers said the Packers will “have to play a lot better” to survive the daunting stretch, which includes three division leaders, four teams with winning records and zero teams with losing records.
It starts on the road against the Rams, the NFL’s last unbeaten team. But there’s no rest for the weary.
The Packers will hit the road again to New England to face Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the surging Patriots in Week 9, then return home for a week to play the 4-3 Miami Dolphins, an uncommon opponent that started the season 3-0.
It’s back on the road on a short week for a Thursday night game against the Seahawks in Seattle, one of the NFL’s toughest environments, before making the short trip west for a pivotal game against the division-leading Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Packers have never won.
“I’m not going to say it’s going to define our season, but it’s definitely going to shake things out when we get on the other side of this and get back home in six weeks, where we are at in the race and what we are playing for,” Rodgers said.
The Packers are 3-2-1 coming out of the bye. Anything fewer than two or three wins over the next five games would likely put Green Bay’s playoffs hopes in serious peril, especially if any of the losses come against NFC teams.
McCarthy’s team has already lost both road games this season decisively. At home, the Packers required comebacks to beat the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, threw away a win against the Vikings and were sloppy for most of the afternoon in a win over the punchless Buffalo Bills.
The combined record of the Packers’ first six opponents was 17-21-1. The next five? 23-10-1.
Players and coaches often stick to the “one game at a time” mantra, recognizing the need for a singular focus on the task at hand. The priority is beating the Rams, but the Packers understand the difficulty of what’s ahead, with an acute awareness of the internal improvement required to survive.
The gauntlet begins Sunday in the Coliseum. Rodgers and the Packers will either come out the other side as confident contenders or escape as battered pretenders.
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