Stock up: Geronimo Allison
The lanky, undrafted rookie wide receiver was at best seventh on the depth chart during training camp. In the last two games with Randall Cobb out, he has made his first two starts as the Packers’ third wide receiver. With a major jump in snaps then, he contributed 32-, 39-, and 31-yard catches, not to mention a 10-yard touchdown reception in the second half of the NFC North title game at Detroit. That Allison is running routes from the slot as well as the outside receiver positions speaks volumes as to what the coaches and his quarterback think of him.
Stock down: Trevor Davis
It appears a punt-return fumble at Tennessee (Nov. 13) put an end to any momentum Davis’ rookie season had. In the last quarter of the season, the speedy receiver has seen just three plays on special teams and one on offense while being inactive two other games. With Allison on the rise and Jeff Janis ahead on the offensive and special teams depth charts, Davis might be looking to the 2017 season unless injuries hit hard in the postseason.
Buy: December games at Lambeau Field
The Packers crushed their last two opponents at Lambeau Field this season – the Seahawks 38-10 (Dec. 11) and the Vikings 38-25 (Dec. 24) – for their two most convincing wins of the season. While the Packers’ home-field advantage may not be what it used to be, it seems to come to life in December. Under coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers are 21-3 at home in the final full month of the regular season, best in the league since 2006. The Christmas Eve victory over the Vikings was the 217th at Lambeau Field, the most home wins by any franchise at one stadium in NFL history. (Chicago has 216 wins at Wrigley Field.)
Sell: Pass defense
Takeaways (nine interceptions by defensive backs) were the saving grace for a group that ended the final quarter as the worst pass defense in the league. Over the last three games in particular – two against pedestrian quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Sam Bradford - the Packers gave up the most completions per game (30), most passing yards per game (346.3), third-worst pass yards per attempt (7.8) and most passing first downs per game (19.3). The Packers have struggled all season without Sam Shields, and as spelled out on PackerReport.com Monday, the challenge only gets tougher in the postseason for a cornerback group that had three players injured last Sunday night at Detroit.
High Volume: Points scored
After posting just two 30-point games all season, the Packers finished with four straight to end the regular season. Not since 2011 (Games 7-10) has that happened. Ten different players scored during the final quarter, with Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams leading the way with four touchdowns each. The Packers also had six rushing touchdowns after having just five in the previous 12 games.
Low Volume: Giveaways
Much has been made about the Packers’ league-leading 13 takeaways over the final quarter of the season. Perhaps even more impressive is that they never gave the ball away, flipping the script on their turnover ratio as they finished the season plus-8, sixth-best in the league. Micah Hyde was the only player to put the ball on the ground – that coming on a punt return against the Vikings – but he recovered his own miscue. And Aaron Rodgers was as good at avoiding interceptions as he was protecting the ball running in and out of the pocket. Four straight games without a giveaway ties the longest team streak since 1933.
Player of the Quarter: Aaron Rodgers
A 150.8 passer rating against the Legion of Boom Seahawks defense. A five-touchdown game against the Vikings. Another miracle play at Chicago leading to a last-second victory. And a championship belt return at Detroit. It was a spectacular finish to the regular season for Rodgers, who is looking more his MVP form after the Packers finished off his “run the table” belief. Just how good was Rodgers’ final four games? Well, it was his best quarter since the first four games of 2015. He completed 70.2 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. A Pro Bowl selection for the sixth time, he ended the regular season throwing 245 passes without an interception.
Play of the Quarter:
60-yard catch by Nelson to set up the game-winning FG at Chicago
The Packers squashed the Bears’ 17-point, fourth-quarter comeback with Nelson’s big catch and Mason Crosby’s 32-yard field goal as the clock expired. The final moments presented an interesting twist of strategy. After the Bears tied the game at 27, the Packers looked set to send the game to overtime when they took their time preparing for a third-and-11 from their own 26. But Rodgers dropped back with the clock running at 35 seconds and took a shot downfield. With Bears safety Deon Bush helping toward the boundary, Nelson got behind cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc on a post route and managed to haul in Rodgers’ long heave. The completion was the longest of the season for the Packers to that point. With no timeouts remaining, the Packers rushed to the line of scrimmage and Rodgers spiked the ball to stop the clock with three seconds remaining to set up Crosby.
Forecast for the Playoffs:
The Packers are the NFC’s hottest team headed into the playoffs with six straight wins. That momentum has them as a trendy pick for the Super Bowl. It starts this Sunday with the Giants, who have won nine of 11 games dating to a loss at Lambeau Field on Oct. 9. In what should be a shootout, the Packers will slip by on a forecasted frigid day in Green Bay. But like the last year, the season is likely to come to an end in the divisional round. Both the Cowboys and Falcons are beatable but have shown to be better all-around teams than the Packers throughout the year. The thinking here is that eventually the Packers ‘deficiencies and injuries at cornerback will be too much for Rodgers and Co. to overcome to make another “Run the Table” Tour in the postseason.
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com