By GERY WOELFEL
The Green Bay Packers’ playoff hopes shouldn’t be on a respirator.
No, if the Packers would have taken care of business during a stretch from Oct. 9 till No. 6, they’d probably preparing for their fourth straight playoff appearance.
But that five-game span sent the Packers reeling. They lost all five games and you don’t need to have a Ph.D. in pro football to understand why they stumbled so badly.
The Packers offense was offensive.
Their offense, which was so dynamic in the three previous seasons when they won an insane 39 games, performed like a bunch of amateurs.
Even with Hall of Fame in-waiting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, even with one of the best tandem of running backs in the NFL, even with a better than average offensive line, the Packers struggled mightily to score points.
In that brutal five-game stretch, the Packers averaged a paltry 15.8 points. They managed a meager 10 points against the Jets and nine points against a despicable Lions defense.
Those five consecutive losses lowered the Packers’ record to 3-6 and put them in a Grand Canyon-size hole. To their credit, they didn’t wave a white flag. They still competed, they showed heart and they showed flashes of brilliance on offense.
In fact, the Packers are still in the playoff mix because their offense has started to resemble their offenses of the previous three seasons. They scored at least 28 points in three of their last four outings and averaged an impressive 27.2 points per game – or almost double the average they registered in that miserable five-game losing skein.
The Packers offense can’t rest, of course. They have to bring their “A’’ game today when they face the Dolphins in Miami and their remaining two regular-seasons games against Minnesota and Detroit.
That seems quite plausible, too. The Dolphins, Vikings and Lions defenses are among the worst in the league. The Dolphins rank 23rd overall in total defense, allowing 357.6 yards a game. They rank 26th in points allowed per game at 24.6.
Earlier this season the Dolphins surrendered 40 points to the Jets and 32 points to the Chicago Bears, two run-of-the-mill offenses.
Looking ahead, the Packers will face a Vikings defense that ranks last in the league in total defense and a Lions defense that ranks next to last.
So, it’s all up to the Packers offense. If they keep humming, the Packers will keep playing and overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to make the playoffs.
Prediction: Packers 33, Dolphins 23.