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NFL: What's gone wrong for the Green Bay Packers?

A year ago, the Green Bay Packers were 9-3 going into their bye week - out of which they would win four straight games to clinch the NFC's No.1 seed for the playoffs.

From that position of strength, the Packers botched their postseason chances and the empire built around back-to-back regular season MVP Aaron Rodgers has since crumbled to the point where they aren't even playing meaningful games in December.

So what has gone wrong in Green Bay? Who is going to fix it? And how long will it take?

Rodgers not providing enough of a return on investment

Let's start with the biggest topic up for debate here - Rodgers.

His numbers this season are not commensurate to one of the five highest-earning QBs in the league. The 38-year-old is tenth in passing yards, 11th in total completions and 13th for adjusted quarterback rating.

He has been dealing with a thumb issue since the Packers' Week 5 loss to the New York Giants and just suffered another injury in last Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

He was in too much pain to finish the game at Lincoln Financial Field and headed to the locker room as backup QB Jordan Love stepped up from the bench to give Packers fans - and executives - a reminder of his talent.

Rodgers seems intent on playing through any remaining pain this week, denying Green Bay a further glimpse into a future with Love.

Given Green Bay's status at 4-8, many have called for sense to prevail and Rodgers to be benched for the rest of the season, so the young arm they drafted to be his replacement can be given his shot.

Contract could keep Love on the sidelines

But the $150.8 million contract extension they gave the veteran back in March will probably play a huge part in that decision.

It saved the Packers approximately $18 million in cap space this year, allowing them the sort of legroom to plug some roster holes with free-agent signings.

But the trade-off for that was that if Rodgers retires or the Packers move on from him after the 2023 season, they would have a $68.205 million dead cap hit on the books in 2024.

The numbers get even scarier if they think about doing the unthinkable - to cut or trade him at the end of this year, but there are major financial barriers to either scenario.

Green Bay need to decide whether to pick up Love's fifth-year contract option too, so there are good reasons to run with the younger arm for this week's matchup with the Bears - where the Packers are -110 to cover a -4.0 points Spread.

Adams trade left a gaping hole

The pass-obsessed NFL is a quarterback league, so if you have got one of the best around you really need to be surrounding him with weapons and getting wins.

That was happening in Green Bay until this season began with rookie wideout Christian Watson dropping a sure-fire 75-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers on the Packers' first offensive play of their 23-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The play sticks in the memory because it was the sort of connection Rodgers made stick so many times with Davante Adams, one of the league's top three receivers in terms of receptions, yards and first downs earned in 2021.

He was traded to the Raiders in the spring amid a perfect storm of circumstances that involved Rodgers' own contract situation and the crazy free-agent market around wide receivers.

Green Bay got the Raiders' 2022 first and second-round picks, taking linebacker Quay Walker with the first and packaging the second-rounder to move up for Watson.

But very few rookies become playmakers from the get-go, so perhaps a season like this was always going to be on the cards. With Green Bay on the outside looking in, the Buffalo Bills are +400 for Super Bowl glory, while the Packers' divisional rival Minnesota Vikings are +1600 to win it all. 

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Packers' defence has sunk to new lows

The Packers have allowed a league-worst 1,857 rushing yards this season. Let that sink in. That's more than the porous Houston Texans, albeit only just, and many more than both of their much-maligned division rivals Detroit and Chicago.

It became embarrassing against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday as Jalen Hurts and an above-average trio of backfield runners gashed Green Bay for 363 yards - the second most in franchise history.

Hurts, whose 157 yards on the ground set a new Eagles' quarterback single-game rushing record, is an incredible talent - but he is not a one-off in the NFL.

Worryingly for the Packers, there is another dual-threat QB star in the making in their division at Chicago and they will have to do much better against him in two NFC North clashes with the Bears in 2023.

Opposing teams are averaging 8.5 rushing first downs per game against Green Bay - again the worst rate in the league.

The obvious solution would be to bring in some wide-body run stuffers in free agency, but the Packers are already in the red for next year's projected salary cap, per Spotrac.

Some players' contracts can be terminated or restructured to create a bit of room, but the need to freshen up the roster in several areas could lead to some drastic decisions.

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