Packers look to break through behind Hundley

The halfway point of the season is too soon to call any game a must-win.

Isn’t it?

You would have been laughed out of the conversation last year if you suggested the Green Bay Packers were toast when they fell to 4-4.

The grim footnote is that when they were 4-4 last November, their quarterback was Aaron Rodgers. As it worked out, they were still in it at 4-6.

The years-old debate of whether Rodgers or New England’s Tom Brady is the NFL’s best quarterback has centered on one or the other being not only the best active QB, but the best ever.

Who’s better is a subjective argument, at their level, but Rodgers is unquestionably more valuable to his team. He won’t win the MVP award this year, of course, but with the exception of Lebron James, Rodgers is more valuable to his team than any other athlete in professional sports.

When he went out with a broken collarbone, the psychological gut punch rippled up and down the roster. The Packers know that they have enough talent to win games with Brett Hundley at quarterback. The question is which ones, and when?

When the missing starter may be the best ever to play the game’s most important position, and the second-stringer is inexperienced, doubts linger. They will for the Packers until they win one with Hundley at quarterback.

Which brings us to Monday night, where a couple of reeling division rivals look to get off the Schneid. It’s not exactly the Stoppable Force vs. the Moveable Object, but both teams have plateaued. The Packers have lost their last two and the Lions have dropped three in a row. Something has to give.

Along with the usual air of excitement on a Monday night game at Lambeau Field, there will be the element of added pressure — on the defense, on Hundley and on Mike McCarthy.

The Packers coach had the right idea last week against New Orleans, game-planning a possession offense designed to keep Drew Brees off the field. The NFC South-leading Saints, who have played well through five straight wins, loaded up the box and stuffed the Packers’ low-risk attack in the second half.

It will be interesting to see what McCarthy has cooked up for Hundley and the offense over the past fortnight. Under his stewardship the Packers are 10-1 in games played after the bye week, which suggests strong preparation skills.

Skeptics will remind us here that the skill included preparing a depth chart with Aaron Rodgers’ name on it.

Like the remainder of the schedule, this won’t be an easy game. The Packers won both matchups against the Lions last year, with difficulty, sitting on a 28-point lead and hanging on to win by a touchdown at Lambeau, and then coming from behind at halftime to win at Ford Field in the division-clinching regular-season finale.

Behind quarterback Matt Stafford, Detroit’s passing attack can be a problem for the Packers, whose ineffective pass rush has been their Achilles heel.

The Lions (3-4, 1-0 NFC North) won’t bowl anyone over on the ground. They’ve gone 59 straight games without a 100-yard rusher. The best of their three wins was the 14-7 victory over Minnesota in Week 4.

Stafford was sacked six times in that game. Happily for the Lions, none of those sacks involved Stafford being pile-driven into the turf at an awkward angle.

After Detroit, the Packers travel to Chicago to play the schizo Bears. It’s anyone’s guess whether they’ll be up against the team that beat the Steelers, Ravens and Panthers, or the one that got jack-rolled by Tampa Bay and stepped on by the Packers in their first meeting.

Next come the Ravens and the Steelers, but by then, the Packers’ trajectory will be clearer, and fans will have a better idea whether to stay emotionally all-in or point the glims to next year.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@wolfrivermedia.com.