Aaron Rodgers remains upbeat about the Green Bay Packers’ improving — albeit still not great — playoff chances. The Packers (6-8) will likely need to win their remaining three games and get some help to have a chance.
Green Bay’s next step in that goal will be one of its most difficult as it takes on the Miami Dolphins in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sunday afternoon — the first of three NFL games on Christmas Day.
The Dolphins (8-6) could also use the victory to stay in the playoff picture after losing their past three games — all on the road — and slipping from first place in the AFC East to the seventh and final spot in the conference.
The Packers lost seven of eight to fall to 4-8 before putting together back-to-back victories to revive talk of the postseason. Green Bay’s 24-12 victory at home on Monday night over the Los Angeles Rams, in which running back tandem Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined for 197 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns, pulled the Packers to within 1 1/2 games of the Washington Commanders for the NFC’s final wild-card spot.
Green Bay is also one game behind the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions, who each have 7-7 records. If the Packers overcome the Dolphins, Rodgers would likely have to then lead Green Bay to back-to-back wins at home against the already-clinched NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings and the Lions, while hoping the Seahawks and Commanders fade down the stretch.
“We’ve got two. Got two in the bag. I don’t know,” Rodgers said. “Look, before the Bears week, we knew we had a bye afterwards, and those of us who sometimes peek ahead knew that we had to win five and then have a lot of things go our way. So, we’ve won two and just about everything we needed to happen has gone our way. Just about, right? So, things are looking up.”
Green Bay’s defense played one of its best games of the season led by Preston Smith (two sacks) as it sacked Rams’ quarterback Baker Mayfield five times and had an interception. They figure to have a much greater challenge trying to slow down a Dolphins’ offense replete with weapons such as receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
The Dolphins fell 32-29 at Buffalo on a last-second field goal last Saturday, but they looked impressive at times in a hostile environment against one of the league’s bona fide Super Bowl contenders. Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa leads the NFL in passer rating at 107.8 and threw a pair of touchdown passes — including a 67-yarder to Waddle — against the Bills.
But it was the Dolphins’ running game (even without injured back Jeff Wilson Jr.) that played a factor in Miami having a chance to beat the Bills for the second time this season. Led by Raheem Mostert’s 136 yards on 17 carries, the Dolphins amassed 188 yards on the ground and averaged 7.5 yards per carry. And yet the Dolphins struggled in short-yardage situations, converting only one third down of three or fewer yards in six such opportunities and often electing to pass in those situations.
“I’ve always valued the run game,” Tagovailoa said. “I think you guys have followed my career enough to know that I’ve been involved in it and have always really seen the line of scrimmage as the place where games are won and lost.”
On the injury front for the Dolphins, offensive tackle Terron Armstead (toe/pectoral/knee), receiver River Cracraft (calf), safety Jevon Holland (neck), linebacker Melvin Ingram (rest) and Mostert (rest) did not practice Wednesday. Defensive back Keion Croseen (knee), tackle Eric Fisher (calf), linebackers Jaelan Phillips (toe) and Duke Riley (ribs), safety Eric Rowe (hamstring), tight end Durham Smythe (quad), and Wilson (hip) were limited. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (knee) and defensive backs Elijah Campbell (concussion) and Kader Kohou (thumb) all had full practice sessions.
For the Packers, tackle David Bakhtiari (knee/abdomen) and guard/tackle Elgton Jenkins (knee) did not practice. Safety Rudy Ford (wrist/knee) and cornerback Keisean Nixon (groin) were limited. Linebacker Krys Barnes (hand), Dillon (concussion) and Rodgers (right thumb/rib) all practiced in full. –Field Level Media