Green Bay Packers

The Packers’ Weakness Can Become Their Strength In December

Photo Credit: Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

After the mid-season resurgence that saw them claw back to .500, the Green Bay Packers have something of a clean slate heading into Monday night’s game, when they head east to face Mrs. DeVito’s son.

Tommy DeVito, the Giants’ young backup quarterback, raised eyebrows a few weeks ago when he bragged that he still lives at home with his mother, who cooks for him and makes his bed. It prompted thousands of young Italian men to scroll further down the article, confused, wondering which part of the quote was supposed to be funny. (I kid my Italian friends — I don’t want Big Dom showing up at my house to poke me in the face.)

It’s certainly a boyish boast, but then again, most of the Packers players aren’t so far removed from Mom getting the corners of the fitted sheets straight on their mattresses and baking them Totino’s pizza rolls. They are, as we recall from the endless pontificating on this subject before the season started, the youngest team in the league by far. That youth was considered a major culprit behind the disastrous first half of their season when they genuinely looked like one of the worst teams in football.

Following a hot streak punctuated with a signature win over Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs — one of whom is dating that famous, old blonde lady — the Packers find themselves not just technically in the playoff race but right in the thick of it. Suddenly, the youth that people blamed for their sputtering start has become one of their greatest assets. And though they’re still the new kids on the block, they’ve been around it a few times now.

It’s been a wonky-as-hell season in the NFL, dominated by high-profile injuries. There have been so many different starting quarterbacks in 2023 — more than 50 of them — that it seems like the entire league has become the Cleveland Browns (shudder). In fact, there are 15 games on the schedule this week, and assuming Trevor Lawrence is sidelined, barely more than half of those games will feature two opposing quarterbacks who were both starters in Week 1. And among the relatively few starter-on-starter matchups, one of them is Desmond Ridder vs. Baker Mayfield, which, yikes.

These strange circumstances present the Packers with opportunities that would have seemed impossible around Halloween. The Super Bowl isn’t exactly anybody’s for the taking; there are still a few truly dominant teams, at least two of them in the NFC. But there’s room along the margins, and once you sneak into the postseason, anything can happen.

Green Bay is better-positioned to take advantage of this chaos than most other teams. Now, the very youthfulness that once slowed their roll is acting as an accelerant.

They’re still the youngest in the league, of course, but that youth isn’t what it used to be. This is a squad of guys who now have double-digit NFL games under their belts. Even the rookies have gotten some valuable experience, and they’re playing like it. They’ve figured out that Jayden Reed just might be their actual WR1. Jordan Love is connecting with Christian Watson on more than just the occasional far-flung deep shot. The trio of tight ends — notoriously one of the toughest positions to acclimate to in the pros — are coming into their own, as both rookies Ben Smith and Tucker Kraft have started to show out. Fifth-year safety Jonathan Owens, who is married to the gymnastic phenom who is infinitely cooler than you-know-who, just had his career-highlight play. And of course, most importantly, first-year starter Jordan Love is truly coming into his own.

And while experience will be especially valuable in the playoffs, when the games get tight against truly worthy competitors, youth will be at a premium for the next six weeks. In the black-and-blue months of winter football, youthful resiliency is worth its weight in good. These guys are the youngest, the fastest, and the healthiest they’ll ever be, which counts double in a banged-up league. Having fewer than 25 candles on your birthday cake is certainly no guarantee of avoiding injury; look no further than Kenny Pickett or Joe Burrow for evidence of that. But it certainly helps. Just ask the New York Jets, whose quarterback’s Achilles lasted about as long this season as it takes to pop a bag of microwave popcorn.

The Packers aren’t without their share of injuries, Aaron Jones’ spotty health this season being perhaps the most problematic example. But they’ve benefitted from these unfortunate league-wide circumstances. If Kirk Cousins, the ultimate Dad Quarterback, hadn’t fallen to his first-ever season-ending injury, the Minnesota Vikings likely would have made the NFC Wild Card race far more difficult.

Yet here they are, this squad of extremely young men who’ve faced NFL adversity and come away with at least a small dose of veteran savvy. They may or may not have a Mama D of their own rolling up meatballs when they get home — way better than the Campbell’s Chunky Soup Mrs. McNabb was heating up for Donovan, by the way — but they’ve got Big Whippersnapper Energy, and nobody is writing them off as an easy W anymore. They’ll have to start by beating Tommy in front of his mommy. But, starting now, their former weakness is now one of their great strengths.

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