When Hundley got his first start back in Week 7, I wanted McCarthy to tweak his system and make it more quarterback-friendly by allowing the third-year pro to operate mostly outside of the pocket. It's cleaner for a quarterback without a lot of experience to run bootleg and sprint-out passes, which are one- or two-person progressions. There's not a ton on the signal caller's plate and it doesn't matter what coverage the defense is in.
"I didn't like my performance (against Baltimore) and tried to make sure, to the best of my ability, it will never happen again," Hundley told the assembled media after Sunday's three-point loss. "I just want to give this team an opportunity to win, and I feel like we're close. We are really close. But we've just got to keep putting on points and try to score every time we get the ball."
I can't believe how much Hundley has improved from the pocket in five weeks. The difference really is night and day. Sunday, Hundley threw with timing and accuracy -- he wasn't hesitating. If the play wasn't there when going through progressions, he bought time with his feet -- inside or outside of the pocket -- and was able to keep plays alive. On the night, Hundley completed 17 of his 26 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions and a career-high passer rating of 134.3. All in all, he has improved significantly over his last three games when compared to his first three games -- including Week 6, when Rodgers exited in the first quarter at Minnesota. Over the past three, Hundley has completed more passes (64.4 percent vs. 58.3 percent) for more yards (232 yards per game vs. 163 ypg) with a better TD-to-INT ratio (4:3 vs. 1:4). He has also recorded a significantly higher passer rating (90.0 vs. 58.0).
These are positive signs, no doubt, and as helpful as it's been having Rodgers help with preparation throughout the week, Hundley is executing. He has looked more comfortable in the pocket and running this offense in general with more reps. Based on what I saw in the Pittsburgh game, if Hundley continues that rhythm, timing and accuracy -- while taking care of the football -- the 5-6 Packers can absolutely win the next two games (vs. Bucs and at Browns) to get back above .500.
And if all goes perfectly for the Packers -- that's a big IF -- they could be in a best-case scenario in terms of Rodgers' recovery. He was seen throwing the ball 50 yards before "Sunday Night Football" just six weeks after surgery on his collarbone. That's remarkable. When I injured my shoulder during my 11-year career, I remember already thinking about returning when I could barely play catch from 15 yards away. Rodgers is throwing balls half the distance of the field. What a good sign for Packers fans.
Rodgers can make his return to the field, at the earliest, Week 15 at Carolina. Then could play out the remainder of the regular season against Minnesota at home and Detroit on the road. If Rodgers does in fact play in Green Bay's final three contests, the Packers have a real chance to run the table. I'm never going to say Rodgers can't win a game; I don't care who it's against.
It's a tall order -- but doable. At 10-6, I predict the Packers would sneak into the playoffs as the NFC's sixth seed and be the team nobody wants to face.
JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP 15:
Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs: His production has diminished the last four games (just 43.3 rushing yards and 58 scrimmage yards per outing). His hard running style still makes him a force.