Packers’ title hopes is on Number 12’s shoulders
By Tyler Job
Aaron Rodgers had a less-than spectacular year statistically, but he is still the Green Bay Packers’ most valuable player.
Many people did not expect the Packers to go on a double-digit winning spree with Rodgers having a down year, much less have a chance to go deep in the playoffs.
But none of that matters now.
The Packers are back in Super Bowl contention for the first time since 2016 after clinching the number two seed against Detroit, courtesy of a game-winning 33-yard field goal by Mason Crosby as time ran out. Green Bay automatically earned a first-round bye and will host a divisional round game at Lambeau Field against either the Saints, Eagles or Seahawks Jan. 12.
2019 has been a weird year for the Packers. They have not been dominating teams, but rather winning close and ugly games. Yet, they finished the season 13-3. We have figured out their identity is winning ugly. A win is a win, right?
It has also been a weird year for Rodgers. He has become more of a game manager despite throwing for 4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 95.4 passer rating. Those are still solid stats, but well below his career-average 102.4 passer rating. The 36-year-old might not have the physical skills he used to possess. However, he still has a brilliant mind.
Rodgers has shown he can still play like his old self. He did that in flashes throughout the regular season. And when that happened, the Packers played some of their best offense. We saw it in the Thursday night game against the Eagles. He completed 34-53 passes for 422 yards. He was on the brink of throwing three touchdowns if it was not for a last-minute interception in the end zone on a slant throw intended for Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Green Bay ended up losing, 34-27.
Rodgers then played magical football once again towards the end of October. He statistically played the best game of his career against the Raiders by going 25-31 for 429 yards, five touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Rodgers never had a perfect passer rating until that point. The Packers ended up cruising to a 42-24 victory. Rodgers then followed up his more-than-outstanding performance against Oakland with another terrific showcase against Kansas City the following Sunday night. He went 23-33 for 305 yards, three touchdowns, and a 129.0 passer rating. Let’s also not forget about a crucial moment in the game when Rodgers scrambled to his right, threw a sidearm pass falling to the ground, and somehow found Jamaal Williams in the back corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The score broke a 17-17 tie, and Green Bay ended up holding on to win, 31-24. The Packers had a 7-1 record at that point.
But after that, Rodgers has not played like the typical number 12 the NFL has seen. Since November, he has registered a passer rating above 100 just once. He has put up that number above 90 just twice. Rodgers’ passer rating never ended up being above 73 the last two regular season games. Yet, the Packers won their final five regular season games.
Even though Green Bay still won games with Rodgers playing mediocre football, he cannot do that in the playoffs. In fact, Rodgers is most likely going to have to once again play superhero-like football for the Packers to get back to the Super Bowl, much less win it. Green Bay is not going to be playing below average to average teams like the Panthers, the Bears or the Lions come playoff time.
Back when Rodgers was playing like Superman, the Packers’ defense was the team’s weak link. In his seven playoff losses as a starter, Green Bay’s defense allowed an average of 36.3 points. The defense now, although much improved than in years past, is still inconsistent. They do rank tied for fourth in the league in turnover ratio (+11), but they drop to 18th in total defense (352.6 yards allowed per game). If the defense gives up a lot of yardage and/or points in the playoffs, Rodgers must counter-attack.
When the Packers go toe-to-toe with the Saints, Eagles or Seahawks in the Divisional Round, Rodgers is going to have to do anything but put up 104 yards passing and a 75.8 passer rating like he did against the 49ers earlier this season. But I am sure he knows that. He’s a 36-year-old veteran who has proven to get it done time and time again.
Rodgers must play great football in order for the Packers to go on a deep playoff run, perhaps even win his second ring. Teams that go all the way usually have the best quarterback. Rodgers played like the best quarterback in 2011, and Green Bay took the championship back to Titletown. If he does the same in 2020, the Packers will be in good shape to bring home their fifth Lombardi Trophy.