The Green Bay Packers got some potentially season-changing news on Tuesday night. Superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers announced on Instagram that he has been medically cleared to return from a broken collarbone suffered in Week 6.
Rodgers has reportedly looked “incredible” in recent Packers practices, so now that he’s been medically cleared, we can assume he will be under center for Green Bay in a must-win road game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The Packers (7-6) entered their Week 6 game 4-1, and looked well on their way to a ninth straight playoff berth with Rodgers at quarterback. Second-year quarterback Brett Hundley (basically a rookie after just 10 pass attempts last year) looked rough in his first five games after the Rodgers injury, but has looked much better in recent weeks — 6 TD, 1 INT over last 3 games — and has the Packers on a two-game winning streak to keep their playoff hopes alive.
And, Rodgers obviously gives those playoff chances a massive boost. Five Thirty Eight has the Packers’ playoff odds at just 6%, but that’s also viewing them as a 7-6 football team and not taking into account the likely return of Rodgers for the final three games.
For example, Five Thirty Eight gives the Packers only a 31% chance to win at Carolina, a 42% chance to win at home vs the Vikings, and a 39% chance to win at home vs the Lions. With Rodgers (whose greatness we don’t appreciate enough until he’s not playing), the Packers should be viewed as closer to a coin flip at Carolina, a coin flip vs Minnesota, and favored vs the Lions.
Now, to make the playoffs, the Packers will need to win all of these games, and that will obviously be very difficult. Even that doesn’t guarantee they get in, but they would hold tiebreakers over the Seahawks (8-5) and Cowboys (7-6) due to head-to-head wins, and in this scenario (which assumes they win out), would have also beaten the Panthers (9-4).
It’s not nearly as crazy as it may seem, and if the Packers were to get in, they’re as dangerous as any team in the NFC. We saw it on full display last year when they went into Dallas and took down the favored Cowboys in the NFC Divisional Round, thanks to Rodgers.
This is a flawed Packers team, but so is every team in the NFC really. The 11-2 Vikings look great, but how much do you trust Case Keenum beating an Aaron Rodgers in the postseason? The Eagles were the team to beat, but lost Carson Wentz for the season and now have to start Nick Foles. The Saints have Drew Brees and an outstanding run game, but they’re far from a perfect team. The Rams have been terrific, but they have a second-year quarterback that has never been to the playoffs in Jared Goff. The Seahawks are a very good all around team, but they’re not the same team on the road, where they may have to play every playoff game — as a potential Wild Card — with the Rams currently leading the NFC West.
So, if the Packers get in, they’re a very dangerous team that nobody would want to face. They at least have a chance now, and that was something that didn’t seem to be the case a few weeks ago.