A great quarterback gives you a puncher’s chance. He can overcome deficits, penalties, marginal teammates and sub-par coaching. Aaron Rodgers, the physical manifestation of hope, could return from his collarbone injury on Dec. 17.
This isn’t just great news for the Green Bay Packers, 6-6 going into Week 14 play. This is great news for everyone bored by the current state of the NFL. There aren’t that many exciting teams. There aren’t that many players worth your time or dollars.
Help us, Aaron Rodgers. You’re our only hope. Six weeks after being hurt, Rodgers practiced for the first time last Saturday.
“That boy,” Packers running back Jamaal Williams said, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “He came back, and he just flicked it. I was like, ‘Dang!’ I was like, ‘Wow! Are you sure that man is injured?’ I was like, ‘That is far! I couldn’t even do that on my good day.’”
The return of Rodgers might be enough to push the Packers into the playoffs. Given the current state of the NFC, that should terrify the rest of the conference. Rodgers, arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, is good enough to win anywhere despite the odds and mediocre talent surrounding him.
NFC contenders thinking about Aaron Rodgers leading the No. 6 seed Packers into the playoffs. pic.twitter.com/LCoQsYiesk
— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) December 3, 2017
Assuming Green Bay doesn’t implode at the Cleveland Browns (0-12), Rodgers will return to a team with a winning record. If the Packers sweep the remainder of their regular-season games, they will finish 10-6 and likely would be playoff-bound. Right now, the odds are stacked against Green Bay. The Packers’ current odds of making the playoffs stand at 750-to-1.
Green Bay’s final three games are at Carolina, home against Minnesota and at Detroit. The Vikings are likely to win the NFC North, but the Packers could sneak in as a wild card with some help. Green Bay is battling with Atlanta, Carolina and Seattle and probably needs two of those three to lose a couple of more games.
It’s tough sledding, but Rodgers knows how to “run the table.” He did so last year, almost single-handily helping the Packers rally from a 4-6 start to reach the NFC Championship game.
When Rodgers went down with a broken right collarbone on Oct. 15 at the Vikings, that wasn’t just a dark day in Green Bay. It was a sad moment for anyone who enjoys the NFL and a craftsman at the top of his game. Just a week earlier, Rodgers proved yet again what makes him special. Few people who have ever played this game could march the Packers 75 yards with 1:13 remaining for a 35-31 victory. It echoed Rodgers’ playoff heroics against Dallas in the playoffs.
It looked like this season would be filled with more fun moments watching Rodgers make amazing throws with accuracy and arm strength. Then the injury happened and the Packers were in danger of turning into the Cleveland Browns. Make no mistake, it could have been that bad.
Tom Brady, the most successful quarterback of all time, has received all the support he could possibly need. He has a great coach who has developed him and surrounded him with enough talent. Also, Bill Belichick is fearless when it comes to in-game decisions and personnel moves. He takes chances because he has pedigree, but also because he has Brady.
Rodgers is more talented than Brady. He has a better arm and is more mobile. But he also has had to overcome more obstacles. He has a coach in Mike McCarthy who calls a conservative game. He has a general manager in Ted Thompson who has refused to spend money in free agency and has made questionable draft choices. Trying to win on the cheap is no way to treat Rodgers.
Look at the wide receivers. Brady throws to Rob Gronkowski, the most overwhelming tight end we’ve ever seen. He also benefits from the speedy Brandin Cooks. Who does Rodgers have? A way-past-his-prime Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams who lacks speed and Randall Cobb, who is just OK.
The talent gap came into glaring focus once Rodgers got hurt.
When Brady missed the first four games of the 2016 season, New England went 3-1 because of talent and coaching. Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett had an adequate support system. Green Bay didn’t not properly prepare for Rodgers’ absence. As a consequence, Brett Hundley has looked exactly like what he is: a quarterback who hasn’t played much and hasn’t been given enough help.
Brett Hundley has five touchdowns and eight interceptions. Whatever progress he made against Pittsburgh (3 TDs, 0 INTs) was undone by a terrible passing performance at home against Tampa Bay (13 of 22 for 84 yards with an interception).
If Hundley passes for under 100 yards at Cleveland, the Packers will likely lose. Hundley just has to not turn over the ball and play efficiently until the savior returns.
Rodgers’ greatness might not be appreciated enough because he only has that one Super Bowl championship. But remember, that 2010 Packers team was a No. 6 seed. This was probably the worst Packers team to make the Super Bowl. They won three road playoff games because of Rodgers.
You can easily make the argument that he’s the best quarterback to ever play the game. He owns the highest passer rating in NFL history and the best touchdown to interception ratio.
Returning from a collarbone injury can be tricky. We don’t know what kind of Rodgers we’re going to get. But do you want to best against Rodgers? With him, the Packers might only have a Hail Mary chance to make the playoffs. Good thing Rodgers excels at Hail Marys.