Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, file photo, Green Bay Packers quarterback
Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to throw against the Arizona Cardinals
during the first half of an NFL football game in Glendale, Ariz.
The offensive line is battered. The running game is
inconsistent. Receivers aren't breaking out for enough big
plays. It all adds up to subpar season for Rodgers, at least by
the Packers' high standards.
GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers realizes he
might be held to a standard higher than the average NFL quarterback.
Thirty touchdowns to just seven
interceptions with more than 3,500 yards passing entering Week 17
might be a spectacular season for any other quarterback. That's just
average at best for Green Bay's Rodgers, the two-time NFL MVP.
"Well, I should be, based on
production. And I'm OK with that," Rodgers said when asked about
bigger expectations for him. "It's been definitely a different
year for me, but I'm proud of the way we've responded" to
adversity this year.
This sounds a lot like the Packers'
season in general.
Green Bay is 10-5 going into a Week 17
showdown with the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North title and the
right to host a wild-card playoff game. The Packers are going for
their fifth straight division crown despite what has been a
surprisingly choppy offense all year long.
Injuries at receiver and offensive
line, along with an inconsistent running game, have contributed to the
decline. Protection has been spotty. Rodgers, for whatever reason,
hasn't looked his sharpest.
Few NFL experts, if any, would have
predicted that Vikings second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's
passer rating of 90.6 entering the finale would be just 3.1 points shy
of Rodgers' mark.
If the season ended after 16 weeks,
Rodgers' 93.7 passer rating would be his lowest since taking over as
the starter in 2008 (93.6).
Defense-minded Vikings coach Mike
Zimmer isn't just looking at the stats.
"I just happened to be watching
that game upstairs earlier today and the guy still looks like a
surgeon to me when he throws the ball," said Zimmer, referencing
the Packers' 38-8 loss last week to Arizona.
Bridgewater has been better the last
His 123.2 passer rating in that stretch
ranks him only behind Washington's Kirk Cousins. Bridgewater is 57 of
81 (70 percent) for 734 yards with six touchdowns and no
"I know that the most important
stat is the wins and losses," Bridgewater said. "Right now
we have 10 wins and playing for a chance to win a division
Over the last three weeks, Rodgers has
a passer rating of 78.6, going 59 of 102 (58 percent) with 573 yards,
four TDs and two picks.
The loss of deep threat Jordy Nelson in
the preseason to a knee injury hurt. Defenses have played more press
coverage, daring the Packers to throw deep.
"We just don't have that element
to our offense. We just have to be a little more patient and realize
it's going to be more of a grind-out game sometimes," Rodgers
At one point this year, Rodgers spoke
of the need to work to "get on the same page with
Lately, he's been looking more in the
direction of veteran James Jones, who has 15 catches and 27 targets
over the last three games. One of Jones' strength is making tough
catches on back-shoulder throws. But most success in the passing game
in general has come on shorter throws.
Every starter on the offensive line was
listed on the injury report this week. Protection issues were exposed
against Arizona, when the Cardinals had eight sacks of Rodgers against
a line that had to use two backup tackles.
The Packers seem to be at their best
when tailback Eddie Lacy is grinding out yards and there's a run-pass
balance, which was the formula used to beat Minnesota 30-13 on Nov.
Three games later, coach Mike McCarthy
took back play-calling responsibility from associate head coach Tom
Clements. The Packers' offense looked like it was headed in a positive
direction again in a 28-7 win over Dallas. They looked out of sync
again two weeks later against a tough Arizona defense.
Through all the problems, Green Bay
still has a shot at another division title. It gives Rodgers'
perspective through the challenges on offense.
"It's all about winning, and
winning championships," he said. "There's a lot of guys who
are part of that, a lot of guys who weren't, and they bring that
hunger, as do we who've tasted that success and who want to get back