Bye Bye Vikings.Posted:
I find myself flashing back to the middle of the summer, when we weren’t sure whether Aaron Rodgers would be back for a 17th season in Green Bay. And if he did return, what kind of season would it be after such a tumultuous offseason?
Fast forward to the present, and the Pack has locked up the top seed in the NFC with a week to go, has become the first team in history to win at least 13 regular season games in three straight seasons, Rodgers is favored to pick up his fourth MVP trophy and Matt LaFleur is expected to be named coach of the year. Oh, and the Pack is the betting favorite to bring home the Lombardi trophy.
If it is the Last Dance for Rodgers in Green Bay, it’s been a hell of a tango so far. After destroying the Vikings and effectively ending the Mike Zimmer era on a frigid Sunday night at Lambeau, the Packers can move on to their next goal: winning two home games and earn a ticket to the Super Bowl.
The game script was familiar: get off to a slow start offensively, watch Rodgers and Davante Adams heat up and then hand things off to the running game in the second half and let Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon mop up. The Pack’s running back duo are now both over 1,000 yards from scrimmage this season.
Did you see Rodgers’ stats in division games the last two seasons? 34 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. You know that fans in the Twin Cities, Chicago and Detroit are praying that this really is the last dance for Rodgers in Green Bay. We are so fortunate to watch him and Davante Adams, two future Hall of Famers, work their craft week in and week out. Poetry in motion.
Hard to know what to make of the defensive performance, with an overmatched Sean Mannion running the show. It allowed Joe Barry to put more resources into slowing Dalvin Cook, but who could have forecast that Cook would be held to 13 yards on nine carries? After what we witnessed the last two weeks, seeing a shutdown performance by the defense was a sight for sore eyes, regardless of the extenuating circumstances.
And how refreshing was it to see a real live, competent punt returner out there for the first time all season? David Moore was a revelation and provides hope that we won’t have to turn away when teams punt to the Packers in the playoffs.
The Pack will close the season in Detroit and LaFleur and his coaches will wrestle this week with how much to play his most valuable players. Rodgers and Adams have already been vocal about wanting to play at least part of the game and it sounds like LaFleur thinks that’s a good idea.
You gotta weigh the risk of injuries, with the reality of three weeks between meaningful games and the chance that the team could come out flat when the playoffs begin. My guess is the offensive skill position players will play the first quarter and then take a seat. Same goes for guys like Kenny Clark, Rashan Gary, Preston Smith and most of the starting secondary.
The Pack has earned a first round playoff bye for the third straight season and we know for the second year in a row the road to the Super Bowl runs through Lambeau. This time, with a jam packed stadium cheering them on. It’s more than we could have hoped for six months ago. Now it’s time to exorcize those NFC title game ghosts and get to the Super Bowl. Feels like this team has what it takes to make that happen.