Next Stop: Motown.Posted:Dec 26th, 2016 12:46 pm
One more corner to take and the table will be run. With the Packers' dismantling of the Vikings at Lambeau, the Packers can set their sights on a fifth division title in the last six years. It doesn't just seem like the North title comes down to Week 17 every year, it's pretty much true.
As for the game, it couldn't have gone much better. Afterwards, Aaron Rodgers said he was in a zone from the start, with everything slowing down in his head. It was apparent on the field. With Randall Cobb sidelined, Jordy Nelson made his living in the slot and he may have shown the Pack that that's where he belongs moving forward. Maybe his speed comes back next season, but being on the wrong side of 30, it's unlikely. Rookie Geronimo Allison is proving to be an effective outside receiver to pair with Davante Adams and the Pack's passing attack is in on fire.
Nelson's monstrous first half was surprising, considering the Vikings were expected to have their fine corner Xavier Rhodes shadowing him. That wasn't the case in the first half and we learned after the game that the Vikes' corners defied head coach Mike Zimmer and covered Nelson the way they wanted. It backfired spectacularly, and Rhodes was glued to #87 in the second half. The fallout from that ill-fated decision will last long into the offseason for Minnesota.
Their collapse after a 5-0 start is complete with their elimination from the post-season. Obviously, the loss of Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason changed everything, but Sam Bradford's solid play kept them competitive. Ultimately, they couldn't withstand the lack of a suitable offensive line and running game to compete over the long haul. They'll need to find a stud offensive lineman in the first round to begin rebuilding their....oh, wait.
The other storyline out of this game was the play of Clay Matthews, who finally looked like a guy worthy of doing endorsements. He was active, high energy and made five or six flash plays, including batting a couple of balls down, drawing a penalty and making the key play of the day: the strip sack of Bradford late in the first half. Five plays later the Pack was back in the end zone and the halftime lead was as large as the hole on the Vikes' offensive line.
When Matthews plays like that the Packers are so much more dangerous. The four sacks were the most they've recorded during this five game winning streak. Nick Perry also supplied some juice in his return, recording a pair of sacks, despite a huge club covering his broken hand. A formidable pass rush is essential for this team, since the secondary will continue to give up big plays, especially now with the loss of LaDarius Gunter. We'll find out how serious the injury is later in the week. If the Pack can make Adam Thielen look like Anthony Carter, guys like Golden Tate and Marvin Jones will be drooling on Sunday night. Thielen's emergence this season has to be at the top of the list of positives coming out of this season for Vikings fans. The dude is legit.
This day belonged to Rodgers, who is now firmly in the MVP conversation. One more sterling effort and he may even be the favorite. We've come a long way since the midseason "What's wrong with Rodgers" narrative that was in vogue pretty much everywhere. The answer, we've learned, is nothing. Nothing at all. He was once again brilliant on Sunday annihilating the Vikes' defense with his arm and his legs.
Big picture, I never thought we'd be where we are right now. Rodgers and the offense are humming and they're one win away from another division title. It's possible that the Pack will earn a playoff ticket late Sunday afternoon, if the Giants can knock off the 'Skins in Washington. New York is already in the playoffs as a wildcard, so it remains to be seen how badly they want to in, or whether they rest some key guys. If Washington wins, they need a Packers loss to extend their season and Green Bay will need to win to keep their season alive.
Six weeks ago, it looked like the Pack had a Hail Mary chance to earn an NFC playoff spot. Now they just need to return to the place where they pulled off last year's NFL play of the year, the Hail Mary that stunned the Lions. Let's hope another Motown Miracle is not needed this time. With Detroit playing a road game on Monday night, the Packers have a big advantage: two extra days of rest to get ready.
We'll be waiting all day for Sunday night. But we wouldn't have it any other way.