Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packer went 13-3 but were beaten by the San Francisco 49ers 37-20 in the NFC Conference Championship game last season. In the first season with new head coach Matt LaFleur, winning 13 games and reaching the conference championship should be considered a success, but many people thought Rodgers was declining in his play with how he and the Packers offense looked.
The Packers offense ranked 18th in total offense (345.5 yards per game) and ranked 15th in scoring (23.5) in 2019. Often times it appeared Rodgers and LaFleur did not mesh and it looked like Rodgers playing days were numbered, which may have prompted the Packers front office to look towards the future.
With a glaring need at the wide receiver position, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst decided it would be best for the organization to look towards the future at the quarterback position. He traded up in the first-round and selected Jordan Love from Utah State. Obviously Rodgers was not happy with the choice, but he understood the decision.
“I get, I really do,” Rodgers said on 10 Questions With Kyle Brandt podcast back in July. “I don’t harbor any ill will about it. Was I bummed out? Of course. Who wouldn’t be? I wanted to play my entire career in Green Bay. I love the city. I grew up there, really. I got there when I was 21, I’m 36 now. You know, a lot changed during that time. But look, I get it. I see it completely clearly and I’m not bitter about it. It just kind of is what it is.”
Proving Doubters Wrong
Rodgers, 37-years-old now, has silenced many of his critics and halted any sudden move at the quarterback position with his play this season. He led the team to a second consecutive 13-3 record, the best in the NFC. Rodgers also helped the Packers achieve the fifth best offense in terms of yards per game (389) to go along with the number one scoring offense (31.8 points per game).
Along with the team success, Rodgers had a career year. He threw for a league leading and career-high 48 touchdowns to go along with 4,299 yards, five interceptions, 121.5 passer rating and completed 70.7 percent of his passes. He joined Peyton Manning as the only players to throw 45-plus touchdowns in multiple seasons., but Rodgers became the only player to throw 45-plus touchdowns and five or fewer interceptions. Due to his play this season, Rodgers is believed to be the NFL MVP frontrunner.
There have been four quarterbacks in the past who have thrown for 40-plus touchdowns and had a passer rating of 115 or more and each player has won the MVP award (Rodgers did it in 2011 as well). Winning an MVP would be a nice addition to Rodgers resume this season, but Rodgers needs to continue that success in the postseason.
The Rams Can Make it Tough on Rodgers
Rodgers will get his chance to add to his impressive season on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. eastern time as he and the Packers will host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional round. The Packers have the advantage of playing in under 40 degree weather against a team that is use to playing in warm climates. The Rams proved though last week they are a tough and capable team beating the Seattle Seahawks 30-20.
The Rams held Russell Wilson to only 11-of-27 passing, 174 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. They were also able to hit Wilson, sacking him five times and to go along with eight QB hits. Aaron Donald led the way as he was able to sack Wilson two times.
It was no surprise the Rams were able to effect Wilson as they ended the regular season with the number one ranked total defense, only allowing 281.9 yards per game. They were the only team in the NFL to allow less than 300 yards a game. Also, the Rams ranked first in passing yards given up per game (190.7), passing touchdowns allowed with only 17, was second in sacks with 53 and had the best scoring defense by only giving up 18.7 points a game. They are the eighth team in the last 25 seasons to lead the NFL in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense in a single-season. These rankings are in the Rams favor as Rodgers has struggled against great pass defenses in the postseason.
In his playoff career, Rodgers has went against the number one passing defense two times with both games being losses. He threw for a combined 252 passing yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 78.8. Going up against Donald, arguably the best defensive player in the league, and Jalen Ramsey, arguably the best cornerback in the league, will be a challenge for Rodgers and the Packers offense just like the 49ers were last postseason, but Rodgers feels differently about his team this year.
“We thought we could win it last year (but) the Niners were such a dominant team and that maybe hit our confidence,” Rodgers said on Tuesday, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN. “But I feel like we have a lot of confidence and believe in ourselves. Offensively, we’re just a better, much more efficient team… and play with a lot more confidence.”
There is plenty reason for the Packers and Rodgers to be confident as he has the receiving touchdown leader in Davante Adams with 18 and Aaron Jones in the backfield who finished with 1,104 yards rushing and 11 total touchdowns. The Packers also have home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. It is the perfect situation for Rodgers to laugh off all doubters who thought his play was declining.