Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers did exactly what the quarterback and MVP candidate said they would do — ran the table in the final six games of the 2016 season — and because of that they’re NFC North champions and will host a first-round playoff game Sunday.
No team goes into the playoffs with more momentum than the Pack — here’s why they’ll carry that momentum through the next four games this postseason and win Super Bowl LI:
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Rodgers was otherworldly in the final seven games of the 2016 season, throwing 18 touchdown passes with no interceptions over that stretch, in which the Packers won their last six games of the season to finish 10-6 on the year.
The Packers’ passing game is in perfect harmony right now — Jordy Nelson is back to being one of the NFL’s finest receivers, and there seems to be a new standout secondary option every week (who saw Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison coming?).
Who is going to stop it?
Some of the best defenses in the NFL have been exposed by Rodgers in recent weeks — the Vikings were torched for four touchdowns (zero picks) and a 136 quarterback rating, the Seahawks were hit with a 3-0 performance (QB rating 150), and the Texans, who boast arguably the top defense in the whole league, allowed only two touchdowns and a 108 QB rating.
Rodgers’ worst game down the stretch was against the Bears — you might recall that he threw a 60-yard pass in the final minute to set up a game-winning 32-yard field goal as time expired and had two earlier perfect passes dropped in the end zone. That was not a bad day.
Rodgers is on a roll, and if he can get past the New York Giants’ defense in the Wild Card Round, there’s no reason to think that any team — even the Seahawks, Patriots or Chiefs — is going to slow him down this postseason.
Offensive balance, at long last
A big part of Rodgers’ exceptional play as of late has been the emergence of a viable run game in Green Bay.
Who would have thought a wide receiver — a third-round draft pick in his second year — would be the game changer the Packers needed to make the postseason?
After a woeful midseason for the running game following Eddie Lacy's injury, Mike Montgomery has averaged more than 60 yards per game in his last five contests on fewer than 10 carries per game.
The Packers don’t need a massive contribution from the run game — the passing game is more than capable of carrying the heavy load — but the balance and threat that has been presented by No. 88 (seriously) out of the backfield in recent weeks, alongside fullback Aaron Ripkowski and free agent pickup Christine Michael, has opened up more channels and lanes for Rodgers to exploit.
Montgomery is the outside-the-tackles runner — the big-gain threat — and Michael and Ripkowski have come on in recent weeks as more inside zone runners.
It might not be the most-used rushing attack, but it is certainly versatile, and behind one of the best offensive lines in football it is viable.
Did we mention Aaron Rodgers?
But it all comes back to this man. The Packers’ defense isn’t stellar and it’s all sorts of banged up — safety Micah Hyde might be the team’s No. 2 cornerback for the Wild Card game — but defensive coordinator Dom Capers has done an exceptional job of putting the Packers in a position, week in and week out, to win.
It’s not because they’re holding teams to paltry point totals — they’re just holding them below what Rodgers can put on the board.
There isn’t a team in the NFL that’s truly exceptional on both sides of the ball this year — the Cowboys, Patriots, Steelers, Falcons, and (to a degree) Seahawks have questions on the defensive side of the ball this postseason, and the Chiefs, Giants, and Texans might not be able to muster the offense necessary to beat Green Bay’s.
It’s all about A-Rod, and so long as he’s playing exceptional football, the Packers have a puncher’s chance at winning any game they play.