The way the Packers’ quarterback himself has been tamping down expectations, you’d think we were sending out Blake Bortles to play against the Seahawks.
Rodgers had this to say as he commenced the new decade in a lengthy interview on January 2:
“. . .we gotta execute and get on the same page. I think the timing’s been off, you know, a lot of the year, so it’s not gonna get fixed in the next few days. . .but there’s, I think, too many concepts that we’ve really tried to hit, and keep hitting, and make work, but we just aren’t on the same page timing wise. . .”
Things aren’t that hopeless, Packers fans. There are ample indications that the Packers offense will play well on Sunday. I’m having good feelings that Rodgers will rise to the occasion – better than anyone else on the team, he knows the Pack – other than in 2011 – is on the best path to the Super Bowl in his entire career – the prospects are certainly much better than they were when Green Bay snuck into the playoffs after the 2010 regular season.
The formula the NFL uses for passer ratings is imperfect, but it’s a pretty good short-hand way to assess a quarterback’s play, especially over an extended period of time. Though it’s true that Aaron’s passer rating has been going downward for the last three years, let’s not assume Aaron has no more good games left in him.
As an aside, maybe it should be called the passing rating, because not only does it reflect the quarterback’s performance, it also reflects the performances of the offensive line and the abilities of the team’s receivers – and it doesn’t factor in the strength of the opposing defense.
Yes, in the last four games (all wins), Rodgers’ rating has averaged only 78.8. As recently, however, as December 1, Aaron had a 125.1 rating, and threw for four touchdowns, against the Giants. And it wasn’t that long ago – late October – when Aaron had back-to-back passer ratings of 158.3 and 129.0. He certainly hasn’t notably physically declined since then.
Aaron maintained a rating of over 100 for much of the season. Even after the Week 12 disaster against the 49ers, Aaron’s rating was still above 100. So, should we assume we’ll see the Aaron of the last four games, or will it be the Aaron we saw during the majority of the season? I’m inclined to believe that Aaron will deliver a passer rating performance of 100 or better against the Hawks. That should be plenty for a win.
Over the last six games in this intense rivalry, the Packers and Seahawks have each won three games. But in each case, the home team has been the victor. This is reason enough for the home fans to get excited.
As to the weather factor, the only game played in the cold was the Week 14 game in 2016, played on December 11 at Lambeau. It was the most decisive win in the recent 6-game series, with the Packers outscoring Seattle 38 to 10 – the temperature was 26 degrees that day.
The (early) projected temperature at game time on Sunday is 28 degrees, with a chance of up to an inch of snow, though likely in the morning.
How did Aaron and Russell perform in those three games at Lambeau? In 2015, Aaron’s rating was 116.9, while Russell’s was 91.8. In 2016, Aaron’s was 150.8, while Wilson’s was 43.7 – Wilson three for five interceptions on that day. In 2017, Aaron’s rating was 86.5, and Russell’s was 69.7.
Maybe we should stop obsessing over Aaron’s performance, and focus on how badly Wilson has performed at Lambeau’s place over the last four years: 91.8, 43.7, and most recently 69.7.
More Reasons for Optimism
Besides the home field advantage and the weather, there are other factors that bode well for the Packers.
The Packers are the healthier team – it’s likely they’ll have their full set of starters available for the game. The Seashawks have recently lost all three of their top running backs: Chris Carson, C. J. Prosise, and Rashaad Penny.
They Hawks are left at running back with rookie (sixth rounder) Travis Homer, Marshawn Lynch, and Robert Turbin – the latter two came off their rec room couches to join the team in the last couple of weeks. Against the Eagles, Homer and Lynch combined for a total of 19 yards rushing.
As to pass blocking efficiency, Pro Football Focus rates left tackle David Bakhtiari the league’s best and right tackle Brian Bulaga second best at his position. Though PFF rates the Pack’s O-line only thirteenth best overall, the Seahawks come in nineteenth on that basis. Many others rate the Packers’ O-line as a top-ten unit.
For those concerned about the late-season drop-off in Rodgers play, the same is true of Wilson. In three of his last four regular season games, his ratings were 95.1, 78.6, and 69.8. He had a nice playoff game, however against the Eagles: 18 of 30 for 325 yards, one touchdown, and a 108.1 rating.
The Packers are of course more rested, and they’ve had an extra week to focus on Sunday’s game.
In addition, other than in the Seattle-Eagles game, the running games of the postseason competitors have been as much of a factor as have the passing attacks. The Titans owe their win over New England almost entirely to the exploits of running back Derrick Henry. Between them, the Texans and the Bills ran up 313 yards on the ground. The victorious Vikings ran the ball 40 times, while the Saints ran only 17 times.
So long as Matt LaFleur allows it, Aaron Jones should have his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the year against the Hawks – and fourth in his last five games. ShowTyme is on a roll, and he’s rested! Seattle was ranked thirteenth best against the run during the regular season.
Rodgers realizes that he’s two wins away from playing in his second Super Bowl. Aaron knows this is likely his best chance, at this stage of his career, for winning another Lombardi Trophy. Russell Wilson is only in mid-career.
Green Bay, and its quarterback, have the stronger, and more immediate, incentives to play well and prevail on Sunday.