We can talk all day about pass rushes, ground attacks, receivers, defensive backs, and yes, even special teams, but the reality is that it’s teams with virtuoso passers that will be competing for the Lombardi Trophy. That’s good news for Packers fans, because Green Bay suddenly, and once again, possesses the league’s top passer.
Now that Week 14 is in the books, and based on passer rating, Aaron Rodgers has jumped ahead of Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford, the two QBs who battled in the Monday night game. Rodgers has upped his passer rating to 108.8, which surpasses Stafford (108.4) and Murray (106.0). Rodgers’ ascent is due in part to his compiling a 141.1 rating against the Bears, while Stafford’s MNF rating was 139.2 and Murray’s was a woeful 72.1.
This is becoming a familiar pattern. At mid-season last year, Rodgers was performing as a middle-of-the-road passer, and after Week 11 the team stood at seven wins and three losses. It was then that Rodgers got clicking, en route to a 13-3 record and top seed in the NFC playoffs. In 2019, the Packers stood at 8-3 after Week 12, but then ran off five consecutive wins. It was back in the 2016 season that Rodgers predicted that the Packers could “run the table.” He proceeded to help do so, going from a 4-6 record after Week 11 to 10-6 six weeks later.
The Packers have become well known for being an especially tough opponent when winter weather sets in come December. It also seems that the Packers veteran and experienced players, who are accustomed to going to the playoffs, tend to rise to the occasion as the regular season winds down. Besides Rodgers, for example, Davante Adams has reeled off three fine games in a row: he caught 7 of 8 targets for 115 yards and 2 TDs against the Vikings, then 8 of 9 for 104 yards against the Rams, and then 10 of 13 for 121 yards and 2 TDs against the Bears. The cream is rising to the top, and Green Bay’s roster has a lot of cream.
In 2020, Rodgers’ late season heroics garnered him the MVP award. With four games remaining in this regular season, it’s not a stretch to think the Packers will once again finish up with six straight wins – and that Aaron will again be named the league’s MVP. In addition to having the top passer rating, he sports the league’s best TD/interception ratio, at 27 and 4. He also is tenth in completion percentage, eighth in yards per game, and he’s only suffered 24 sacks, which ranks 16th in the league. Not only has he led his team to a 10-3 record, but he didn’t play in the loss to the Chiefs in Week 9.
As to productivity, his passing yardage and ratings in the last four games have been: 292 and 75.5 (against the Seahawks), 385 and 148.4 (Vikings), 307 and 97.2 (Rams), and 341 and 141.1 (Bears). In both the Bears’ and Vikings’ games, Aaron passed for four touchdowns and had no interceptions. If the team does indeed again run the table, Aaron is likely to repeat as league MVP – and we know that will serve as extra motivation for him.
A Quarterback-centric Sport
The NFL features ten teams with nine wins or better. The NFC currently has three teams with 10-3 records, and two at 9-4. The AFC has three teams at 9-4 and two at 8-5. It’s the NFC, however, that is quarterback-rich. The top-5 NFC teams feature the number 1 (Rodgers), 2 (Stafford), 3 (Murray), 4 (Brady), and 10 (Prescott) highest-rated QBs in the league. In contrast, the top-5 AFC teams have the number 8, 11,17, 22, and 26 highest rated QBs, those being, respectively, the Chargers (Herbert), the Patriots (Mac Jones), the Chiefs (Mahomes), the Ravens (Lamar Jackson), and the Titans (Tannehill). Jackson has a pedestrian 87.0 passer rating on the season, and he hasn’t had a passer rating above 88.1 since Week 5.
While the NFC has the far more talented group of quarterbacks, the future looks bright for the AFC, as they appear to have the bulk of the future star QBs, including Jackson, Josh Allen (BUF), Joe Burrow (CIN), Mac Jones (NE), Trevor Lawrence (JAX),), Justin Herbert (LAC), and Tua Tagovailoa (MIA). The NFC prospects, such as Justin Fields (CHI), Jalen Hurts (PHI), Daniel Jones (NYG), Jordan Love (GB), and Trey Lance (SF) are less than unimpressive.
Based on the above, it will be a surprise if the next Super Bowl victor is not an NFC team. Of these nine other top teams, the Packers have already faced, and beaten, teams with the second and third highest rated QBs (Rams and Stafford and Cards and Kyler Murray). Not only that, but they beat the then-top-rated Cardinals in Week 8, before Rodgers got into his current groove – he had a 90.4 passer rating in that game, which was played in Arizona.
Packers vs. Ravens
The Pack is about to play the Ravens and Lamar Jackson. Jackson is of course a prolific runner, but the 24-year old’s passing is inconsistent. On Sunday, Lamar left early against the Browns with an ankle injury, and the Browns (now 7-6) prevailed 24-22. The Packers last faced the Ravens in 2017, but that game has little relevance, as Baltimore and Joe Flacco shut out Green Bay and Brett Hundley, 20 to zip.
As for his running ability, the 6’2” 212-pound speedster, who’s now in his fourth season, continues to run with wild abandon. On the current season, he has averaged about 11 rushes per game, and at about 6 yards per run. In both 2019 and 2020 he ran for over 1,000 yards on the season. Up until his most recent game, Jackson has proved to be durable, as he’s missed only two games in his three-plus years as a pro.
Though the Packers are being favored by around 7 points in the upcoming game, which is being played in Baltimore, the Ravens represent the biggest threat to Green Bay closing out this regular season with four more consecutive wins. Whether Jackson will be able to play on Sunday will be a closely-watched question as this game approaches.
As another point of interest, should Jaire Alexander return to the lineup on Sunday, Packers’ defenders Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas, might be the finest trio of Green Bay defensive backs since the Super Bowl winners of 2010: that trio was Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, and Tramon Williams – and you can throw in Charlie Peprah to complete a foursome.