NFL Playoffs: Can Aaron Rodgers Lead the Green Bay Packers to Super Bowl XLVIII?
The Green Bay Packers won the NFC North with a 33-28 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, as two players returned from injury and connected for the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers overcame a slow start to top 300 yards (25-for-39 for 318 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions) in his first start since Nov. 4, and he connected with wide receiver Randall Cobb on a 48-yard touchdown in the final minute to clinch a playoff berth for Green Bay. Rodgers had of course missed the previous seven games with a fractured left collarbone, while Cobb returned after missing 10 games with a broken leg and both of his receptions against Chicago went for touchdowns.
The Packers will welcome the San Francisco 49ers to Lambeau Field on Sunday of Wild Card Weekend, but can Rodgers lead them on an improbable run to Super Bowl XLVIII?
Rookie running back Eddie Lacy (1,178 yards, 11 touchdowns) has given the Packers a consistently productive running game for the first time in recent memory, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that James Starks had 315 rushing yards during the team’s run to a win in Super Bowl XLV.
The Packers’ bigger issues may be defensively, with linebacker Clay Matthews missing Sunday’s game after breaking his right thumb for the second time this season. He will surely try to play at some point during the playoffs, but he should be considered questionable at best for next Sunday’s game against the 49ers right now.
The result of Saturday’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles will determine where the winner of Sunday’s Packers-49ers game will travel to in the Divisional Round. If the Saints win, they would take on the Seattle Seahawks as the lowest-seeded playoff team and the Packers or 49ers would then play the Carolina Panthers. If the Eagles win, they would of course head to Carolina and send the Packers or 49ers to Seattle. So it’s fair to say fans of both the 49ers and Packers will be Saints’ fans next Saturday.
Only Drew Brees (nine) has started more playoff games than Rodgers (eight) among the quarterbacks still alive in the NFC, but Brees is not at his best playing outdoors and Rodgers of course has plenty of experience dealing with the elements. I think the Packers are a long shot to reach Super Bowl XLVIII, but with Rodgers back healthy nothing is out of the question and their playoff schedule has a chance to line up favorably if they can get past San Francisco.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.