The 2016 season is coming to an end, and for Aaron Rodgers, star quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, it’s been a season filled with ups and downs, a bold playoff prediction, and MVP type stats, basically in that order.
The NFL features a grueling, 17-week season where each team gets a bye week (a week off) at some point, based on a complicated league algorithm, and every team covets the late season bye week. As injuries mount and the brutality of the game sets in, having a week off in late October or November can be a godsend. As hard as the league tries, schedules aren’t an exact science and can determine much of a team’s predictable success. According to NFL.com, the bye weeks are complicated to schedule.
“Each team has one bye week between weeks 4 and 12. Determining where that bye week falls for each team presents additional challenges for the schedule-makers. For example, the league tries to limit the number of times a team that played the week before has to face a rested team coming off its bye. “
Aaron Rodgers warms up at Lambeau Field against Minnesota [Image by Jeffrey Phelps/AP Images]
Just starting to mesh, no team wants to take an early season break, and in 2016, the Packers had a 2-1 record going into their dreaded week four bye, but everything seemed to be clicking. Playing in the NFC North division, one of the oldest in football, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers of Green Bay contest twice yearly with each of the Lions and Vikings and Bears, oh my. Since Rodgers took the starting position from Brett Favre in 2008, in addition to stats that scream “Hall of Fame,” the Pack have earned a playoff spot seven out of the last eight years, including four division titles, and a 2010 Super Bowl victory. Aaron Rodgers has also been distinguished with two NFL MVP awards during that span (2011 and 2014) and if his bold prediction comes to fruition next week, he’ll be in the running for a third.
After beating the Bears 26-10 on October 20, the 2016 Packers were 4-2, still very close to the division-leading Vikings, and well within reach of a playoff berth. That’s when things went horribly wrong. Aaron and Green Bay went on a four game losing streak at the hands of the Falcons, Colts, Titans, and Redskins, careening into week 12 with an abysmal 4-6 record. For most teams and especially quarterbacks, this is a terminal diagnosis, leaving only the hope of next season and any conciliatory stats to inspire performance. But since this is Green Bay and Rodgers is by no means “most” quarterbacks, the left-hander of State Farm Insurance commercial fame doubled down on the season with a bold prediction.
In a post game interview after his 42-24 loss against the Redskins, Rodgers said his team could “run the table,” meaning they would win each of their remaining games, turn the 2016 season around, make the playoffs and return to Super Bowl form. At the time, the bold prediction seemed laughable, and according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal after the loss, it was a joke.
“The Packers are 4-6, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ bold statement that his team ‘can run the table’ sounds more like a joke than a serious prediction. Rodgers has passed for 25 touchdowns, but he’s been a little off all season, and injuries have turned Green Bay’s defense in the wrong direction.”
Rodgers passes for four TD’s against the Minnesota Vikings [Image by Matt Ludtke/AP Images]
His stats were unimpressive, his team was facing playoff elimination in a tough-as-nails division, and no one really cared about his bold prediction. That was then and this, after a Christmas Eve victory against the Vikings, is now. Since the loss to the Redskins, Aaron and Green Bay have done just what he said they would. They’ve won five in a row against Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, Chicago, and Minnesota, and are poised to make the prediction as real as it was bold against Detroit on New Year’s Day, and the 2016 stats have turned his “laughable” season into reality. During the 5-0 run, Rodgers has thrown for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, bringing his league leading TD total to 36.
The last game against the Lions on January 1 is a must-win for Aaron Rodgers, his 2016 season, and his bold playoff prediction. Even if Detroit loses Monday night versus Dallas, a week 17 victory for Green Bay will be enough for the Packers to win the division, a playoff spot, and maybe even another MVP nod. The way Rodgers is streaking, his bold prediction, and the energy he brings to the fans in Wisconsin, 2016 NFL football will be well worth watching into the new year.
[Featured Image by Matt Ludtke/AP Images/Cropped and Resized]