The NFL playoffs didn’t need a guarantee from Aaron Rodgers to add excitement to the Wild Card Weekend games. Instead, Rodgers showed up in top playoff form, becoming the only quarterback in Green Bay history to throw for four touchdowns in two playoff games, and he completely shook up the Giants’ defense in a 38-13 NFL quarterback clinic. He padded that resume a bit by adding 362 passing yards, put in some flair with a Hail Mary touchdown at the end of the first half, put a half dozen spirals through tiny windows, and stretched one play to eight seconds by scrambling before hitting Davante Adams for a five yard score. There was no word as yet whether Rodgers intends to walk on water across the Red River on his way to Dallas, but don’t bet against him doing it, or at least take the over line.
Green Bay punted on their first five offensive series. The last team to do that in the NFL playoffs was the Chicago Bears in 2010, in a game which they ultimately lost to the Packers. It appears to be a fitting omen that the Packers, and Aaron Rodgers, channeling the focus of Mannings’ past, overcame that start to pummel a Giants team in the playoffs that twice defeated the Packers’ next opponent, the Dallas Cowboys. Rodgers performed most of his magic without the services of wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who left in the first half with an injury.
What could be more disconcerting to a defense in the NFL playoffs than an Aaron Rodgers who is playing on par with his Super Bowl run heroics of 2010? It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks’ defensive coaching staffs also have the possibility of facing a red hot Rodgers in the playoffs on their current list of unwanted nightmares. Dallas will be facing that version of Rodgers in the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Like New York, Dallas thrives when it can bring pressure with only its front four. Dallas wins on defense by remaining flexible in their coverage schemes, and the Cowboys like to methodically collapse the pocket with outside pressure closing off running lanes while allowing for seven in coverage. The Giants had little luck extending their run in the NFL playoffs with that style of defense, being unable to catch Rodgers before he fired off precision throws.
If Rodgers continues in the playoffs with his NFL MVP-type of play, it will require opposing defenses to bring as much pressure as possible, while still having enough bodies on the back end to make up for Rodgers’ uncanny ability to find throwing windows. Once Rodgers finds his rhythm, the only way to get him out of it is to sack him. The Giants proved on Sunday that, in the playoffs, getting Rodgers on the ground is not a strategy that is easy to execute.
Rodgers can guide the Packers through Dallas successfully. If so, he matches up well against the Seahawks, a team the Packers beat 38-10 in Week 14. What NFL fan wouldn’t love to see a battle between Aaron Rodgers and “Matty Ice” and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship? For those NFL fans who dare to dream big, how sweet would it be to see a Rodgers versus Brady pairing in Super Bowl 51? Would it be possible to have a better end to the NFL playoffs? If Rodgers plays throughout the NFL playoffs as he did against the Giants, the Packers are the team to beat.
The NFL playoffs always have that one team that seems to be charmed. The Packers have precedent in the “charmed” category, with their NFL playoffs run in 2010 that culminated with a Lombardi trophy. Could Rodgers be the difference maker in a similar run in this year’s NFL playoffs? Ask around the NFL offices and see if you’ll find anyone willing to bet against him. And remember to take Rodgers as the over in that walking on water bet.
[Featured Image by Matt Ludtke/AP Images]