Friday, January 09, 2015

It's All On Aaron Rodgers Against The Cowboys

I've been holding my breath as I waited over the past several days while Aaron Rodgers didn't practice and then word leaked out that his calf injury might not be getting any better. The good news is that he did return to practice on Thursday though I don't put much faith in any comments from his teammates after a closed doors practice session. His calf muscle might only be 50 percent but it's near 100 percent certain that he'll play on Sunday.
He might get a boost from Eddie Lacy on the ground, or from a strong defensive performance, or even another big punt return from Micah Hyde, but the most likely situation is that it'll all come down to whether he can carry his team to victory on Sunday. That's a lot of pressure for anyone, especially when that anyone is dealing with a double dose of calf injuries, but he's the New Joe Cool and he's going to have to R-E-L-A-X. If anyone can handle the pressure, it would be him.

When the Packers went on their 2010 playoff run to the Super Bowl, the offense played great but they also had their best defensive team of the last five seasons. This year's defense isn't as good (I still miss Nick Collins) but it's better than it was in either 2011 or 2013. Even though it's been said a thousand times that defense wins championships, it can also be said that in recent years a great quarterback can carry an imperfect team to the Super Bowl. While the Seahawks won it last year with their defense, an amazing run from a quarterback has been the more common path to the championship in recent years.

Rodgers has a QBR of 82.6 this season according to ESPN (only Tony Romo was better at 82.8). When the Packers won, his lowest QBR was 79.2 (at Dolphins), and when they lost, his best QBR was 64.1 (at Saints). Even in his "worst" performance during a win, 79.2, would qualify as the 3rd best quarterback rating in the NFL pro-rated over an entire season. That pretty much proves that their 2014 victories have been delivered by his arm. He's going to have to deliver that same 79.2 QBR or better performance over their final three games just as these four quarterbacks have done on their recent Super Bowl runs.

2009 Drew Brees. 79.6 QBR in 3 games, 8 TDs and 0 INTs. During the 2009 playoffs, he was slightly below his QBR for the season (80.4) but he was playing at an elite level any way you look at it.

2010 Aaron Rodgers. His QBR in 4 postseason games was 83.5 even though he threw 2 INTs in the cold championship game at Soldier Field. For all four 2010 playoff games in total, he had 11 TDs (9 passing, 2 rushing) and 2 INTs. As good as he was during the regular season, he leveled up in the postseason and greatly improved on his regular season QBR of 70.7.

2011 Eli Manning. 68.5 QBR in 4 games, 9 TDs and 1 INT. During this stretch from 2009-2012, he was the least impressive of the championship QBs, but throwing only one interception in four games was huge victory for him because he's usually so turnover prone. He put together an excellent streak of ball control right when his team needed it most.

2012 Joe Flacco. 84.4 QBR in 4 games, 11 TDs and 0 INTs. During the 2012 regular season, he was widely inconsistent; mixing in a few elite games between some terrible stinkers. He is always capable of playing like this but he put it all together for a four game championship run.

While Seattle did ride their defense to a championship last season, everyone knows the Packers don't have that type of defense. What they do have is a quarterback who's capable of going on a championship run, and who's done it before. If they're going to make a Super Bowl run, they're going to have to get there on the back of an awesome three game run by Aaron Rodgers, no matter how his ailing calf is feeling.

1 comment:

Jack Niemuth said...

If the Packers win this week, I wonder if Rodgers would be 100% for the conference championship. It still hasn't really come out how serious the tear is.