Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, December 19, 2016 at 12:18 PM
The Green Bay Packer are alive and kicking. With four straight wins, the Packers have climbed off the mat to get their record to 8-6 and now control their own destiny to reach the playoffs. Their season finale at Detroit is taking on the feel of one that could end up chosen as the Sunday Night finale with the NFC North on the line—maybe even a first-round bye. How did the Packers do it?
We all know the cliché in football that the quarterback gets the glory when you win and the blame when you lose. And we all know as handicappers that more often than not, the truth is a bit more complex. But that’s never been the case with Green Bay this season. Aaron Rodgers was awful when the team struggled to 4-6. He’s been vintage Rodgers in the four-game winning streak.
In the course of these four games, Rodgers has completed 87 of his 123 passes for 1,020 yards. When you break those down, that comes out to 8.3 yards-per-attempt, a figure that would place him second in the league if done for the entire year. The completion percentage is 70.7, which would be third if you extrapolate it out for the whole season. And the TD/INT ratio? How does 8-0 interest you?
This comes against a reasonable level of opposition. One of the games was against a Super Bowl contender in Seattle, another against a division leader in Houston. A road game at Philadelphia came when the Eagles were still in the wild-card mix themselves. Only yesterday at Chicago, 30-27 non-cover win as a (-4.5) favorite, was against a league doormat.
Moreover, weather was a factor in all four games. Two—Seattle and Houston—were in Lambeau Field and the Texans game was played with snow pounding throughout the game. The temperatures were frigid in Chicago yesterday and Philadelphia in November is never balmy.
Thus we have a situation where Aaron Rodgers has played a representative sampling of teams—a nice mix of elites, doormats and borderline contenders—in weather conditions that were always less than ideal and it some cases flat-out miserable—and he’s put up numbers that are that of an MVP. There’s only one conclusion to reach based on that in it’s that #12 is “back” in Green Bay.
The return of the Rodgers we’ve come to know has been aided considerably by an increase in production from his favorite target, Jordy Nelson. There’s a little bit of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” here, because it’s fair to ask if Nelson is playing better simply because Rodgers is, or if Nelson’s improvement has aided the quarterback. It was right before the start of last season that Nelson tore his ACL and missed all of 2015. It’s perfectly reasonable to see now as a time he would finally start regaining his groove.
There’s only one problem with this Green Bay resurgence, at least from the perspective of NFL bettors—it’s not exactly slipping under the radar at Vegas. The price on the Packers to win the Super Bowl has dropped sharply to 15-1. Assuming that they won’t get a first-round playoff bye, that means they still need to win six in a row to cash that in.
The flip side is that this also might be the best price you see on Green Bay as the market returns to its belief in Rodgers. There are a lot of factors affecting a Super Bowl run—the health of right guard T.J. Lang, play at the cornerback position and more. I have to reserve my ultimate judgment on these for clients. At the very least, we can do our handicapping knowing that Aaron Rodgers is back in business.