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Thursday, December 12, 2013

What The (Pending) Return of Aaron Rodgers Means For The Green Bay Packers & The NFC North Division

         The Green Bay Packers fate and destiny for the 2013 season will heavily rely on the (impending) return of Aaron Rodgers                                                                (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

     The Green Bay Packers entered the 2013 season as favorites to win the NFC North Division. As a matter of fact, the Packers were 5-2 heading into their Week 9 match up with divisional rival Chicago Bears. During their game on that week's Monday Night Football Game, star Quarterback (QB) Aaron Rodgers would go down with a broken collarbone and despite a valiant effort with their leader, Green Bay would go on to lose to Chicago.

     The good news was Rodgers' injury was not season ending, but for the meantime the Packers would need someone to come in and pick up the pieces during Rodgers' absence. Seneca Wallace, who came in after Rodgers went down in Green Bay's game against Chicago, would get the start against the Philadelphia Eagles. Wallace however, suffered a season ending groin injury, and 3rd string QB Scott Tolzien would fill in for the backup. The Packers ended up falling to the Eagles, and just like that Green Bay's record was 5-4 and were quickly slipping in their division standings. Tolzien would get the nod to start in the Packers Week 11 match up against the New York Giants. Seeing how the Giants started off with an abysmal 0-6 record (even though they had won their previous three games) Green Bay hoped and looked to have this game be in their favor, but unfortunately Tolzien would end up being ineffective and threw three interceptions as the Packers dropped their third straight.  In Green Bay's Week 12 game against the Minnesota Vikings, Tolzien would get benched partway through the game and be replaced by Matt Flynn who they recently signed due to the injuries to Rodgers and Wallace ( Flynn was the backup during Green Bay's Super Bowl season and had a positive production level when he had to fill in for Aaron Rodgers who had suffered a concussion at the time). The Packers could not come away with a win but did settle for a tie against the Vikings, bringing their record to 5-5-1.

     While Green Bay was still struggling during Rodgers absence, Chicago and Detroit Lions were gaining ground and eventually surpassing the Packers in the division standings. The Packers had a  crucial Week 13 game as they would face divisional foe Detroit on their Thanksgiving Day showdown!  Green Bay appeared to have control and momentum in their favor with a 10-3 lead after Lions QB Matthew Stafford had a fumble that was returned for a touchdown (TD). On Detroit's ensuing possession, Stafford threw an interception (INT) and in the process the Lions committed a personal foul that gave the Packers an additional 15 yards and put Green Bay in good position to add onto their lead. Green Bay though could not muster up any offensive production on their drive following the turnover and for the rest of the game for that fact as Detroit steamrolled the Packers 40-10. What once looked like a promising season, Green Bay now had a losing record (5-6-1) and its playoff chances were slowly slipping away.

     Green Bay headed into their game last week against the Atlanta Falcons with talk that Aaron Rodgers would be given the green light to start and hopefully put the Packers back on the right track. Rodgers was ultimately ruled out and Matt Flynn would once again get the start. It looked like the Packers would drop another game as the Falcons held a 21-10 lead heading into halftime. Green Bay had to and would dig deep and scored 12 points in the second half and also shut out the Falcons throughout the remainder game in the process. Green Bay finally got a win it now so desperately needed while Rodgers was out. The Packers currently have a mediocre record of 6-6-1 but are surprisingly still in the hunt for a division crown as Chicago and Detroit have identical records of 7-6 and neither have taken advantage of the opportunity to try and run away from the rest of the field in the standings.

     With Aaron Rodgers coming back (assuming Rodgers is cleared for this weekend against Dallas) or when he does, the Packers will be able to go back to its high powered and fast paced offense and create more scoring on the offensive side of the ball once again! If the the Packers can stay the course without Rodgers until he comes back, Green Bay certainly still has a shot at winning a division title, with favorable match ups against Dallas and Pittsburgh, right before their season finale with the Bears (which could potentially end up determining who will win the NFC North). If and when Rodgers does comeback and the Bears and Lions continue to struggle, I am willing to bet the Packers run the table the rest of the way and finish 9-6-1 and ultimately come away with a division title!

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