With so many talented players in each league, it is a foregone conclusion that stars will be left off the Pro Bowl roster every year. After all, only three or four players from 16 teams can be selected for each position, meaning more than a handful of players inevitably will be “snubbed.”
Most times arguments can be made for and against players making or making the team, and the discussion in Green Bay is no different.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted a fantastic season in 2010 and have the Packers one home win against the Chicago Bears away from sealing up the No. 6 seed in the NFC. However, his season was only good enough in the eyes of the voters to warrant a first alternate selection for the Pro Bowl, meaning his name will only be called if someone at his position drops out or is playing in the Super Bowl.
In Rodgers’ case, his slow start and absence in two games down the stretch probably hurt him the most. Touted by many as ready to take the jump from great to elite, Rodgers’ numbers through eight weeks looked more like the former. With the team sitting at 5-3, Rodgers had passed for 12 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and an average of 251 yards per game.
Anyone who thought the Packers did not look like a legitimate playoff team the last two weeks can quietly sit down. After disappointing losses to the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots, the Packers rebounded in a huge way by destroying the New York Giants 45-17 at Lambeau Field. The win put the Packers at 9-6 and one win away from a playoff berth. Here are game balls for performances in the Packers’ impressive win Sunday afternoon.
Aaron Rodgers: Returning from his one and a half game absence, Rodgers was nearly perfect. He passed for a regular season career-high 404 yards and threw four touchdowns to four different receivers in the win. He also scrambled twice for 26 yards, including a 15-yard run which he finished with a slide, being greeted by loud cheers from the Green Bay crowd. With one game to play, Rodgers needs 307 yards and three touchdown passes to finish with 4,000 yards and 30 TDs. Not too shabby.
John Kuhn: Dubbed the “folk hero” by many after yesterday’s performance, Kuhn finished with three touchdowns (two on the ground, one through the air) to help the Packers’ explosion on offense. In the past two games, 11 of Kuhn’s 17 touches have resulted in a first down or touchdown. He is a vital part of the offense and proved it Sunday, moving the chains and finding the endzone with ease. With Korey Hall out next week with a knee sprain, he will be that much more important.
No one thought the Packers standed any chance of knocking off the Patriots with Matt Flynn at the helm, but they hung around late into the fourth quarter before failing on a last-minute drive. The loss dropped the Packers to 8-6 and were officially knocked out of the NFC North race about 24 hours later when the Bears knocked off the Vikings to move to 10-4. About four hours before the Packers kicked off, they received some great news when they heard of the Lions knocking off the Buccaneers on the road and the Eagles coming back to beat the Giants.
Let’s take a look at the playoff picture in the NFC and how it’s all shaping up for the Packers. Obviously the loss to the Lions hurts in the ever-so-tight NFC, but the fact that it was a division (and conference) game makes it sting that much worse. The Packers now sit at 8-5 and are at the bottom of what now looks to be a race between threes teams for one spot in the playoffs.
Beginning in the NFC South, the Falcons took care of business over the Panthers to move to an NFC-best 11-2, the Saints got a big win over the Rams to get to 10 wins, and the Buccaneers hung on and used a last-second blunder by the Redskins to improve to 8-5. It’s almost a certainty that two teams will come out of this ultra-competitive division, with the Falcons and Saints fighting for the division spot and the other, most likely the Saints at this point, with a firm grasp on a wildcard spot. The Buccaneers are fighting a few key injuries on defense and did not look impressive, but 8-5 currently has them ahead of the Packers and one Giants loss tomorrow night from being in the playoff picture.
The biggest storyline heading into the Packers’ Monday night contest with the red-hot Patriots has to be the status of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. After suffering a concussion late in the second quarter of last week’s loss to the Detroit Lions, Rodgers’ availability is in serious doubt. It is his second concussion this season (he suffered one in overtime against the Redskins) and will most likely not practice until Saturday, meaning he’s almost surely out of Sunday night’s tilt.
That means backup Matt Flynn will probably make his first career start just a week after passing for 177 yards and an interception against the Lions. It was an admirable performance for a backup entering in the middle of the game, but a crucial interception in the Lions’ endzone stalled a drive that would have been turned into points in a close game.
The Patriots have outscored its opponents 114-17 over the last 10 quarters and have won five straight, making them arguably the hottest team in the NFL. Making things worse is that the game will be played in New England, where the Patriots are 6-0 this season. They have won 21 of its last 22 games against NFC opponents and will be highly favored to add to that streak come Sunday.
Behind a resurgent defense, an always reliable special teams, and a balanced attack on offense, the Chicago Bears find themselves atop the NFC North after 12 weeks. Their 8-3 record is good for second in the conference behind the Atlanta Falcons and they are currently in line to win their first division championship since 2006.
Keeping pace right behind them are the 7-4 Green Bay Packers, winners of four of its last five games. Injuries have forced them to chance their approach on both sides of the ball, but their playmakers have kept them in contention and stand just one game behind Chicago in the division race.
Both teams will have their hands full the rest of the season, with three of their five remaining opponents holding winning records. For the Bears, their remaining opponents combine for a 31-24 record while the Packers’ opponents hold a record of 30-25. It seems as though the race could come down to the final weekend of the season, when the two teams will meet in Green Bay.
Here’s a quick week-by-week look at each team’s remaining schedule and who will eventually wind up as the NFC North champion.
Week 13: Bears at Detroit, Packers vs. San Francisco
Both teams will be expected to win their respective games Sunday. The Bears face an inferior Lions team that has lost four straight, but they have had three extra days to rest and prepare after playing on Thanksgiving that will certainly come in handy.It’s also tough to forget the Week 1 controversy where Calvin Johnson let go of an apparent touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.
For the Packers, they return home for the first time in almost a month to take on a 49ers team coming off a short week and a huge loss on offense. After defeating the Cardinals on Monday Night Football, the Niners will be playing on a short week when they head to Green Bay. They also lost running back Frank Gore to a broken hip and will be relying on 31-year-old Brian Westbrook going forward.
Prediction: Bears and Packers win; Bears 9-3, Packers 8-4
Week 14: Bears vs. Patriots, Packers at Lions
Entering week 13, the Green Bay Packers have plenty of confidence but are still on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. At 7-4, they sit a game behind the first place Chicago Bears in the NFC North and will look to improve when they host the Frank Gore-less San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Here are some notes on the Packers entering the final quarter of the 2010 regular season.
Tramon Williams Signs Extension Through 2014
Hard work pays off. The Packers and cornerback Tramon Williams signed a four-year extension this past week worth $33.074 million through 2014, making him the fourth highest paid player on the team (behind Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson, and Greg Jennings). After joining the practice squad in November 2006, he played behind Charles Woodson and Al Harris for two and a half seasons before entering the starting lineup midway through the 2009 season.
Known as one of the better nickel cornerbacks in the league, as shown by his five interceptions in 2008, Williams didn’t skip a beat taking over for Harris, who was put on injured reserve after tearing his ACL. He finished 2009 with four interceptions and has equaled that total just 11 games in this season.
Sam Shields has eased some of the nerve regarding the future of the cornerbacks in Green Bay, but locking up Williams through 2014 gives the Packers an elite cornerback for the future. He hasn’t received the recognition worthy of his performance in 2010, but he finally got the paycheck he deserved.
Ted Thompson stuck to his guns and rewarded his own players for their performances, locking down the most important free agent the Packers had entering this off-season. Williams was quiet in the media about his contract and will now rank as the twelfth highest paid cornerback in the league. Chalk this one up as a steal for the Packers and a great story about an undrafted free agent making it big in the NFL.
Chillar, Havner put on IR; Francois, Gordy promoted