We’ve finally reached the stage of the season where games can mean everything.
Monday night’s matchup between the Eagles and Packers in Philadelphia sure felt like an elimination game, and the records said as much. The Eagles entered the contest at 5-5 in one of the best divisions in football — they needed this Week 12 contest. The Packers, at 4-6 and threatened with falling three games behind in the NFC North with five games to play really, really, really needed it.
And the Packers delivered in a big way, turning in one of their best performances of the year in a 27-13 win.
And because of that, Green Bay, injured and maligned, is still in the hunt for the playoffs.
Monday was a gut-check for the Packers, and make no mistake who is responsible for the win — it was Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers became the first quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards against the Eagles’ defense this season, completing 77 percent of his 39 passes Monday for 313 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. It was a vintage, gunslinging A-Rod performance.
Some of the throws Rodgers made were of the most dangerous variety — his touchdown to Davante Adams in the second quarter was as ridiculous and impressive a pass as you’ll ever see — but that’s what the situation called for Monday night. If Rodgers wasn’t going to carry Green Bay to a victory, who would?
The time for conservatism is over in Wisconsin. They don’t need to feign towards stat-line appearances or balance. The formula is simple: their defense is going to do their best to give the Packers a chance and Rodgers will have to do the rest.
Few have made the case — logically, anyway — that Rodgers is not one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but there hasn’t been as much respect put on his name in recent weeks as the Packers have fallen from the ranks of Super Bowl contenders.
Or the Vikings. Or the Lions.
You know, the only two teams that they really need to beat — indirectly and head-to-head — in the final month of the season.
The Packers sit two games behind the Lions with one game against Detroit left to play this season. And if Rodgers’ performance Monday is any indication of what we can expect from the quarterback for the rest of the season, you can expect that he will make that Week 17 game in Detroit mean everything.
The Lions control their own destiny, but they have games against the Saints, Giants and Cowboys in the next four weeks.
The Packers won’t have it any easier ahead of their Week 16 showdown with Minnesota and the final-day showdown with Detroit, but again, anyone who watched Monday night’s game had to like how Green Bay responded to the pressure of a de facto win-or-it’s-over game against an NFC playoff contender on the road.
Perhaps it was an outlier uptick in the midst of a miserable season in Green Bay — there’s enough evidence for that, starting with Adams’ two-touchdown, 113-yard game against Nolan Carroll, who isn’t exactly lock-down — or perhaps it was a sign of more great things to come with the quarterback leading the way. The Packers had seven real possessions Monday and posted drives of 9, 10, 12, 13, and 17 plays while going 10-for-14 on third down and 1-of-1 on fourth down.
So is it a one-off against a team that played poorly, or a sign of a late-season run?
And if you think it’s the former, are you willing to bet against Rodgers again?