Even at their worst, the Green Bay Packers are still better than the Minnesota Vikings.
The Packers came into Sunday losers of three straight, and a defeat in Minnesota would have put them two games back of the Vikings in the NFC North – and loosened their grip on a wild-card spot, too. But the Pack weren’t worried. In fact, they probably had the psychological edge: After all, they’d only lost to the Vikings once in the last five years.
So even though Aaron Rodgers continued to put up subpar numbers (for Aaron Rodgers), the Packers won again, 30-13, and took back first place in the NFC North in the process. Rodgers threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns, but had another game where something seemed amiss. He completed only 47 percent of his throws for just 6.2 yards per attempt. Rodgers has had a completion percentage below 60 in four of his last five starts and is posting the lowest Y/A of his career. Jordy Nelson is clearly missed, but Rodgers (and the WR corps) must step up if the Packers have a chance at winning another Super Bowl.
It helps that they may have finally gotten Eddie Lacy going. Right after falling below James Starks on the depth chart, Lacy had his best game of the season, rumbling for 100 yards on 22 carries. The Packers are 6-1-1 when Lacy rushes for 100 yards, and any additional weapons on their offense will be hugely beneficial while Rodgers gets back to the level we’re used to seeing him play at.
Did Green Bay look perfect? Of course not. Are they the best team in the NFC? Go ask Cam Newton and the 10-0 Carolina Panthers. But still, the Packers just beat a division rival by 17 points on the road – and their schedule gets easier from here. They don’t play a team with a winning record again until the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16, then they close out the regular season by welcoming the Vikings to Lambeau.
And the Vikings, now 7-3, might need to win on Green Bay’s turf to even make the playoffs. They haven’t beaten the Pack on the Frozen Tundra since 2009, and for a team that hasn’t exactly been tested up to this point – they lost to the lowly 49ers in Week 1, and haven’t beaten a team that currently sports a winning record all season (their best win probably came against a Chiefs team that’s needed to rattle off four-straight wins just to get back to .500) – that doesn’t exactly bode well. Their upcoming schedule is not nearly as forgiving and it may be a burden that’s too much for Adrian Peterson, the league’s leading rusher who just went over 1,000 yards in a season for the seventh time in his career, to bear.
Each of their next three opponents is in the playoff chase and would love to knock them off their pedestal atop the wild card standings: They go to Atlanta, host the Seahawks, then must travel to Arizona. It’s entirely possible that over the course of only three weeks, the Vikings could go from leading their division to being on the outside of the wild-card picture.
That shouldn’t be an issue for the Packers. Even though they don’t appear to be playing at their best right now, the division is so weak and the schedule so soft that Green Bay will be hosting another playoff game in January.
Whether or not they’ll get any further than that depends on if and when the NFL’s best quarterback shows up. Rodgers won’t be catching breaks against the Panthers, Cardinals and Seahawks like he did against the Vikings. Still, after Sunday, he and the Pack are back on track – who knows how far they can go?