9

January

Are the Packers Underdogs Against the 49ers? Depends What you Think of Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers

Can you really call a team with Aaron Rodgers at QB an underdog?

Las Vegas has the Packers as three-point underdogs against the 49ers in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game. The vibe I get from most NFL pundits and talking heads also points to the Packers being underdogs.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking the Packers are underdogs. The 49ers are better on both lines, have an elite group of linebackers, an athletic tight end, and a bruising running back. All of these things typically give the Packers fits.

But I’ll be picking the Packers to win. I don’t think a team with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback is an underdog.

If we get the Rodgers from week one against the 49ers on Saturday night, well, then yes, the Packers will likely lose and I’ll look like an idiot. Rodgers was under siege and indecisive in the season-opener. He didn’t look prepared for the 49ers’ speed and the whole offense looked lost because it couldn’t march down the field like it did so easily throughout 2011.

A lot has changed since that opening-week letdown.

  • New faces on the offensive line and in the backfield have sparked the Packers running game.
  • The defense, especially the secondary, is more aggressive and improved.
  • Rodgers recovered from his shaky opening week and went on to have another MVP-type season, even if he flew under the radar compared to 2011.
  • Rodgers now realizes that he has to make plays under duress, whether that means scrambling or navigating his way around a hectic pocket and making plays downfield.
  • Rodgers is aware of what winning in the playoffs means for his legacy. Winning a wild-card game at home against Joe Webb doesn’t do much for his legacy. Winning a road divisional game against the team that passed him in the draft does.

Greg Cosell from NFL Films said on Tuesday that Aaron Rodgers is not playing “particularly great football.” Here’s the full quote:

“I’m not saying this to be bold or controversial, but I don’t think Aaron Rodgers is playing particularly great football. I think he’s so physically gifted — he can throw it on the run better than anyone in this league — but he’s leaving an awful lot of plays on the field. I think he’s indecisive and tentative in the pocket. He’s not pulling the trigger on throws that are there. I think this has been an ongoing thing all throughout the season. Some people would say I’m nitpicking because of his numbers, but he’s so physically gifted that there are times that he still makes plays. The biggest concern with Aaron Rodgers and their pass offense right now is not the rhythmic flow of it, it’s the extension of plays. That’s where he’s at his best right now.”