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Aaron Rodgers Must Play to Save Packers' Season in Week 17

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 04: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers returns to the field after a colar bone injury which occurred in the first half of the game against the Chicago Bears during the game at Lambeau Field on November 04, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIJanuary 2, 2017

If the Green Bay Packers want to save their season in Week 17 against the Chicago Bears, then the team will need to play Aaron Rodgers, especially considering everything else going on with the team recently.

After losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 16, it really looked like the Packers were going to be eliminated from the playoff hunt.  Thankfully, the Bears were blown out just a few hours later by the Philadelphia Eagles, losing 54-11 to keep the Packers alive while setting up a huge game between the two teams in Week 17.

For the winner, they will be the NFC North champions and grab a playoff spot, while the loser will be watching the postseason from home.

As has been the case for the past few weeks, all fans will be paying attention to whether or not Rodgers will play this week.  He's been practicing with the team for a couple of weeks now, but he has yet to be medically cleared.  According to Ian Rapoport from NFL.com, Rodgers will find out what his status is on Dec. 26:

Rodgers gave some more details on his radio show earlier in the week:

Since losing Rodgers in Week 9 against the Bears, the Packers have gone just 2-5-1 including that game, and if they want any chance at going to the playoffs, they're going to need their star quarterback playing in this game.

While Matt Flynn has been able to hold his own, he simply isn't on the same level as Rodgers, even if the starting QB isn't at 100 percent.  As you can see from the numbers below, Rodgers still has a significant advantage on Flynn.

2013 Stats: Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Flynn
Comp %YPATDINTQBRRAT
Aaron Rodgers66.98.8415470.3108.0
Matt Flynn62.06.968519.485.7
ESPN.com

While both quarterbacks have played well against the blitz, what Flynn lacks is the ability to make plays when not being blitzed, which is something that Rodgers has succeeded at doing this season.

When Not Blitzed: Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Flynn
Drop-backsComp. %YPATDINTSkPass RatingPFF Rating
Aaron Rodgers22269.98.511312107.913.9
Matt Flynn18062.36.6651280.8-9.7
ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required)

Granted, the Bears don't have the best defense in the league, allowing 389.3 yards and 29.7 points per game.  But what they do have is a strong offense with Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall that's scored 27.8 points per game this season, even with Josh McCown replacing Cutler for nearly half of the season.

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 13: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers passes against the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Winning this game would be no easy task without Rodgers, mostly because of the other issues going on with this team.  Since Rodgers went down, the defense has been exposed, allowing 30.3 points per game over the past eight weeks.  According to Football Outsiders, the Packers have the fourth-worst defense in the league in terms of defense-adjusted value over average, or DVOA.

To make matters worse, the Packers could be without several key players on both sides of the ball in this last regular-season game.  According to the team's official injury report for Dec. 25, Clay Matthews is officially out for Week 17, while Eddie Lacy, Nick Perry, Brad Jones, Mike Neal and Ryan Pickett all didn't practice.

That's bad news for Green Bay.

Perhaps the only good news on the injury front, at least for now, is that there's a real chance that Randall Cobb, who hasn't played since breaking his leg in Week 6, could play this week according to Rapoport:

Still, Cobb's presence likely won't be enough to give the Packers a good chance of winning.  The Bears are going to score points in bunches against the struggling Green Bay defense, and unless Rodgers is cleared to play, the team is going to have a hard time keeping up in a possible shootout.

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