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The last time they made it to the Super Bowl, Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews came out on top. Can they do it again this season?
In a matchup that many fans have hungered for over the past few seasons, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady will finally square off in what will be a battle between each league’s best quarterback.
This matchup might have seemed preposterous a few weeks ago with Rodgers and Chicago's Jay Cutler sidelined and the Detroit Lions looking like the presumptive NFC North champion. But a miracle win over the Dallas Cowboys, consecutive losses from Detroit and Chicago and the return of Aaron Rodgers in the season finale have the Packers back as division champs and in the postseason for the third straight year.
While their 8-7-1 record may seem less than impressive, given that it's the worst among NFL postseason teams, the Packers went 6-2 in games that Rodgers started and completed this season including five straight. The two losses came in the first three weeks of the season, in which the Packers overprepared for the read-option against the San Francisco 49ers and lost 34-28.
In Week 3, a late-game return for a touchdown by Cincinnati's defense off a fumble by Packer rookie running back Jonathan Franklin gave the Bengals a dramatic 34-30 win.
In the eight games that he was healthy during the regular season, Rodgers’ numbers were among the league’s best: He threw for 2,509 yards, an average 313.6 per game. The return of Randall Cobb enabled the Packers to edge out the explosive Chicago Bears in a Week 17 shootout to claim the NFC North title.
The dynamic rushing duo of Eddie Lacy and James Starks makes the Packers offense two dimensional and allows Rodgers to use play-action to be even more dangerous. Despite the defensive struggles this season, there is no one better in the NFC at winning shootouts, and the Packers, reminiscent of the 2010-11 squad that won it all, will be a hungry team looking for recognition this postseason.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have had a slew of injuries on the offensive side of the ball and lost almost all of their top pass-catchers from a season ago. Despite not having stud tight end Rob Gronkowski for most of the season and losing Wes Welker, Tom Brady just keeps plugging along, leading New England to a 12-4 season and another AFC East title.
The Patriots could have been the No.1 seed and enjoyed home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if it had not been for a controversial ending in Week 11 against the Carolina Panthers, in which they lost 24-20.
Despite having their offensive weapons limited this season, there is just something about the Brady-Bill Belichick combination that allows the Pats to continuously win big games, and this season has been no exception. Already with a win over Denver under his belt and owning the head-to-head matchup against Peyton Manning, Brady will get the job done in Denver once again to send his squad back to the Super Bowl.
In the Year of Offense, it’s clear that the best teams this postseason will be the ones that employ the best quarterback, and the best two from each conference, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, will be the last two standing on Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, NJ, as the Pack and Pats fight it out for Super Bowl supremacy.