You can take the dog out of the fight, but you can't take the fight out of the Green Bay Packers.
Remaining optimistic and humble following their excruciating loss against the New England Patriots this past Sunday night, Mike McCarthy and the Packers coaching staff were greeted with some promising news on the whereabouts of their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
When asked by ESPN Milwaukee earlier in the week, Rodgers remained blunt and down to earth in regards to his Week 16 potential return to the side, stating that "I've been cleared (by doctors). It's not that big of a story. Is it?"
Unfortunately for Rodgers, it is.
After sustaining his second concussion of the season at the hands of the Detroit Lions two weeks ago, Green Bay saw their season rest in the hands of back up replacement Matt Flynn, for an unknown period of time.
How did this offensive experiment wind up?
Quite well, considering Flynn managed to highlight some remaining issues in the Patriots' previously immaculate game plan, along with throwing for 251 yards and three touchdowns against one of the NFL's most feared and competitive teams in 2010.
However, none of this matters with two crucial weeks remaining in the season.
What does matter though is Aaron Rodgers' return for the Packers, that couldn't have come at a more critical time as the playoffs quickly approach. Wild Card, division crown or bust, Green Bay can once again count their blessings as the next fortnight progresses, after a second concussion that would have seriously limited many other quarterbacks in the league.
But what does Rodgers' return mean for the next two consecutive games this season? Obviously a lot, but Rodgers' return could spark the start of a seriously confident postseason run if Green Bay play their cards right.
New York Giants
The Packers Week 16 opponents, the New York Giants, are quite similar in stature right now as Big Blue allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to cap off a game winning walk off punt return for the win in the Meadowlands, much like the Packers last minute forth quarter collapse in New England.
Therefore, expect a seriously hot affair when the two come to meet at Lambeau Field.
In terms of overall experience against New York, Aaron Rodgers doesn't have a lot to rely on. The current Green Bay starter has never faced the Giants in his three years under center and as long as we are discussing records, the Packers haven't clashed with New York since their 2007 NFC Championship loss.
For Packer fans who were surprised by the sudden outburst of John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson last week, don't feel disheartened heading into Week 16. Both Kuhn and Jackson combined for 120 yards and one touchdown last week, and are finally acting as big time receiver threats on short screen routes.
Aaron Rodgers will need to utilize the best of both worlds if the Packers are to be successful this weekend. The winning feeling has subsided a little recently, but if the Packers can somehow overcome the Giants second-rank pass defense, Green Bay should be on easy street.
Last but not least, Aaron Rodgers needs to find Greg Jennings again. No. 85 was close to silent last week, one of the underrated assets that made up the Packers loss against New England.
Aaron Rodgers will step into a much rejuvenated side on Sunday, but one that is also in dire strait mode.
Win, and the Wild Card is a lock. Lose, and it becomes a much harder scenario.
The second of the Packers two home games heats up when the Chicago Bears make their annual visit to Lambeau Field, in a game that is already looking to involve the cold confines that typically surround January football in Green Bay.
When Aaron Rodgers last met the Bears in Week 3, No.12 threw for 316 yards, one touchdown and an interception. This time around the bend however, a much better performance will be needed against NFC North division rivals.
Unlike the game against the Giants, the defense will be key for the Packers in Week 17. Jay Cutler has been hot in recent weeks and the mere thought of Devin Hester's kick return brilliance sends shivers through the Packers wobbly special team unit.
On the offensive front, Rodgers will seriously need to take extra precaution on out of the pocket play. Keep in mind that this is the same Bears team who may have potentially ended Brett Favre's career early this past Monday night, and Julius Peppers' eight sacks on the season tell the rest of the story.
The run game will most likely be non-existent for Green Bay against the league's eighth rank defense, but hey, it's worth a try.
Green Bay may already be into the postseason by the time this game comes around, but gaining some revenge after their Week 3 loss, expect the Packers to be ready in two weeks time.
Do The Playoffs Start Here?
Everybody's said it, but it really is do or die time for Green Bay.
The schedule isn't exactly welcoming, but if the Packers can take advantage of a seemingly confused New York Giants team this upcoming Sunday, all of the worrying will be for nothing.
Amongst all of the controversy surrounding Green Bay in the past month, underneath the Rodgers concussion stands a very confident team. The Packers looked great under Matt Flynn last week and it now begs the question to see if Rodgers can keep the momentum flowing heading into January.
Forty-five consecutive games started, all vanished in a plume of smoke. Sure, it was no Brett Favre like record, but at the end of the day, the Packers have their golden boy back just in time to make a playoff push in the next week or two.
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