The Packers have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a 35-21 win over the Chicago Bears on Christmas night. In this game, Rodgers threw for a career-high five touchdowns, and the defense continued to force turnovers despite giving up chunks of yardage.
It may not have always been pretty, but considering they were playing a heated division rival, the Packers were quite impressive on Sunday night. Here are five things we've learned from the Packers' 35-21 win as they head to the playoffs with a 14-1 record.
Jordy Nelson has had a tremendous year in 2011, and while some of this is thanks to Rodgers' tremendous year, his talent should not be overlooked. He is a fast reciever with sure hands, and has been consistently good throughout every game this season.
In addition, Aaron Rodgers seems to have great chemistry with Nelson. They connect on 75 percent of Rodgers' targets to Nelson, with 12 touchdowns and no interceptions. Nelson has also mastered the back-shoulder throw, a play nearly impossible to defend.
Nelson is a great player who fits right into the Packers locker room, and I see him making plays for the Green Bay Packers for years to come.
The Packers' "bend-but-don't-break" mentality on defense was on full display on Sunday night, as they let third-string Bears running back Kalil Bell run all over the field, but the Packers were able to keep the Bears out of the endzone for most of the night. They didn't allow a touchdown until early in the third quarter, but then quickly put the game away and only allowed them one more meaningless touchdown.
The Packers are not only able to make key stops at the right times, but they are also able to force turnovers, leading the league in this important defensive category. The Packers forced two on Sunday, one of which they capitalized into a touchdown.
If the Packers can continue to force turnovers and their offense can continue to churn out points, they may be able to skate by with the yardage they are giving up on defense. However, they will be facing a tougher task when the play against teams with strong offenses, such as the New Orleans Saints.
A lot of people, including myself, saw this game being quite low-scoring, given the history of the Packers and the Bears and the problems the Packers are facing on the offensive line. But considering all the injuries that were on the line today, and all the shuffling of linemen, Rodgers was only sacked once. That is even more impressive considering the strength of the Bears defensive line.
Many had their doubts about the offensive line going into this game, but the line played about as well as they've played all season, and I was even more impressed with this accomplishment since they had to face off against the likes of Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.
Sunday night proved that this offensive line does have the talent and the depth to keep Rodgers upright; they just have the execute like they did in this game, and Rodgers will be happy and healthy come playoff time.
It has been questioned why this Packers defense has not performed as well this season, and after watching this game, I find that the defensive line seems to be the main problem despite the Packers' pass defense woes.
In a stark contrast from last year, the Packers have not been able to rush the passer well at all, as their defensive line has commonly gotten swallowed up by their opponent. This could be contributed to the loss of Cullen Jenkins, as the Packers have failed to find an adequte replacement to Jenkins so far this year, and because of this, have not been able to get the same pressure on the quarterback.
Because of this, the quarterback is getting more time to make throws and make better decisions, and the running game is much more effective for the opponent. This was apparent both this week against the Bears and last week against the Chiefs.
While there are certainly problems in the secondary, they at least are making big plays on the ball, as they create frequent turnovers. This defensive line, however, just hasn't been pressuring the quarterback enough this year.
If I were Ted Thompson, I would focus my energy on finding a longterm replacement for Cullen Jenkins that can make a quick impact. If he can do that, I guarantee this defense will be back to its dominant ways of 2010.
If Rodgers doesn't get the NFL MVP this season, something is seriously wrong with the voting. After throwing a career-high five touchdowns against a very good Bears defense, Rodgers now has 45 touchdowns, six interceptions and over 4,600 passing yards, a Packers record.
While Drew Brees and Tom Brady have also had fantastic years, Rodgers has had an unbelievable season that many believe is the best that anyone has ever played. And despite having a sub-par game in Kansas City, Rodgers appears back after a fantastic performance against the Bears and is ready to finish out this season on a high note.
Aaron Rodgers has certainly had the best year of any Packers quarterback, and quite possibly, any other quarterback in the NFL. Let's hope he can finish off a great year with a second Super Bowl ring.