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Top Seeded Packers Are NFC's Best Team and Could Get Even Scarier

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystJanuary 3, 2022

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers pitches to Aaron Jones during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

The Green Bay Packers are already the NFL's best team after extending their record to 13-3 with Sunday's dominant 37-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. However, the Packers have yet to reach their peak. 

They should get better once the postseason gets rolling because a handful of key contributors could be back in the fold, and the offense thrives with quarterback Aaron Rodgers taking full advantage of all of the weapons at his disposal. 

Rodgers has been exceptional, of course. He's once again one of the top names in the MVP conversation and could very well be considered the favorite depending on how a person feels about Joe Burrow's recent run with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Either way, Rodgers has been his normal, exceptional self, as his 288-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Vikings can attest. In fact, the 38-year-old quarterback has thrown one interception since Week 5.

Tonight was his sixth straight game with two or more touchdowns and no picks, which tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history, per ESPN Stats & Info.

To better understand just how amazing Rodgers' precision is, he could finish this season with four or fewer interceptions despite 500 or more passing attempts for the third time in his career. No one else has ever accomplished the same feat. 

The new year should bring plenty of treats, too, after claiming the NFC's No. 1 seed and thus the first-round bye to start the postseason. 

"I don't want to say a sense of relaxation because that's not what it is at all. But it's comforting to know we have that to lean on because we're pretty banged up," wide receiver Davante Adams told reporters

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after a touchdown during the 3rd quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on January 02, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo b
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

As good as Rodgers is—and he's a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game—he benefits from his supporting cast, which has been amorphous this season thanks to numerous injuries. But the lineup could solidify once the postseason begins. 

Obviously, the offense flows through Adams. The wide receiver set the Packers' single-season record for the second-straight year with 117 receptions. 

The Rodgers-Adams connection is one of the best in NFL history, yet they'll need help for Green Bay to finally make the Super Bowl under Matt LaFleur's supervision. In order to reach the right balance, an all-time great quote from college coach Mike Leach applies.  

"There's nothing balanced about 50 percent run, 50 percent pass, because that's 50 percent stupid," Leach told reporters when he still served as the Washington State Cougars' head coach. 

Sunday's effort also showed a better run-to-pass ratio, with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion combining for 139 yards on 22 carries. The two backs averaged 6.3 yards per carry.

Arguments will be made in favor of featuring Jones and Dillion to take full advantage of the frozen tundra at Lambeau Field. However, the duo should get the ball based on them being quality offensive threats, not just as running backs to churn out yards because it's supposedly too cold to pass the pigskin.

Jones is both a slashing runner and a viable receiving threat out of the backfield. The duality of his difference-making ability keeps defenses on their heels because he can burn opponents in either manner.

Dillon is different. At 247 pounds, the second-year ball-carrier can punish opponents, particularly in short-yardage or red-zone situations. This doesn't mean Dillion is incapable of busting big plays or even catching the ball—he simply brings a different dynamic to the offense.

Dillon doesn't need to be a workhorse, but he can certainly be the closer, as he was against the Vikings.

NFL @NFL

AJ DILLON. QUADFATHER. 📺: #MINvsGB on NBC 📱: https://t.co/nJofcz3BpO https://t.co/nXJw505KwW

Adams is going to get the ball. Frankly, no one can stop the game's premier wide receiver. He managed six or more receptions in 13 of 15 games. It's everyone else around Rodgers who can make the offense better. 

The running backs and their usage have already been mentioned, but the wide receiver corps beyond Adams should receive a significant boost. Marquez Valdes-Scantling already returned to the lineup after being on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He only caught one pass for three yards against the Vikings. Still, his involvement should grow as he gets his legs back under him. 

Randall Cobb is expected back as well, despite going on injured reserve after requiring core muscle surgery. 

"He said, 'Don't worry, I'll be back,'" Packers receivers coach Jason Vrable told reporters about Cobb's response to the injury. "And for some people, it could have maybe been season-ending. But for him, he told me that, and he's that type of guy where I knew if anybody's going to come back, it's going to be him. He doesn't want to miss this playoff opportunity, and he's just excited about it."

Cobb practiced last week. He'll likely get another weekend to heal before he's reinserted into the lineup. 

A full complement of wide receivers is only part of the potential impactful returns. David Bakhtiari's return has long been rumored and could have been saved for this specific point in the season. The Packers have taken their time with his recovery after Bakhtiari tore his ACL in December 2020.

When healthy, Bakhtiari is an elite left tackle with no one counted as a better pure pass-blocker. 

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 25: David Bakhtiari #69 of the Green Bay Packers walks out duri player introductions prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field on December 25, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers defeated the Brow
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

"Obviously, Dave is a great player, a Pro Bowl player, he's one of the premier players in this league at that position. He's doing everything he can," LaFleur said two weeks ago. "Our athletic training staff is doing everything they can to get him back out there, and when the time's right, he'll be back out there."

The Packers' front five has done well for itself even without its two best players in Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, who is on injured reserve with a torn ACL. Right tackle Billy Turner required a knee procedure this season as well. 

Nonetheless, the group continues to persevere. The added push of Bakhtiari taking over the blindside could solidify and improve the entire unit if the three-time Pro Bowl selection is capable of returning this season. 

Similar expectations can be found on the defensive side of the ball. Za'Darius Smith is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate when healthy. Unfortunately, he continues to deal with a back surgery he required in September. His possible return remains up in the air as well.

The Packers are fine at outside linebacker with Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, but a handful of quality reps from Za'Darius Smith each game would make the Packers' front even more potent. 

On the back end, Jaire Alexander's recovery from an in-season shoulder surgery still has him on the shelf. The team activated the 24-year-old defensive back from the injured reserve on Wednesday. 

Alexander is arguably the game's best pure cover corner when he's operating at full tilt. He may not be the same player during the playoffs, but he can definitely lengthen the bench and provide a much deeper secondary during the most crucial point of the season. 

With Sunday's victory, the Packers became the first team in NFL history to win 13 games in three straight seasons, per ESPN Stats & Info. Historically, the squad has been very good during LaFleur's tenure, but the previous two seasons ended with a loss in the NFC Championship Game.

For that to change, proper distribution between Rodgers and all of his weapons, as well as some fortuitous medical evaluations, could easily push the Packers past everyone else in the conference. 

      

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.

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