Why the Green Bay Packers Are Now Prime Super Bowl Contenders

Alec Dopp@alecdoppCorrespondent IDecember 27, 2010

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 26:  James Jones #89 of the Green Bay Packers leaps into the stands after scoring a touchdown against the New York Giants at Lambeau Field on December 26, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

You are what your record says you are.

Oh, really?

Be that as it may, the Green Bay Packers have defied that old saying, and have nearly punched their ticket to the playoffs in the process.

In Sunday's epic 45-17 victory over the often collapsing New York Giants, the Packers rose to the occasion with quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the forefront.  But, honestly, should we be surprised?

The answer to that question lies within Mike McCarthy's playbook: the book that has become the most balanced of all books during the last few weeks, resulting in a resurrection of the thought-after Green Bay Packers.

When asked about whether or not McCarthy felt Sunday's victory over the Giants feels like that of a playoff win, he said, "Absolutely. You have to put it in that category. We had no choice. Our record is what it is and to have an opportunity to play at home, I can’t say enough about our fans."

Nevertheless, the Green Bay Packers are back in contention, and look toward yet another critical game against the Chicago Bears—who have every reason in the world to come out of Lambeau with a victory next Sunday.

But for the Packers, Sunday's stellar performance against New York makes for sweet revenge from their heartbreaking 23-20 overtime loss in the 2007 NFC Championship game.  With their do-or-die situation at hand, Aaron Rodgers and company pummeled their way toward holding their own destiny into the playoffs.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

From starting the season as prime Super Bowl favorites, the Packers have endured countless injuries—severely bruising Green Bay's playoff hopes, at that.  However, with the green and gold now poised to make the playoffs, the lingering question still remains: are the Packers again Super Bowl contenders?  For that answer, you'll just have to read on...

Aaron Rodgers does it again

By no stretch of the imagination was Aaron Rodgers perfect in Sunday's throttling of the Giants; However, 404 yards and four touchdowns (complemented by a 139.9 passer rating, might I add) against the league's second-best passing defense is about as close as it gets to becoming impeccable.

Rodgers' distribution of the football was key to Green Bay's success on Sunday. Completing 25 passes on 37 attempts to nine different Packers receivers proved to be much to diverse for New York's secondary.

Packer fans have become so dependent on Rodgers' sublime passing efficiency and mobility within the pocket that running the football seems almost foolish to attempt. That's just the type of quarterback Rodgers has grown to become in just his third complete NFL season.

Coach Mike McCarthy expressed his take on Rodgers' performance Sunday to reporters after the game: "Well, it’s one of his better ones because I pay more attention to the decisions and the ball accuracy and some of the type of the small, detailed things that he does.

"I thought he was extremely sharp especially after not playing last week. He did an excellent job at the line of scrimmage, keeping us in favorable down and distances, and when the big-play opportunity presented itself, him and Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, all the way through, were able to convert on those plays.

Take a glance at Rodgers' statistics against five potential playoff teams this season: 1,422 yards, eight touchdowns, completing 64.6 percent of his passes, all with incorporation of just three interceptions.  The outright performances have been remarkable this season for Aaron.

If there is one quarterback in the NFL who should be in the same category as that of a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning, Rodgers is the guy.

Should Green Bay convincingly win next week against the Bears (and secure a wild-card berth in the NFC), the Packers are a team to watch out for in the playoffs.

Green Bay's defense shows its resilience

Eli Manning never knew what hit him.  So let me be the first to diagnose what transpired: the Green Bay defense was just better when it counted.

Four interceptions from Manning made the Packers' efforts extremely simple on the offensive side of the ball.

Picks from Tramon Williams, James Shields, Nick Collins and A.J. Hawk made New York's already futile performance that much more embarrassing when looking at the box score.

Dom Capers, the man who has transformed Green Bay's defensive outlook over the past few seasons, should be accredited to the bulk of the green and gold's success—having launched Green Bay into the top 10 defensive units in the entire league.

Of course, it helps to have Clay Matthews on the field as well.

Matthews, who has been rather quite over the past couple weeks, certainly made his presence felt to Manning; managed yet another forced fumble at the hands of Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.

With the Packers now fifth in the entire NFL in turnover differential (plus-10), Green Bay now has the total team they've been craving for so long.

Packers offensive line showing major improvement

In Green Bay's thrashing of New York Sunday evening, the Packers' offensive line was able to neutralize Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyoria and Jason Pierre-Paul for the entirety of the ballgame—allowing a lone sack on Aaron Rodgers in passing situations.

Against the league's second-leading sacking team in the league, that's quite the accomplishment.

Yeah, I’ll just say this: I thought we commanded the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, particularly on offense. When you’re calling plays, that’s something I particularly pay a lot of attention to. And the ability to run and throw the football, particularly in normal down and distance, I thought it really benefited our play-action game, as well."

If the Packers' offensive line can control the line of scrimmage against Chicago's rushing attack (led by Julius Peppers, nonetheless) next week, Green Bay will be in for yet another Christmas present: a trip to the postseason.

Is a playoff run in store for the Pack?

Possibly.  But first things first: Green Bay must defend home turf this Sunday against the Bears to officially secure a playoff spot (a loss or tie disqualifies Green Bay's chances).

However, if momentum is to be taken into account, McCarthy's crew is unquestionably one of the front-runners in this year's wide-open NFC playoffs.

Let it be known that the Packers put up over 500 total yards of offense in Sunday's victory—the first time Green Bay has managed to do so under Aaron Rodgers.  Should that momentum carry over to Sunday's game against the Bears, Green Bay now becomes potentially the toughest out in this year's postseason.

For the first time this season, the Packers put together (with exception to the running game, of course) there most well-rounded performance from a coaching standpoint.

Looking ahead to the postseason, should Green Bay win next Sunday against the Bears, potential first-round matchups include trips to St. Louis/Seattle (NFC West champion), or Chicago/Philadelphia.

Nevertheless, the performance Green Bay presented Sunday was as dignifying as it was convincing for Packer fans.

To sum things up for green and gold fans, coach Mike McCarthy concluded his press conference with a very reassuring statement: "We're not holding anything back."

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!