Seven astonishing facts about the Packers’ unlikely playoff push as Aaron Rodgers & Co try to overcome 4-8 start

There hasn’t been a viral quote like Aaron Rodgers’ “RELAX” or “run the table,” but here we are in Week 17 of the 2022 NFL season with the Packers on the doorstep of their best turnaround in a Rodgers era full of them.

They are half a game away from the Commanders for the final NFC playoff spot and can enter the playoffs by winning coupled with one loss from the Commanders OR two losses from the Giants.

These bounces have happened so much over the past decade-plus that they have almost seemed inevitable for much of the year. That is, until Green Bay went 4-8 just a few weeks ago.

Here are seven startling facts as the Packers attempt to make their most unlikely playoff push yet.

1. A $100 bet on a bet for the Packers to win and the Giants, Commanders, Seahawks and Lions all to lose in Week 16 would have netted $1,146.

Green Bay received the perfect Christmas present in Week 16 when the four teams ahead of them in the NFC wildcard standings all lost on Saturday, before the Packers faced the Dolphins on Sunday. As the hypothetical bet above suggests, the odds of all five events happening together was quite unexpected.

“I would like to be, you know, 10-5, 11-4, but considering where we were a few weeks ago, a lot has happened in our favor,” Rodgers said. “All the games that were supposed to go a certain way went a certain way.”

2. The Packers had a 1% chance of making the playoffs with a 4-8 record entering Week 13, according to SportsLine simulations.

That’s how dim the Packers’ playoff chances were after a 40-33 loss at Philadelphia, where they allowed 363 rushing yards and fell to 4-8. Although Rodgers had led the table previously, there was speculation that he would sit out the remainder of the season, after Jordan Love played skillfully in relief for Rodgers, who left the game with a rib injury. “The pain was tough,” Rodgers said. “I couldn’t really breathe or rotate my upper body.” Not to mention, earlier in the week, Rodgers revealed he’s been playing with a broken thumb since Week 5.

The fact that we are now talking about the Packers in the playoffs is surprising given the conversation around the team a month ago. It was unequivocally Green Bay’s worst start to the season in the Rodgers era from a record and offensive performance perspective. A reversal seemed almost impossible. Now, Green Bay’s playoff odds are 32%.

3. Only two teams in NFL history have made the playoffs after starting 4-8 or worse in 12 games – the 2008 Chargers and the 2014 Panthers.

More than 500 teams in NFL history have started 4-8 or worse in 12 games, and the Packers can only become the third to reach the playoffs. Yes, a seventh place finish in the playoffs helps, but it’s still impressive. The aforementioned 2008 Chargers and 2014 Panthers also won their divisions with records of .500 or worse, so I wouldn’t take away too much from the Packers’ chance to snag the seventh seed.

4. Rodgers made the playoffs six times while Green Bay had a .500 or worse record in October or later. Only Tom Brady has done it more (seven times) in NFL history.

Translation: Rodgers made a career out of bringing Green Bay back from the dead. I’m not sure yet if his turnovers should be called Rodgers rebounds or Rodgers saves, but he might want to score something. Here is an overview of the six adjustments mentioned above:

  • 2009 — The Packers fell to 4-4 with a loss to the winless Buccaneers, who entered the game 0-7 and on an 11-game losing streak dating back to the previous season. That didn’t stop Rodgers and Co. from finishing 11-5 in its first playoff appearance.
  • 2010 – Just like in 2022, Green Bay needed to win its final two games, both at Lambeau Field, in order to qualify for the playoffs. Rodgers put up a sizzling performance against the Giants 9-5 with 404 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-17 rout in Week 16. The Packers squealed through the Bears 10-3 in Week 17 to punch their ticket to the playoffs before winning the Super Bowl as the sixth seed.
  • 2012 — The Packers fell to 2-3 after losing an 18-point lead to rookie Andrew Luck and the Colts. Rodgers responded with a game-high six touchdowns the following week at Houston and had 29 touchdowns on four interceptions the rest of the year as Green Bay finished 11-5.
  • 2013 – Rodgers returned after missing seven games with a broken collarbone to face the Bears in a do-or-die game for both teams in the final week of the regular season. The winner would be the NFC North champion and the loser would go home. The stage was set for Rodgers to deliver one of many iconic shots of his career, a game-winning 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb on fourth down in the final minute.
  • 2014 — The “RELAX” year. That was Rodgers’ message to Packers fans after a 19-7 loss at Detroit left Green Bay with a 1-2 record. Rodgers had 33 touchdown passes and four picks the rest of the season en route to his second MVP and a 12-4 record.
  • 2016 – Rodgers said he felt the Packers could “manage the table” as they trailed 4-6 after four straight losses. They proved to be prophetic words as Rodgers had 15 touchdown passes and no interceptions during the Packers’ six-game winning streak to advance to the playoffs.

Rodgers always pulls off a miracle, like the “Miracle in Motown,” his Hail Mary touchdown against Richard Rodgers in 2015 after Green Bay has lost four of its last five games. Now all 2022 needs is its own signature moment from Rodgers as he tries to rule the table again.

5. Rodgers has the best regular-season home record (27-4) in December and January by any QB since 1970 with more than 20 starts.

The script is now set for Rodgers to lead the Packers to the playoffs as they host the Vikings and Lions in the final two weeks of the season at Lambeau Field. Not only is he nearly unbeatable to close out the regular season on the frozen tundra, he’s won nine straight in the above situations with 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

6. Rodgers has only been swept by a divisional opponent once in his career, when he played the entire game in both losses.

The Vikings and Lions both beat the Packers earlier this year, but if the story holds, expect Rodgers to get some revenge. Rodgers’ only real “sweep” in his career came at the hands of a familiar face, Brett Favre. The 2009 Vikings are the only team to beat Rodgers twice in the same regular season, despite being healthy for both games. Minnesota won both games with Favre in his first season with the Vikings.

7. The Packers have allowed no points in the fourth quarter during their three-game winning streak.

Writing all of this down makes me want Rodgers to complete the final turnover while throwing for 500 yards and five touchdowns every game. However, I’m still skeptical because that’s not the typical formula Green Bay has followed in recent races, when Rodgers typically go to league scorched earth. He actually has slightly worse numbers across the board during Green Bay’s three-game winning streak.

It was the Packers defense, and possibly opposing quarterbacks, that ignited their hot streak. Green Bay has allowed just nine second-half points and no fourth-quarter points in the past three games. They have six takeaways in the final period of this term, including three interceptions from Tua Tagovailoa in Week 16.

The only positive explanation for the Packers’ suddenly opportunistic defense is a very noticeable change in pattern. Green Bay has gone from blitzing at a top-five rate in its first 12 games to a top-five rate in its last three contests. They also went from the playing zone at a league average clip to the league’s highest rate in that division, according to Pro Football Focus.

Perhaps the takeaway is the result of more defenders in coverage and good high school reads, but there could definitely be a regression to the mean coming in the past two weeks. The Packers defense is still giving up the most yards per play in the entire league over the past three games. In the best-case scenario for Packers fans, their unyielding defense and improved offense since the emergence of Christian Watson will be enough to win the final two games.

Add it all up and as a football fan my heart says YES!! But, my head still says no, as I consider the possibility of a euphoric Packers run to the playoffs. I hope I’m wrong, because an NFL postseason would just be better with Rodgers, and also add Tom Brady.

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