COMMENTARY | Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers must feel like Rodney Dangerfield: They get no respect.
Despite winning more games over the last three years than anyone in football, the Packers aren't viewed as the favorites in the NFC.
San Francisco is.
And to some degree, it's warranted. San Francisco is a returning division champ, was a fumble away from the Super Bowl last year and appears to have a more explosive offense to pair with that punishing defense.
But history is not on their side.
As the Packers prepared for their game against Minnesota, I wrote about the importance of a veteran quarterback in the playoffs.
Seattle, the other trendy choice in the playoffs because of the roll they're on, has the same problem: No rookie has ever started in a Super Bowl.
Ben Roethlisberger and Dan Marino were in their second years when they went to the Super Bowl, but both had started as rookies the season before.
Colin Kaepernick's story is somewhat similar to Tom Brady's in 2001 when Drew Bledsoe was injured. Brady took over and lead his team to a Super Bowl. That's the last time a first-year starter played in the Super Bowl.
Tom Brady turned out to be a transcendent talent, one of the greatest to ever play the game. You look at Roethlisberger and Marino, one a Hall of Fame quarterback and the other a potential future Canton inductee, and you have to wonder if Kaepernick has the potential to be on that level.
Only quarterbacks of that ilk have been able to pull off what either Kaepernick or Russell Wilson will attempt.
But even more recent history is on the side of the Packers. Since 2007, four of the five NFC representatives in the Super Bowl went on the road to win the divisional round. New York did it twice, Arizona beat Carolina in 2008 and Green Bay rolled Atlanta in 2010.
That means San Francisco and Atlanta both ought to be wary of their opponents. Seattle is the popular pick, and even Las Vegas has instituted the Falcons as less than a 3-point favorite at home, almost unheard of in a game between a 1 seed and a 5 seed.
On the other hand, Green Bay has a quarterback who is 3-1 on the road in playoff games - for a frame of reference, Joe Montana and Peyton Manning are both 2-5 in road playoff games - and has a league and Super Bowl MVP trophy, not to mention a Super Bowl ring.
Before last week, the quarterbacks not named Aaron Rodgers who are playing this weekend in the NFC had as many playoff victories in the NFL as me: Zero.
Columnists looking for clicks can try to equate Rodgers with Kaepernick by comparing numbers over the last seven games if they so choose. Cherry-picking statistics and offering them in a vacuum is hardly a compelling argument. If you want to look at some numbers, compare Kaepernick's to his predecessor Alex Smith and you'll see their numbers through the same amount of starts this season were practically identical.
But you would never say they're the same player or that you have the same level of confidence in them both. Certainly the 49ers wouldn't say that, or Alex Smith would probably still be starting.
Anyone who believes Colin Kaepernick, in a playoff game, is just as trustworthy as Aaron Rodgers, please raise your hand.
I thought so.
Furthermore, and though I don't want to dignify Mike Sando's atrocity of football analysis linked above, against common opponents this year - a much better way to compare quarterbacks apples to apples - Kaepernick is 3-2-1, whereas Rodgers is 5-1 with the lone loss being the controversial call in Seattle. Sando's argument is steeped in the fallacy of recency bias, believing that recent games are more important than similar games.
Statistically, the numbers aren't close. Kaepernick was 99/161 for 1,319 yards with 6 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. Throw on top 223 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns and those are decent numbers.
Rodgers, on the other hand, was 146/215 for 1,612 yards with 15 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in those games.
Kaepernick's quarterback rating: 94.7.
Rodgers' quarterback rating: 107.3.
So, let's recap: Against the same defenses, Colin Kaepernick is Colin Kaepernick and Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers. Those numbers are pretty close to what the season looks like for both quarterbacks. Kaepernick didn't play against Green Bay the first time and Rodgers completed almost 70% of his throws for 300 yards and 2 touchdowns against San Fran's defense without a healthy Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley.
That leads us back to my original question: Who would you rather have, Kaepernick or Rodgers?
Remember too that San Francisco's defense has been much worse against playoff teams this season.
The fact that I even have to argue against the specious nonsense of a Kaepernick/Rodgers comparison is absurd. Any game, anywhere, at any time, Green Bay has the advantage over San Francisco at the most important position on the field, and the margin in that gap is considerable.
As I pointed out yesterday, against playoff teams, both Green Bay's offense and defense were better against playoff teams than San Francisco's, so let's not pretend that the 49ers have some massive advantage on defense that somehow makes up for Kaepernick's inconsistency and inexperience.
Sure, Aaron Rodgers lost last year to an inferior quarterback with a good defense, but Eli Manning has the best road record in NFL playoff history and had a Super Bowl ring. That's hardly the case this week.
Rodgers has been here before and so has Green Bay, yet their history and recent NFL history hasn't been taken into account by prognosticators, and sports media pontificators.
You can bet Rodgers' famously sensitive ears are hearing all about San Francisco's defense and the arguments that Kaepernick can match Green Bay's offense. The chip on his shoulder seems to get bigger for the playoffs and with as little respect as Green Bay is getting, expect Aaron to take the matchup personally. They'll be no collar pulling à la Rodney Dangerfield, just touchdown throwing and belt flashing.
Peter Bukowski lives in New York and has been covering sports since 2007. He is an award-winning television and newspaper reporter. Follow him on Twitter @BukoTime