The Green Bay Packers have transformed from 4-8 and left for dead to 8-8 and in control of their playoff destiny without what can be considered all-world quarterback play from Aaron Rodgers.
This team has found a new path to an improbable run, and it’s been blazed by a dynamic running back pair, a turnover-crazed defense and Keisean Nixon’s explosive return ability.
Back in 2016, Rodgers lit the world on fire over the final six games, throwing 15 touchdown passes, zero interceptions and creating a passer rating of 121.0 as the Packers overcame a 4-6 start to finish 10-6 and win the NFC North.
This year, Rodgers has thrown four total touchdown passes, averaged 202 passing yards per game and produced a passer rating of 87.0 over the Packers’ four-game win streak, which has Green Bay on the doorstep of the postseason after a 4-8 start.
A win over the Detroit Lions in the season finale will clinch the team’s fourth-straight playoff berth under Matt LaFleur.
The Packers’ run game, defense and special teams have done most of the heavy lifting during the last four games.
The offense is averaging 138.8 rushing yards per game, the defense has 12 takeaways and Nixon has four returns of 30 or more yards during the win streak.
It’s been complementary football without the quarterback powering the success.
Running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon have produced 602 total yards and six touchdowns over the last four games. The Packers have nine interceptions, 12 total takeaways, 44 points off turnovers and two game-sealing takeaways during the same stretch. And Nixon is suddenly the most electrifying returner in football.
Overall, Nixon has an NFL-high five returns of 50 or more yards, including a 52-yarder against the Rams, a 93-yarder in Miami and a 105-yard touchdown to give the Packers the lead over the Vikings on Sunday.
Rodgers hasn’t thrown multiple touchdowns or produced a passer rating above 100.0 in any of the four wins. He threw interceptions against the Rams and Dolphins, and he took a sack on fourth down during Sunday’s win over the Vikings. His longest completion during the stretch is 42 yards. Twice in four games, he’s finished with fewer than 200 passing yards, and he still doesn’t have a 300-yard passing game this season. His average per attempt is 6.6 yards since Week 13. Nothing about the numbers from the last four games suggest something superlative from Rodgers.
The 39-year-old is managing games, making plays when necessary and generally keeping the offense out of harm’s way.
The Packers have found other ways to carve out four wins from the last five weeks. This team isn’t as talented or as good as the 2010 title team. It isn’t relying on a ridiculous stretch of play from the quarterback like in 2016. The 2022 Packers are paving their own path.
How will it turn out? No one knows. But extending the season at least one more week now only requires a win over the Lions at Lambeau Field next Sunday, a truly improbable scenario given the Packers’ 1-7 midseason stretch and the mostly mortal play of the future Hall of Fame quarterback during the win-or-be-eliminated run over the last four games.