Are the Packers Underdogs Against the 49ers? Depends What you Think of Aaron Rodgers

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Aaron Rodgers
Can you really call a team with Aaron Rodgers at QB an underdog?

Las Vegas has the Packers as three-point underdogs against the 49ers in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game. The vibe I get from most NFL pundits and talking heads also points to the Packers being underdogs.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking the Packers are underdogs. The 49ers are better on both lines, have an elite group of linebackers, an athletic tight end, and a bruising running back. All of these things typically give the Packers fits.

But I’ll be picking the Packers to win. I don’t think a team with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback is an underdog.

If we get the Rodgers from week one against the 49ers on Saturday night, well, then yes, the Packers will likely lose and I’ll look like an idiot. Rodgers was under siege and indecisive in the season-opener. He didn’t look prepared for the 49ers’ speed and the whole offense looked lost because it couldn’t march down the field like it did so easily throughout 2011.

A lot has changed since that opening-week letdown.

  • New faces on the offensive line and in the backfield have sparked the Packers running game.
  • The defense, especially the secondary, is more aggressive and improved.
  • Rodgers recovered from his shaky opening week and went on to have another MVP-type season, even if he flew under the radar compared to 2011.
  • Rodgers now realizes that he has to make plays under duress, whether that means scrambling or navigating his way around a hectic pocket and making plays downfield.
  • Rodgers is aware of what winning in the playoffs means for his legacy. Winning a wild-card game at home against Joe Webb doesn’t do much for his legacy. Winning a road divisional game against the team that passed him in the draft does.

Greg Cosell from NFL Films said on Tuesday that Aaron Rodgers is not playing “particularly great football.” Here’s the full quote:

“I’m not saying this to be bold or controversial, but I don’t think Aaron Rodgers is playing particularly great football. I think he’s so physically gifted — he can throw it on the run better than anyone in this league — but he’s leaving an awful lot of plays on the field. I think he’s indecisive and tentative in the pocket. He’s not pulling the trigger on throws that are there. I think this has been an ongoing thing all throughout the season. Some people would say I’m nitpicking because of his numbers, but he’s so physically gifted that there are times that he still makes plays. The biggest concern with Aaron Rodgers and their pass offense right now is not the rhythmic flow of it, it’s the extension of plays. That’s where he’s at his best right now.”

Cosell is a great analyst and knows much more about football than me, but I think he’s missing an important point about Rodgers’ play: Eliminating turnovers. That indecisiveness in the pocket Cosell refers to? He has a point, but I think Rodgers’ retort would be that he’s not going to risk turning the ball over, especially in the playoffs.

Rodgers also might look a little tentative because he’s got two receivers (Nelson and Cobb) that are gimpy and another (Jennings) just coming off an injury. He’s also got a rookie free agent at right tackle and a center who has three NFL starts at the position. Mix this with an offensive mindset of throwing the ball downfield, and you’ll get an offense that doesn’t always appear in rhythm.

Cosell went on to praise Rodgers’ physical skills later in his comments. He also said that Rodgers often makes a play not long after leaving one on the field.

Holding the ball a little too long and taking a few unnecessary sacks has been part of Rodgers’ game since he took over for Brett Favre. To me, it’s part of Rodgers’ and Mike McCarthy’s avoid-turnovers-at-all-costs philosophy. It’s also part of the duo’s look-for-the-big-play-instead-of-the-checkdown philosophy.

It’ frustrating at times, but i’s also gotten excellent results. I think the results will be positive once again on Saturday night.

If you re-watch the week one game, Rodgers didn’t get out of the pocket much. Perhaps that was because the 49ers were too fast. I think it was because Rodgers was a little tentative. He won’t be tentative on Saturday.

It’s fine if you want to take the team with the bigger lines and exciting young quarterback. The 49ers are great and easily could win the whole thing.

I’m going to stick with the team with the already elite quarterback looking to cement his legacy and shush his critics yet again. The Packers might be underdogs, but I don’t think Rodgers will let them play like it.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • http://www.HawgNSonsTV.Com HawgNSonsTV

    Packers hang a 50-burger in the 9ers!

    • Wagszilla

      Is Andrew Quarless playing?

  • Buddy

    During the Super Bowl run didnt McCarthy say, We are nobodys underdog?

  • Big T

    If the players play to their ability this one comes down to coaching and in my opinion the 49ers have an edge in that department. Green Bay can win this but it will take an ego deflation on MM’s part to do it. No 1st & goal on the 1 inch line and run a fullback dive 4 times in a row to lose 6 yards. Please be smart MM and bring home a Victory… And whatever you do don’t let it come down to a field goal, we will be screwed, blued, and tattooed…

  • FourEyesBrewing

    Actually, I hope they play like underdogs. I think the Packers play much better when they’re fighting tooth and nail for their lives, like they had to to get into the playoffs in 2010.

  • talanx

    I agree with FourEyes. I feel good about the Packers being the underdogs. They always seem to play well as underdogs.

  • FireMMNow

    this game will be all about the checkdown. how MM uses cobb and harris out of the backfield will extremely important. these guys need to be weapons in the passing game throughout. and team can wear down and get frustrated when you continually convert 3rd and 3s with short quick passes.

    if the OL can protect the packers can win. if they cannot protect, the packers will lose. pretty simple.

  • Tarynfor12

    “I’m not saying this to be bold or controversial, but I don’t think (_____) is playing particularly great football. I think he’s so physically gifted — he can throw it on the run better than anyone in this league — but he’s leaving an awful lot of plays on the field. I think he’s indecisive and tentative in the pocket. He’s not pulling the trigger on throws that are there. I think this has been an ongoing thing all throughout the season. Some people would say I’m nitpicking because of his numbers, but he’s so physically gifted that there are times that he still makes plays. The biggest concern with (________) and their pass offense right now is not the rhythmic flow of it, it’s the extension of plays. That’s where he’s at his best right now.”

    This is the statement from Cosell without the name of the QB in question.I read this over and over with a fill-in-the blank with other possible names and sure enough,this is a blanket statement that can have many names placed into it.In fact,this is up with the usuall,”nobody can make that throw except him,only he can make that play etc,etc, which is blantantly orated every game on Sunday and Monday nights no matter the QB playing.

    To the laymen this would be accepted “yeah,thats right..whats wrong with AR” but to the more indepth looking fan this would be met with “the situation,decision and result is being overlooked”.

    Rodgers understands situations better than anyone and though the result may not look correct at the moment,it likely proves correct long term.His numbers don’t lie and where the team is and how he got us here doesn’t lie either.

    Winning playoff football is decided by situations and decisions…until Rodgers decisions begin to look like the other 29 QBs (Brady and Peyton excluded)I’ll let him do it ‘HIS WAY’.

    Rodgers has the best numbers again and in a year where situations were more abundant and his stats and record dictate he made the right decisions..long term.

    • Adam Czech

      Cosell doesn’t make blanket statements and I don’t think he’s making one here. He’s a big film guy. He probably sees throws that Rodgers could attempt but doesn’t. I don’t think Cosell fully understands, or appreciates, Rodgers’ and McCarthy’s absolute hatred for turnovers.

      I don’t think Cosell’s criticism is anything new. There’s always been a sentiment among some that Rodgers needs to take more risks and make tighter throws, interceptions be damned.

      • Tarynfor12

        Breaking down film is great and isn’t an easy thing to do and it allows the armchair QBs to rant about what they didn’t see 4-5 days later.
        Everything on film isn’t what the QB sees in game speed.If was that easy….

        Regular season play and game situation decisions as to risk level isn’t the same as playoff risk level decisions.

        If Rodgers was to increase the number of risk throws during the season that is pointed out by Cosell via tape,we might not even be here.

        As Chad points out below,Rodgers will now make more riskier throws because of the gravity of the situation…lose and you’re done.

        Most QBs are the same in regular season and playoff time.Only a few can raise the level of risk and succeed from one to the other.Comparing what Rodgers did in the season to what he does in post season is a reel of totally different tape.
        So Cosells’writing IMO,is a blanket regular season statement that is applicable to many a QB each and every week.

        • PackersRS

          Great take.

  • Chad Toporski

    I think Rodgers is able to “flip the switch” so to speak on taking chances. When it’s all on the line, he will take the risks. I think back to the Super Bowl and remember a guy who threw the tough balls in tight coverage. He’ll play it safe to stay ahead but will also turn up the heat when necessary.

    • http://Draftingph@aol.com Dutch

      Amen, Chad!
      ‘Remember the fourth-quarter/third down seam route to Jennings in the Super Bowl? How about the bullet to Jordy in the left side of the end zone in the first Atlanta game that same year? He is the absolute master of the Back-shoulder Fade and has “Tight-windowed” some mind blowing stuff to James Jones this season. It’s not so much a matter of “flipping the switch” as it is letting the game come to him. With his God-given ability and the talent at his disposal, this should be a fun game to watch!

  • GBPDAN

    Damn its awesome having the best QB in the world on our team

  • Big O

    Folks, this is going to come down to who can keep the QB standing,bank on it!!!