Want eight more reasons to respect and admire, or hate and envy, the NFC North Division champion Green Bay Packers heading into Sunday’s game against the runner-up Vikings at Lambeau Field?
Probably not, but here you go:
They just finished sweeping the AFC North and the NFC West.
Think about that.
Their record against those teams: 8-0.
The rest of the NFC North’s record against those teams: 5-17-1 with Detroit playing Seattle this week.
The Vikings’ record against those teams: 2-6, which is the same as Chicago’s and will be worse than Detroit’s if the Lions beat the Seahawks to go 2-5-1.
What’s the big deal about walking unscathed through a scheduling minefield of Bengals, Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Rams, Cardinals, 49ers and Seahawks?
Good question. Think back to May.
The first four legs of a modern NFL offseason essentially are these:
Late February: Complain for two weeks about the Hall of Fame selections.March: Free agency! Waves 1, 2 and whatever bargains are left over for cap-strapped teams with many holes and one overpaid quarterback.April: Finish your final 27 mock drafts before watching none of them come true.May: NFL SCHEDULE RELEASE! Get your Sharpies out and let’s go through your favorite team’s schedule and argue this year’s W’s and L’s based on last year’s L’s and W’s.
The schedule release is a time when we claim things like, “The Vikings have to start out 2-0 against Cincinnati and Arizona because the Bengals were 4-11-1 last year while the Cardinals were 8-8!”
And, besides, “You can’t start 0-2 with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks coming to town in Week 3! The Vikings NEVER beat Wilson, and the Seahawks were 12-4 last year!” And, “Don’t even dream about beating Aaron Rodgers in Week 11 or winning at Chicago in prime time in Week 15!”
Seven months ago, 1.0001 seconds after the schedule was released, the 32 strengths of schedule were posted based on records from 2020.
The Bears had the third-toughest schedule. The Lions had the fourth-toughest, the Vikings had the sixth-toughest and the Packers weighed in eighth-toughest. Green Bay typically has the “easiest” schedule of the four because its first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterbacks do get to play the Lions, Bears and Vikings twice a year.
The NFC North hogged half of the eight toughest schedules this year because they had to play the AFC North and the NFC West. The AFC North went a league-best 38-25-1 a year ago. The NFC West was next-best at 36-28.
The Vikings began their battle against these two behemoths with three false starts in the first seven snaps at Cincinnati in Week 1. They’ve been playing catchup unsuccessfully ever since.
They exited Week 2 with two one-score shoulda-won losses at Cincinnati and Arizona that likely will define their season.
Meanwhile, the Packers were 3-1 when they went to Cincinnati. They played terribly and won in overtime.
They were 6-1 when they went to 7-0 Arizona. Rodgers was off, but the Packers won another one-score decision.
Six of Green Bay’s eight wins against the AFC North and NFC West were one-score decisions. In other words, the Packers’ coulda, woulda, shouldas became we can, we will and we did.
Rodgers completed 65.1% of his passes (190 of 292) in his sweep of the NFL’s Big 2 divisions. He threw 16 touchdown passes and only two interceptions.
Overall, Rodgers is completing 68% of his passes for 3,689 yards, 33 touchdowns, with a league-low four interceptions and a league-high 110.8 passer rating this season. He’s 12-2, having spent the loss at Kansas City on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
While winning his third league MVP a year ago, Rodgers went 13-3 while completing 70.1% of his passes for 4,299 yards and 48 touchdowns, with five interceptions and a 121.5 passer rating.
If you need eight more reasons to respect and admire, or hate and envy, Rodgers’ second straight MVP-worthy season, look no further than his 8-0 mark against the AFC North and NFC West.