With a league-leading 122.5 passer rating to go along with an insanely good 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions, he’s arguably the best passer in football (although Drew Brees and Tom Brady have had plenty to say about that this season).
But, when Aaron Rodgers takes the field on Sunday to try to lead his top-seed Green Bay Packers (15-1) over the fourth-seeded New York Giants (10-7) and into the NFC championship game, it will be the first game action for the star quarterback in three weeks.
It will also be the first time Rodgers has played in a competitive win since beating New York on the road, 38-35, six weeks ago, in a victory that preceded a 46-16 blowout win over Oakland, a loss in Kansas City, and an easy 35-21 defeat of Chicago, in which Rodgers and the Packers led 35-10.
Even with that much time off, Rodgers and the myriad of receiving weapons at his disposal are talented and focused enough to beat the Giants, especially at home.
Just ask the rest of the NFL, which has lost to Green Bay in 21 of the Packers’ last 22 games, with Rodgers starting all but one of those, sitting out this year’s regular season finale.
Timing and rhythm however, are essential to maintaining any offense at a high level, even one as prolific as the Packers’, which leads the league in scoring.
And, when those things might be upset a little by having too much rest, it can open the window just wide enough for a team like New York, with a revitalized pass rush and running game.
A bye week is one thing.
The Packers entered their first one this year in Week 8, and bounced back to take a 45-24 lead in San Diego before ultimately beating the Chargers, 45-38, with Rodgers going 21 of 26 for 247 yards while throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions.
However, two straight weeks off might be another.
The Packers were simply tuning up for the playoffs in a 45-41 Week 17 victory over Detroit, with backup quarterback Matt Flynn playing the entire game while throwing for a career-best 480 yards and six touchdowns, as Green Bay very judiciously didn’t want to risk injury to its franchise quarterback.
Doing so though, might have done a disservice to Rodgers and to Packers themselves by not letting Rodgers play for at least a half in that game, even if it was against division rival Detroit and the ultra-talented yet sometimes cheap shot artist, defensive end Ndamukong Suh.
There’s no doubt that the Packers will have a clear advantage of being fresher than the Giants, and that Rodgers will be more well rested than his counterpart, Eli Manning on Sunday.
But, while Manning has remained in sync with his receivers as the league’s reigning ironman (playing in 127 straight games and counting), there’s at least a slight chance that Rodgers could be rusty after putting up staggering numbers while playing 15 of 16 weeks, following a short, lockout-induced training camp, and then waiting around for 21 days between taking snaps that count.
Green Bay knows how to handle its own quarterback and Rodgers knows his own body better than anyone, so if the Packers feel that three weeks between games was the right amount of time off for Rodgers, who is anyone else to argue with the defending Super Bowl champions and last year’s Super Bowl MVP?
And, Rodgers is so good that even after the offseason lockout, he opened up the regular season this year by having one of the greatest quarters in NFL history, going 14 of 15, for 188 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating – all in the first quarter – of the Packers’ 42-34 win season-opening win over New Orleans.
Yet, if the Giants’ recent resurgence with their defensive line puts the type of pressure on Rodgers that they weren’t able to get on him in the teams’ last meeting on December 4th, perhaps the extra-long layoff might throw Rodgers’ game off just enough to yield New York a Giant upset.