On the list of players in the NFL who scare Vikings fans, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is probably at the top — and for good reason. The Green Bay quarterback is 12-7 in his career against Minnesota with 39 touchdown passes and just six interceptions.
His impending return last week from a collarbone injury — suffered earlier this year against the Vikings — was enough for plenty of Vikings to imagine doomsday scenarios whereby the Packers, clinging to playoff hopes, got a jolt from Rodgers and made it into a wide-open NFC playoff field where they crushed the Vikings’ Super Bowl dreams.
I even laid out the path for it to happen. First the Packers would beat Carolina. Then they would trip up the Vikings at Lambeau Field in Week 16 before finishing things off at Detroit. A couple weeks later? Voila, Packers at Vikings in the NFC title game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
And, well, it turns out all that fretting was for nothing.
Rodgers did come back against Carolina. The Packers did appear to have some magic going late, when they pulled within 7 points with less than three minutes left, recovered an onside kick and were marching for the tying score.
But a fumble sealed their fate in a 31-24 loss — probably a deserving one. Rodgers was rusty in his return, throwing three interceptions, while the Packers’ defense was routinely exposed.
The loss pushed Green Bay to the brink of playoff elimination — and Atlanta’s win over Tampa Bay on Monday sealed the Packers’ fate. Green Bay, at 7-7, cannot make the postseason even if it wins its final two games.
Now there’s no worry about Rodgers knocking the Vikings out in the playoffs. And there are increasing signs that he might not even play Saturday when the teams meet at Lambeau Field.
First, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Rodgers was “sore” after Sunday’s game against Carolina and indicated the outcome of the Atlanta/Tampa Bay game could influence the decision on whether to put Rodgers on the field against the Vikings. The Falcons victory could influence the decision.
Second, Green Bay re-added QB Joe Callahan to its 53-man roster. Callahan was bumped off the roster to make room for Rodgers’ return, but this could be a sign that Brett Hundley will start Saturday and Callahan will be the backup.
In my mind, I always assumed that if Rodgers made it back for the end of the regular season, he would definitely play against the Vikings in hopes of trying to gain some measure of revenge for the legal hit from Anthony Barr that knocked him out earlier this year.
But with nothing on the line, Lambeau expecting frigid temperatures and the Packers perhaps not wanting to risk exposing their franchise QB to a fierce pass rush under those circumstances, maybe any potential revenge — like everything else for the Packers — will have to wait until 2018.
If the Packers had completed their improbable comeback Sunday, the conversation right now would be entirely changed. What a difference a week makes.