Aaron Rodgers' return last week from a collarbone injury — suffered 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.

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 during a game in which Rodgers threw three interceptions.

A day later, the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention. On Tuesday, Rodgers was placed on injured reserve and won't even play Saturday against the Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Read Michael Rand's blog at startribune.com/randball. michael.rand@startribune.com.