Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has struggled with injuries for much of the 2022 season and has not played up to his usual MVP standards. But with the Packers coming off their bye week, Rodgers is feeling better and may just be ready to finish a season of struggles on a positive note.
Rodgers is coming off back-to-back NFL MVP seasons. In 2020 and 2021, Rodgers combined for 85 touchdowns and just nine interceptions while passing for 8,416 yards and leading the Packers to a 26-6 record in games he started.
This season, the future Hall of Famer suffered a broken thumb on the final play of the team’s Week 5 loss to the New York Giants in London and then suffered injured ribs in the team’s loss in Philadelphia. He left that game early but returned to start the following week against the Bears.
The injuries are part of the reason for Rodgers’ reduced productivity and accuracy this season. Through 13 games, he has completed just 64.3 percent of his passes for 2,864 yards. He’s thrown for 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions, his highest total since 2010. He still has four more regular-season games to play.
Rodgers has struggled with accuracy at times. He has missed some open receivers even on short pass patterns that he could make in his sleep in the past. His passes have often fluttered off course because he struggled to grip the football properly with his injured thumb.
When the team practiced for the first time after the bye this Tuesday, Rodgers no longer had the tape on his thumb.
“The thumb is doing a lot better. It was nice to have that week off,” Rodgers said on the Pat McAfee Show Tuesday. “The ribs are doing a lot better too. My body is feeling a lot better.”
At 39, the bye may be even more important to Rodgers. “It always feels good coming back after the bye,” Rodgers added. “It’s nice to get that week off.”
The Packers need Rodgers to be at the top of his game down the stretch. The team is facing long odds to make the playoffs. They will need to win all four of their remaining games and get some help to qualify. The schedule isn’t easy with the Packers facing the Los Angeles Rams, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions in their final four contests. Three of those four teams are in the playoff hunt and the fourth is the defending Super Bowl champions.
Rodgers will have some advantages heading into the stretch drive. In addition to having a week off to rest his injured thumb and ribs, he now has a healthy receiving corps. Romeo Doubs is expected to return to the lineup on Monday night after missing the last four games.
This will be the first time Doubs and Christian Watson will be in the lineup together with both players fully healthy. Both rookie receivers are also now more comfortable in the offense and have gained Rodgers’ confidence. Neither of those factors were present early in the season.
The team’s veteran receivers are also back and healthy. Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins have all missed time due to assorted injuries but all are in the lineup and ready to contribute.
The offensive line is also more settled in recent weeks and should be ready to help the team. Elgton Jenkins has played well since moving back to left guard and Yosh Nijman has done a solid job at right tackle. Left tackle David Bakhtiari was also playing well until he had to undergo an emergency appendectomy. He missed the Bears game and has yet to return to practice. He is likely at least another week away from being able to return to the lineup. But rookie fourth-round pick Zach Tom has played well in Bakhtiari’s absence and the Packers did not allow a sack in their win against the Bears two weeks ago.
With Rodgers being healthier and rested, the offensive line playing at a higher level and the receiving corps healthy again, all the pieces seem to be in place for the Green Bay offense to start living up to their potential.
The Packers need to go 4-0 in their final four games to have any chance to make the playoffs. Rodgers seems confident they can do it.
“We have a lot to play for but we also need some help,” Rodgers said. “We can’t control that part. But we have three of four at home. We always expect to win our home games, and definitely expect to win once the weather turns. Get this one, and then a warm weather game in Miami, and then things could get interesting.”
A healthy and effective Rodgers would certainly give the Packers a big lift. At this point in the season, there’s no margin for error.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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