The Green Bay Packers became NFC North Division champions for the second straight year and ran their season record to 10 wins against 4 losses, with a 21 – 13 victory over the Chicago Bears Sunday at Soldier Field. The divisional championship ensures the Pack at least one playoff game in Lambeau and, yes, it gives Cheeseheads a very nice Christmas gift.
After a slow start against the Bears, Aaron Rodgers started throwing touchdown passes to James Jones. Rodgers played one his better games of the season even though the Packer offensive line is struggling with their pass protection responsibilities. Jones caught three touchdown passes on the day, a record for his career.
In the second quarter the Packers’ defense started to assert itself over the Bears’ toothless offense. B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett both played nice games. Raji, in particular, has really stepped up his disruptive nature the past two weeks. The return of Clay Matthews III was very welcome news. CM III’s forte is pass rushing and sacks, but he plays run defense with a passion too. He is an awesome football player. On the day, the Packer defense held the Bears’ offense to less than 200 total yards. Rookie Casey Hayward’s interception just before halftime led to Jones’ second touchdown. The ball-hawking Hayward has been one heck of a second-round draft pick acquisition by Ted Thompson.
The Packers seem to be peaking this year just as the playoff season approaches. Getting Greg Jennings back from his injuries last week, CM III’s good start this week—and maybe having Jordy Nelson and Charles Woodson back next week—should make these final weeks even more interesting.
Aaron Rodgers is just an amazing football player. He likely won’t repeat as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player this year, but he has the heart of a champion and is a very classy act to boot. It will be interesting to see how far Rodgers can lead the 2012 Pack in the playoffs.
The story is not the same for kicker Mason Crosby. Crosby missed his two field goal attempts against the Bears and has missed a field goal attempt in each of the Packers’ last eight games. His field goal completion percentage is the worst in the NFL and it is somewhat of a head scratcher why he has not been cut and replaced. However, Packer management is standing by its kicker. Amazingly, so far none of his misses has caused the Packers to lose a game, but the stakes of keeping an incompetent place kicker on the payroll get much higher in the playoffs.
The Packers have two games remaining in the regular season. Next week they are at home vs. the Tennessee Titans, and then they close the regular season at Minneapolis against the Vikings. It is possible for the Pack to get a first round bye in the playoffs, so there is incentive for the Packers to win these final games and see how the playoff picture sorts out.
The Titans are a rebuilding team and are not very good this year. They are bottom dwellers in most statistical categories, which should make the Packers at least a seven point favorite. But, they do have Karl Klug, former prep football star at Caledonia High school. It is rare for a local to make it to the NFL so good for Karl.
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