Don't get Aaron Rodgers
wrong, the Green Bay Packers' quarterback still wants his 4,000-yard and 30-plus touchdown seasons.
"I definitely care," Rodgers said Thursday.
And those around him say he's still capable.
"I would never say it has anything to do with his skill level diminishing, or he's getting older or any of that, because I see the same guy every day," receiver Davante Adams
But as ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky noted this week, Rodgers' numbers aren't on par with his usual output. Heading into Sunday's regular-season finale at the Detroit Lions, he will need to throw for 321 yards to reach 4,000 yards. He has thrown for 321 yards in a game only twice this season, and he hasn't thrown for even 250 yards in any of his past seven games.
Only once in Rodgers' career has he failed to reach 4,000 yards in a year in which he played in all 16 regular-season games. That was in 2015, the year he lost Jordy Nelson
, his No. 1 receiver, to a preseason knee injury.
Yet under first-year coach Matt LaFleur, Rodgers and the Packers have won 12 games and can clinch a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs with their 13th win.
"I think the level of success and the way that I feel I'm playing is different in this offense this year," Rodgers said. "I don't need to throw 40 touchdowns for us to win. I need to be great on my checks, be as efficient as possible. I need to take care of the football."
In Monday night's 23-10 win at Minnesota, Rodgers threw for just 216 yards without a touchdown and one interception. It marked the first time Rodgers had won a game in which he threw an interception without a touchdown. It was his third game this season without a touchdown pass, but the Packers have won all three. Coming into this season, Rodgers was 4-10 in such games.
"I felt like last game was one of my better games of the season," Rodgers said. "You look at the stats and go, 'OK, you're (26)-of-40 for 200-something, no touchdowns. What are you talking about? Are you really lowering the bar for yourself that much?' And I'd say, 'No, I'm never lowering the bar for myself.'
"The expectations are for greatness, but my responsibility was to get us in checks. My responsibility was to get us in the right protection scheme and take care of the football, and although I threw a pick, I felt like what I needed to do in that game, I was executing at a winning level. But any quarterback wants to throw four or five touchdowns a week. It's just that hasn't been the case this year, we haven't needed it to win 12 games."
Rodgers ranks 12th among all quarterbacks
in passing yards (3,679), tied for 11th in touchdown passes (24) and 18th among all qualified quarterbacks in completion percentage (63.4). However, he has the fewest interceptions (three) and the best touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Rodgers, 36, might be better at handling those kinds of numbers than he would have earlier in his career.
"I think we had a different team back then," Rodgers said. "We had that group on that Sports Illustrated [cover in 2011]. We had a stretch -- you guys know during that time -- we had almost 50 games without a 100-yard rusher. So our focus, our plan of attack with Mike [McCarthy] during that time was, 'Hey, we're going to be aggressive throwing the ball. We're going to throw 40 times a game.' There were years when I was throwing it 600 times damn near every year, and that's what we needed to do to win. This year, we've done it a different way."
Meanwhile, there's room for production this week.
As ESPN's Mike Clay noted, Davante Adams
was out with an injury when these teams met back in Week 6, but he can expect shadow coverage from Darius Slay this time around.
We don't need to be too worried here, as these two have met in a shadow situation once before.
In that 2018 meeting, Adams posted a 9-140-1 receiving line (all while aligned across from Slay) on 12 targets.
As Clay notes, Slay is one of the best in the business, but the Detroit defense has fallen apart and is allowing the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers over the past month, including the third-most to the perimeter. Start Adams with confidence.
Also worth noting. .... Allen Lazard
racked up nine targets during Monday's win over Minnesota.
That marked a career high for the second-year receiver and was well above his previous best of six set back in Week 10. Lazard turned the usage into five catches for 45 yards, which was good enough for his third-highest fantasy point total of the season.
The problem? He has failed to clear 27 receiving yards in four of his past six games and has one touchdown during his past nine outings.
Again, if you're playing Packers not named Rodgers, Adams or Aaron Jones
, you're taking a chance.
Also, definitely don't play Jamaal Williams
. He's been ruled out with a shoulder injury
(and Jake Kumerow
is questionable due to illness).