Three weeks ago, this space was home to an obituary for the Green Bay Packers, who -- following a loss to the Detroit Lions -- had slipped to 8-5, were without their star quarterback and faced a final month of games against the New England Patriots, New York Giants and Chicago Bears.
Bartender, how about a cold one to go with my helping of crow.
The Packers, who lost that Patriots game with Matt Flynn playing in place of Aaron Rodgers, won when they absolutely had to, beating Tom Coughlin's Giants in Week 16 and gutting out a 10-3 victory over the Bears on the last day of the season to clinch the final NFC playoff spot. The Giants, who beat the Redskins 17-14 on Sunday, finished 10-6, the same record as the Eagles and Packers, but lost tiebreakers to each. Ditto for the Buccaneers, who also finished 10-6 but were behind the Packers and Giants in the playoff pecking order when the day began.
So the Packers -- with Rodgers back and healthy -- snag the No. 6 seed in the NFC, setting up a first-round clash with Michael Vick and the Eagles. A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (re: Philadelphia, Week 1), these teams met in the season opener -- a 27-20 Packers win -- in which the Packers knocked Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb out of the game, making room for Vick's comeback and their playoff run.
Rodgers posted a quarterback rating of 114.5 or higher in five of his final six games. No quarterback -- with the exception of Tom Brady -- has been better than him during the second half of the season. That includes Vick, who sat out Sunday's game against Dallas (along with DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and half the city of Philadelphia) to rest up for their divisional playoff game.
The Packers still can't run the football (they're in the bottom third of the league in rushing yards and lack a breakaway back), but they still have Rodgers. More importantly, they have momentum, and momentum is a great thing, especially when you've already been left for dead.