Never, ever count Aaron Rodgers out

It was Week 12. The Green Bay Packers were 4-8. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had just suffered a rib injury on top of the broken thumb he was already dealing with in his throwing hand. Green Bay had a 3% chance in the postseason, and after losing seven of their last eight, people (including this author) were calling for the Packers to give their former first-round pick, Jordan Love, a chance get significant representatives of the game. with the aim of assessing the future.

But as long as Green Bay was mathematically there, Rodgers said he would insist on starting.

“As long as we’re mathematically alive, I’d like to be out there,” Rodgers said all those weeks ago.

Look, you can knock Rodgers, but you can never, ever, discount him.

“I had faith,” Rodgers said after moving Green Bay to 8-8 on the season Sunday with a 41-17 rout of the Minnesota Vikings. “In the same way that [when we were] 4-6, I think a [2016]. Sometimes you have to fool yourself a little to believe a little more. But I definitely had faith. I was going to go down scrapping, for sure. But I do believe in the power of demonstration. And I believe in momentum. I’m a firm believer in the power of the mind and when you start believing strongly in something, miraculous things can happen.”

A win at home against the Detroit Lions next weekend and the Packers will have pulled off the miraculous: they made the postseason, after all.

Say what you will about Rodgers’ hippy-dippy approach to a game we’re all constantly trying to quantify in as many ways as possible. There are many things that go beyond the stat sheet that affect the bottom line. There is experience, as only a 39-year-old quarterback can have. There is familiarity between the division opponents. There is a galvanization that happens when all these things converge. Some may call it just belief.

“It only takes one sometimes,” Rodgers said. “It’s weird, but when we were sitting at 3-6 and I’m looking at the next three at the time, Tennessee was playing really well. Obviously, the Cowboys were playing well. Philly was number one in the league. And I just felt like if we get one of those, we can win the last five and I’d go into it 9-8.

“Now, I didn’t really go around saying that because you don’t really want to say, ‘Hey, we only have one of these next three, you know, maybe we’ll make the playoffs,’ but in my head that’s what I was thinking. I felt that we would beat the Bears. Rams at home – a good matchup for us. Miami was a wild card I thought and then the last two at home, that would be winnable. Although Minnesota obviously has had a very good season. Teams Dome in the winter and the way we’ve played over the years in December and January, our record is very good for me to start.”

Experience? check Familiarity? check belief? You better believe it. check

“Now the things you don’t count on: Keisean Nixon,” Rodgers continued. “I knew he had talent, but maybe I didn’t see him as a game-breaker.”

Nixon returned a punt 105 yards for a touchdown against the Vikings on Sunday. And even then, it didn’t seem all that surprising. There was a widespread belief after being almost there so many times over the last few games that Nixon would end up breaking one.

“Christian Watson,” Rodgers said. “With the 3-6, he wasn’t a big part of the offense.”

Over the last seven games, Watson has scored eight touchdowns and has established himself as a legitimate threat. So much so, that even when he only has a couple of catches, like he did against Minnesota, his presence was still valuable enough to draw the defense’s attention.

All of these pleasant surprises only reinforced the validity of what Rodgers told himself, turning what started out as a bit of a lie into truth. How’s that for demonstration?

“And then, at the end, love of the game,” Rodgers said. “That’s why we play this game during runs and incredible moments and special things that come together. When it’s all said and done, it’s the moments and it’s the way you made people feel that I think it lasts and when you can to spark some hope. It’s pretty special to be a part of that momentum. Regardless of what happens next week, the fact that we’ve come back from 4-8 and put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs is pretty special.”

You can knock Rodgers down, but you can never count him out.

To make things feel perhaps even more fated, everything outside of the Packers’ control has also gone their way.

“I felt like we were going to win the game the whole time,” Rodgers said Sunday. “I felt like, you know, this is our day and things have happened for us the last few weeks, exactly the way we need them to happen. And that’s the mindset I’ve had the whole time that there’s some destiny involved. That and it’s just up to us to go out and fulfill it.”

That included a Cleveland Browns win over the Washington Commanders on Sunday. That was all the outside help the Packers needed at this point. Even in Week 16, the Lions lost to the Carolina Panthers, the New York Giants lost to the Vikings, the Commanders lost to the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. It cleared up a messy NFC hunt and paved the way for the Packers.

“I don’t know a lot of people in that locker room and definitely not a lot of you thought we’d be here at 8-8 in control of our own destiny in Week 18,” Rodgers smiled at the podium Sunday. “We’ve all seen some of the comments outside as we went from 4-8 to 5-8 to 6-8 and nobody cares about the Packers and blah blah blah blah blah. Now what are they going to say?”

Same thing they’ve always said, Aaron.

They can bring you down, but they can never, ever discount you.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, adding the title of Super Bowl champion (and boat parade participant) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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