A quick overview of three storylines that could help determine the outcome of Saturday night's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Nagler/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
The Green Bay Packers fell out of playoff contention with their 31-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. The loss also dropped them five spots in this week’s USA TODAY NFL Power Rankings, where they come in at No. 18.
The team they face on Saturday night, the Minnesota Vikings, wrapped up the NFC North division by blowing out the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend. However, they stayed steady in the rankings at No. 3.
Here’s what USA TODAY has to say about the Packers:
Atlanta's win Monday eliminated them from playoff race. Time now to showcase Brett Hundley and let Aaron Rodgers FULLY heal.
And here’s what they have to say about the Vikings:
Was there a more heartwarming moment league-wide this season than the way Minnesota's fans officially welcomed Teddy Bridgewater back to action?
Elsewhere, Elliot Harrison has the Packers coming in at No. 16, down two spots from last week.
Maybe the bar is a bit lofty for Aaron Rodgers. The presumption that he would walk on the field in Charlotte and take the Panthers to school after not playing since mid-October was a bit far-fetched. Putting the three interceptions aside, the man did throw for 290 yards and three touchdowns, so it's not as though he was Brian Brohm or Anthony Dilweg out there. Losing Davante Adams early didn't help matters, especially on a hit that seemed awfully unnecessary (or awful).
Over at ESPN, the Packers hold steady at No. 14, despite the loss and lack of Pro Bowlers.
From their website:
Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and Jahri Evans: Outside of Evans, who has started all 14 games, the Packers' six-time Pro Bowlers have had a 2017 to forget. Rodgers missed seven games with a broken collarbone and Matthews has just 7½ sacks, three of which came in one game.
Athlon Sports also has the Packers staying put, coming in at No. 15.
From their website:
Aaron Rodgers’ return was not as triumphant as the cheeseheads were hoping for down in Carolina. His first three-interception game in eight years showed he’s still a little rusty but he did give the team a better shot to win than Brett Hundley. Given that the loss eliminated the Packers from the postseason, it might be time to shut down No. 12 again and let the kid show what he can do in these final two games.
Frank Schwab of Yahoo! Sports has the Packers dropping two spots to No. 17:
The Packers were eliminated from playoff contention with Atlanta’s win on Monday night, and now it’s time to shut Aaron Rodgers down. If he plays and suffers an injury that lasts into the 2018 season, it would be an inexcusable mistake.
Chris Simms actually raises the Packers one spot, to No 18:
It's amazing the Green Bay Packers were able to keep things close against the Carolina Panthers. I didn't expect Aaron Rodgers to be at his best in his return, and he wasn't. Coming in against the Panthers was a tough task.
Rodgers made a few bad decisions. That was surprising. Still, all the blame cannot land on him. The defense had some busted coverages, and the offensive line allowed a lot of pressure.
The Packers are a middle-of-the-road team that has relied too heavily on Rodgers for far too long. This loss essentially eliminated Green Bay from playoff contention. Now the franchise needs to think about its future and how it can support Rodgers better than it has the past few years.