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Why the Packers might be poised for a run

Aaron Rodgers brings back the big-play ability the Packers have been missing. David Banks/Getty Images

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No playoff team this season has a worse record than the Green Bay Packers.

So why does an 8-7-1 squad like its chances for a postseason run?

After winning the NFC North in dramatic fashion on Sunday, when Aaron Rodgers threw the game-winning, 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb with 38 seconds left to beat the Chicago Bears, the reasons were many.

Consider:

  • The Packers' record in games Rodgers started and finished was 6-2. That equates to a winning percentage of .750. Only two of the 12 playoff teams -- the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos -- have a better winning percentage. Both went 13-3 (.813 winning percentage).

  • Since their blowout loss at the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, the Packers have essentially been in playoff mode. Knowing full well that they were on the verge of elimination, they closed the season by winning three of their final four games.

  • They have experienced this before, getting into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season and then making a run. They needed a Week 17 win over the Bears in 2010 to make the playoffs as a wild-card team and parlayed that into a Super Bowl.

Rodgers, who returned Sunday after missing seven-plus games because of a broken collarbone, and Cobb, who returned from his Oct. 13 broken leg and caught two touchdowns against the Bears, makes them a dangerous offense again because of their big-play ability. Rodgers' average yards per passing attempt of 8.74 was second best in the league behind only Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9.12).

"This is why he's the quarterback, one of the best quarterbacks in the league," Packers linebacker Mike Neal said of Rodgers. "When you have [No.] 12, you always look at the fact that we ain't ever out of it until the fat lady sings."

If it's true that playoff football is different, as coach Mike McCarthy suggested after the Bears game, then the Packers have probably come as close to simulating the pressure of it with their season on the brink of crumbling the last few weeks.

"Frankly, I'm thankful we got an opportunity to play in these games because there's nothing like current experience that you can carry forward," McCarthy said. "We've been playing playoff football for the last three or four weeks. We'll be ready to go."

If nothing else, Rodgers' injury tested the Packers' resolve. They pulled off a pair of one-point, comeback wins over the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys without him in December to put themselves in last Sunday's winner-take-all NFC North showdown.

"I think there could have been multiple times where guys could have fractioned off or said, 'To heck with this season, it's not going to happen,'" Rodgers said. "But guys kept believing in each other, and we're just fortunate."

The fact that there were so many NFC seeding scenarios still in play on the last Sunday of the season suggests the conference is wide open. The Packers' road isn't easy, starting Sunday with a 12-4 San Francisco 49ers team that knocked them out of the playoffs in the divisional round last season and also beat them in each of the last two season openers.

But none of the top-three seeds -- Seattle, Carolina and Philadelphia -- has been to a Super Bowl in the last seven seasons, while the bottom three seeds -- Green Bay, San Francisco and New Orleans -- all have been to the Super Bowl within the last four years.

"Well, we're in right now; that's the most important thing," Rodgers said. "We're in, we're hosting a playoff game. I think the NFC is wide open. [Seeds] one through six, there's a lot of talented teams. There's some teams that haven't been up as lead dog before at 1 and 2, and some teams that have championship experience sitting down at the bottom half."