NFL Nation: Aaron Rodgers and the NFC

Aaron Rodgers' effect on Panthers

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
12:00
PM ET
Rodgers' effect on: 49ers | Seahawks | Lions | Bears | Cowboys | Saints | Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Aaron Rodgers' shoulder injury could be the wild card that helps the Carolina Panthers earn a wild-card spot in the NFC playoffs.

Green Bay would be favored to win its next three games with Rodgers at quarterback, so a loss in one or more while he recovers would help a Carolina team that if the season ended today would own the No. 6 seed.

It's even more significant when you consider the Panthers (5-3) are coming up on their toughest three-game stretch -- against San Francisco (6-2), New England (7-2) and Miami (4-4).

That's a combined record of 17-8 compared to 7-18 for Green Bay's next three opponents -- the Philadelphia Eagles (4-5), New York Giants (2-6) and Minnesota Vikings (1-7).

So while Carolina currently would be a wild card, it is only a loss from being out of the playoffs as it's tied with Green Bay (5-3), Detroit (5-3) and Chicago (5-3). And the Arizona Cardinals (4-4) are only a game back and hold a victory over the Panthers.

Aaron Rodgers' effect on Saints

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
12:00
PM ET
Rodgers' effect on: 49ers | Seahawks | Lions | Bears | Cowboys | Saints | Panthers

Two immediate reactions came to mind from a New Orleans Saints perspective after Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a fractured collarbone on Monday night:
  • It could help the Saints’ chances of earning a top-two seed in the NFC.
  • It was the latest reminder of how important it is for the Saints to keep quarterback Drew Brees healthy.
Not that the Saints needed that reminder. They’re fully aware of how vital Brees is to their success. As offensive tackle Zach Strief said last week, “He’s the focal point of our entire team.”

The Saints’ pass protection has been a huge point of emphasis in recent weeks. It hasn’t been awful this season, but it has been far more inconsistent than in recent years -- especially up the middle. Brees has been sacked 20 times through eight games, and he just absorbed a handful of scary shots in this past Sunday’s 26-20 loss to the New York Jets.

The Saints need to make Brees’ security detail their top priority down the stretch -- especially with games against physical defenses such as San Francisco and Seattle still to come.

As long as Brees is on the field, the Saints (6-2) have a strong chance to contend for a No. 1 or No. 2 playoff seed. With Green Bay’s loss on Monday, the Saints now are temporarily alone in second place in the NFC race.

Aaron Rodgers' effect on Bears

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
12:00
PM ET
Rodgers' effect on: 49ers | Seahawks | Lions | Bears | Cowboys | Saints | Panthers

Perhaps Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin unwittingly became the NFC North’s most valuable player Monday night when he sacked Aaron Rodgers with 12:38 remaining in the first quarter at Lambeau Field, causing a small fracture in the quarterback’s nonthrowing shoulder that jeopardizes his availability as the division’s postseason push gets underway.

“Do I feel good about that?” McClellin asked. “No, not at all. Rodgers is a great player. I wish him a speedy recovery because he’s great for the game of football. I had no idea he was hurt. You never try to injure anyone. It just kind of happened.”

It also potentially altered the landscape of the NFC North and perhaps the entire conference -- which currently has five or more teams fighting for the two wild-card spots -- because of Rodgers’ significance to Green Bay’s offense, not to mention the uncertainty concerning backup Seneca Wallace’s ability to help the Packers hold it together down the stretch.

That bodes well for Chicago. And while it’s bad form to laud an injury, the simple fact is that attrition is common in pro football. The banged-up Bears obviously know this firsthand. So if Rodgers -- one of the NFL’s top offensive players -- is forced to miss significant time, that can only help the Bears in what’s shaping up to be a three-team race for the NFC North crown over the next eight weeks.

“This is a thing that’s been built over time with Aaron as the centerpiece,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

With that centerpiece likely out of commission for the foreseeable future, the Packers need to find a way to beat the Giants, Lions and Cowboys on the road with matchups against the Eagles, Vikings and Falcons sandwiched in between. In the meantime, the Bears could help themselves Sunday with a win over the Detroit Lions to claim sole possession of the division lead.

If the Bears do that, and eventually bring back Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs and a healthy Jay Ratliff to beef up the defensive line while winning two of the next three against the Lions, Rams and Vikings, they’ve got a decent chance to capture the NFC North crown for the first time since 2010. The Bears advanced to the conference championship game that season, only to be done in by Rodgers and the Packers.

In the aftermath of Rodgers' injury, Chicago’s prospects look bright.

Aaron Rodgers' effect on 49ers

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
11:50
AM ET
Rodgers' effect on: 49ers | Seahawks | Lions | Bears | Cowboys | Saints | Panthers

The San Francisco 49ers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. So are the Green Bay Packers.

So the collarbone injury suffered by Green Bay superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be crucial for the 49ers. Initial reports indicate Rodgers may miss three weeks.

The impact Rodgers has on the 49ers won’t happen until the playoffs. The 49ers are 6-2 and a game and a half behind 8-1 Seattle in the NFC West. Green Bay, which lost to Chicago on Monday night after Rodgers was injured early in the game, is in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC North at 5-3.

If the 49ers don’t have to play Green Bay in the postseason or if the Rodgers injury means the 49ers won’t have to go to Lambeau Field in January, that would be huge.

For now, though, the 49ers’ focus is on three big upcoming games against Carolina, New Orleans and Seattle in the next month. San Francisco has won five straight games and is rolling.

After beating Green Bay in a wild 34-28 Week 1 game, the 49ers are not thinking much about the Packers. Still, it has to creep into the 49ers' minds that a potential major playoff challenger has suffered a possible season-altering injury.

Aaron Rodgers' effect on Lions

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
11:47
AM ET
Rodgers' effect on: 49ers | Seahawks | Lions | Bears | Cowboys | Saints | Panthers

Once again, the injury issues of others could benefit the Detroit Lions.

When Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler went down with a groin injury last month, it looked as if there was an opening for the Lions to make a move in the division standings -- and there still is even if Cutler returns against Detroit on Sunday.

NowGreen Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is out for at least a while with a fractured collarbone. While Rodgers may return in time for his game against Detroit on Thanksgiving Day, both of Detroit’s main competitors in the NFC North will have lost their starting quarterbacks for a period of time.

And in a divisional race in which all three teams are at 5-3 and at least one almost will definitely not make the playoffs, that’s a huge deal. The injuries to Cutler and Rodgers open up a massive door for Detroit to potentially win its first NFC North title.

Of course, the only way the Lions can capitalize is if they continue to play well and Green Bay falters with Seneca Wallace at quarterback. That may or may not happen over the next three weeks, with the Packers facing Philadelphia on a short week, traveling to New York to face the Giants, and then playing the lowly Minnesota Vikings at home.

Even without Rodgers, Green Bay could go 2-1 during that stretch and still be in the divisional race on Thanksgiving.

But all these questions for their opponents only help Detroit, a team that has stayed remarkably healthy for the most part this season. It has only lost two contributors -- receiver Ryan Broyles and defensive end Jason Jones -- to injury. And quarterback Matthew Stafford has played every snap while staying mostly upright through the first half of the season.

All of these are good things for Detroit and might point to the Lions being the divisional favorites, at least for the next few weeks of the season. For years, the Lions have waited for an opportunity like this: a talented team, opponents facing major injuries, a chance to really make a difference in the division.

Now the Lions just have to take advantage, starting with Chicago on Sunday, whether Cutler plays or not.

Aaron Rodgers' effect on Seahawks

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
11:35
AM ET
Rodgers' effect on: 49ers | Seahawks | Lions | Bears | Cowboys | Saints | Panthers

RENTON, Wash. -- More than anything else, the effect on the Seahawks regarding Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers' injury is to show the team how fortunate it is that the same thing hasn’t happened to Russell Wilson.

No quarterback in the league has been under pressure more than Wilson, and he has taken way too many hits.

After getting sacked seven times in St. Louis, Wilson wasn’t sacked Sunday against Tampa Bay, but he was hit five times. Wilson was put under duress a career-high 55 percent of his dropbacks (16 of 29) against the Bucs.

He entered the game as the most pressured quarterback in the NFL at 39 percent of his dropbacks. One of the hits Sunday was helmet-to-helmet contact when Wilson was smacked by linebacker Jonathan Casillas right under the chin, resulting in a roughing the passer penalty.

Wilson was pretty sore and bruised after the game, but still relatively healthy.

“He’s banged up, but he’ll be OK,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said about Wilson. "We got out of the game with no sacks, but he got hit substantially, with a couple of penalties in there, too. But he’s a tremendous athlete to take those hits and to roll with it.”

Nevertheless, it’s playing with fire. Seattle has struggled on the offensive line because of injuries to both starting tackles and poor play at the guard spots. The Seahawks are fortunate to have Wilson still out there at this point, and the injury to Rodgers shows them how quickly that can change.

If Wilson stays healthy, Green Bay’s misfortune increases Seattle’s chances of making the playoffs, even if the Seahawks fail to win the NFC West. Seattle is 8-1 and the Packers are 5-3 and are now missing their star quarterback.

The Seahawks play four of their last six games at home. As it stands now, only two of the remaining seven games are against winning teams -- New Orleans (Monday night at Seattle on Dec. 2) and the 49ers in San Francisco the following weekend.

But Seattle is only one game ahead of the 49ers, so the division title remains a two-team battle. Luckily for the Seahawks, Wilson still is out there to help them.

Aaron Rodgers' effect on Cowboys

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
11:00
AM ET
Rodgers' effect on: 49ers | Seahawks | Lions | Bears | Cowboys | Saints | Panthers

IRVING, Texas – With sources saying Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers could miss three weeks with a fractured left collarbone, the Dallas Cowboys stand to benefit. Sort of.

At 5-4, the Cowboys could see a potential wild-card partner in the Packers be greatly affected by missing their quarterback. In 2008, Tony Romo missed three games with a broken pinky. The Cowboys lost two of the three games with Brad Johnson at quarterback, including a 34-14 embarrassment to the St. Louis Rams, and missed the playoffs by a game.

The Packers are set to give Seneca Wallace the keys to the offense, which shows you why the Cowboys value the quarterback position and have Kyle Orton as their backup.

The smoothest road for the Cowboys to take for a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 is to win the NFC East. They have a one-game lead on the Philadelphia Eagles and a 3-0 record in the division.

Thinking wild card should not enter into their equation. They would lose a tiebreaker to the Detroit Lions. The San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers have better records at this point. The Cowboys control their fate in the division.

If they get into a wild-card battle, then they almost have to sweep the Chicago Bears and Packers in December meetings.

Rodgers could be back for the Packers by Dec. 15. The last time he played at AT&T Stadium, he won Super Bowl XLV.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider