Perfection for Packers?

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Perfection? No problem for Rodgers

Fox By Ashley Fox
ESPN.com
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The Green Bay Packers are going to run the table and here is why: Aaron Rodgers will demand that they do so.

I know. Going 19-0 has never been done. Only the Miami Dolphins in 1972 ran through the regular season and then the playoffs undefeated. It is excruciatingly difficult, so much so that New England couldn't close the deal in 2007.

The Packers have issues on defense. They have allowed at least 400 yards six times this season, and they rank 30th in total defense and 31st against the pass. They need to play better, stop the run and keep getting takeaways.

But Rodgers is unconscious. He's completing 72.3 percent of his passes. He has thrown for at least 300 yards six times this season, and he missed the mark by one yard against Tampa Bay on Sunday and by three yards against Chicago in Week 3. Rodgers has thrown for 3,168 yards and 31 touchdowns -- in 10 games. Only two other quarterbacks have ever done that.

If he continues his pace, Rodgers will throw for 5,068 yards and 50 touchdowns. It is ridiculous to even consider.

And Rodgers is more than motivated. He is on a mission to prove people wrong: the colleges that didn't offer him a scholarship out of high school, forcing him to go to junior college; the NFL teams that passed on him in the draft, forcing him to sit and stew on national television until Green Bay finally selected him with the 24th pick; and yes, even Brett Favre.

After the Packers beat the Buccaneers, Rodgers was downtrodden because he had thrown an interception. It was only his fourth of the season. His 67.6 completion percentage looked pedestrian compared with the previous three games, when he completed 80.0 against Minnesota, 80.8 against San Diego and 76.7 against the Vikings.

Rodgers believes that he is the best -- how else can you explain the championship belt move? -- and he is demanding perfection from himself. And why not? All he has done since coming back from missing two games with a concussion late last season is win.

To repeat as Super Bowl champs while also going undefeated, the Packers will have had to win 25 consecutive games. They still have to face Detroit, the Giants, Oakland, Kansas City, Chicago and the Lions again, and then there would be three playoff games.

To win all those games is a lot to ask -- unless you are talking about Aaron Rodgers.

Ashley Fox covers the NFL for ESPN.com.

Look out for the Lions

Clayton By John Clayton
ESPN.com
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Whether it's on Thanksgiving or New Year's Day, the Detroit Lions will spoil the perfect season for the Green Bay Packers.

I think the Packers will finish the regular season 15-1 or 14-2. Though they look unbeatable on the field, the odds of going 16-0 aren't good. But if the Lions don't beat them, I don't know who will.

The Packers' .617 closing schedule (37-23) is the sixth-toughest in the league. They face a difficult road game in Week 13 against the Giants. The Raiders visit the next week, on Dec. 11. The Packers get breaks the next two games. The Chiefs face the Packers in Week 15 with Tyler Palko at quarterback. The next week the Bears visit Lambeau Field, probably with Caleb Hanie starting. I don't think Jay Cutler's thumb will be healed by then.

That leaves the Lions. Packers coach Mike McCarthy bristled Monday when reporters asked about the Packers giving up 289.3 yards a game through the air. Matthew Stafford averages 284.3 passing yards a game, and he'll probably put up 300 or more Thursday. Stafford versus Aaron Rodgers should be a high-scoring shootout.

If the Packers win, though, they clinch a playoff spot and are within two weeks of clinching the NFC North. The next mission would be to clinch home-field advantage and the No. 1 seed. Only the 49ers can prolong that chase.

The Niners (9-1) have only two tough games remaining -- Thursday in Baltimore and Week 15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Their other four games are against NFC West teams, and the 49ers should sweep them. By Dec. 19, when the 49ers face the Steelers, the Packers should know if they can rest starters.

I think the Lions could win the season finale because I believe McCarthy will rest Rodgers and several other starters. Playoff runs are fragile. In the past two weeks, the Texans lost Matt Schaub and the Bears lost Cutler. If the Packers were to lose Rodgers, I'm not sure they could get to the Super Bowl with Matt Flynn at quarterback.

Rodgers is not only a great thrower, he's also a dangerous runner. He's also prone to concussions. Rodgers got hot in the final two weeks of the 2010 season after a concussion, an injury that prompted him to change helmets. McCarthy and the Packers would be tempting fate to achieve the 16-win season. They can't afford to lose Rodgers for the Super Bowl run.

The Packers will make the Super Bowl, but they won't go 19-0.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.