Never in the illustrious career of Aaron Rodgers has he partaken in a regular season game of this magnitude.
He’ll lead his 9-6 Green Bay Packers into a raucous Ford Field on Sunday Night Football on New Years Day with everything on the line.
Now, Rodgers is no stranger to winner-take-all regular season games. After a collarbone injury forced him to miss 7 games in 2013, he came back with a vengeance, and won the division crown on the final day with this famous bomb to a wide open Randall Cobb late in the 4th.
But what separates now from then is what else is on the line.
After having his job put in question after the Packers dropped to 4-6, Rodgers has rallied the troops (again), and behind his league-leading 120 passer rating during their current five game winning streak, the Pack are on the cusp of an 8th consecutive postseason appearance, and Rodgers is on the cusp of a 3rd MVP.
Rodgers solidified his candidacy after carving up the division rival Viking for 360 yards and 5 touchdowns.
And they were the league’s second best defense. He now faces a middle of the road defense coming off an embarrassing performance where they allowed 42 points to the Cowboys. Rodgers should feast, and since it’s in primetime, it just may be enough to sway the voters.
A top, yet reasonable performance from Rodger (say, 350 yards and 4 touchdowns) puts him at 4,478 yards, 44 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on the season, and (assuming a win) will mean that he led the charge in a 6 game winning streak to reach the playoffs.
And in a weak MVP field, that might be enough.
The three main competitors with Rodgers for the trophy are Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, and Ezekiel Elliot, who all have legitimate cases against them.
Brady, as we all know, missed four games, which his team won three of. No MVP has ever missed more than three games.
Matt Ryan will likely finish the season with the same record as Rodgers, and with very similar stats. But I’m not sure how many voters will be willing to pull the trigger on Matt Ryan over A-Rodg.
As for Ezekiel Elliot, the only caveat against him is that he’s a running back. That’s it. Of the two running backs that have won the MVP in the past decade, one (Adrian Peterson) was eight yards away from breaking the single season rushing record and the other (LaDainian Tomlinson) scored 31 touchdowns. Elliot doesn’t have a prayer of reaching either of those marks.
So when Aaron Rodgers takes to the field on Sunday Night, it’s not just the NFC North that’s on the line.