Aaron Rodgers: 'This is a special opportunity'

Packers QB focused on himself and team staying the course

QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – The Packers' MVP quarterback didn't discuss cranking up the intensity or turning things up a notch now that the playoffs have arrived.

Aaron Rodgers has been through times like these enough to know that kind of talk doesn't accomplish much, if anything.

Heading into Saturday night's NFC Divisional playoff against San Francisco at Lambeau Field, Rodgers' rather understated description of his and the team's mindset indicates pretty clearly what he believes about this Packers squad.

It's experienced in these situations, it knows what it takes, and it simply has to seize the moment.

"There's four teams left on the NFC side. We're one of them. We get to host playoff games," Rodgers said following Tuesday's practice. "This is a special opportunity. We're not gonna make it bigger than it is.

"We've gotten this far being level-headed and even-keeled and not riding a roller coaster of emotions, and we're gonna keep on doing the same thing. If it was good enough to get us this far, it's good enough to get us past this point."

What the Packers have done so far was good enough to clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed and first-round bye with one regular-season game remaining, take advantage of some rest and recuperation, and work toward getting some injured players back.

Who amongst the group of David Bakhtiari, Jaire Alexander, Za'Darius Smith, Whitney Mercilus, Billy Turner and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, among a few others, will be good to go in some capacity come Saturday night remains an open question.

But in addition to potentially being healthier than last year at this time, the Packers also have some other factors on their side compared to a year ago when they were in the exact same playoff position.

For one, the weather is projected to be colder than last January, when neither the L.A. Rams not Tampa Bay Buccaneers really experienced Lambeau Field's traditional postseason conditions.

Also, the home-field advantage should be more significant this time with a full house of fans rather than just the smattering allowed a year ago.

"I'm excited about our opportunity, excited about the leadership we have on the football team, excited about the guys coming back and excited to have a full crowd this year as opposed to last year," Rodgers said. "Hoping for a loud crowd."

Their opponents Saturday night, the 49ers, already have become road warriors of sorts.

Needing a win in their regular-season finale to make the playoffs, San Francisco went to division rival Los Angeles, overcame deficits of 17-0 and 24-17 against the Rams, and won in overtime.

Then they jumped on top at Dallas, 13-0, in last weekend's wild-card round and hung on for dear life in a rather hostile place.

"If you look at them as of late, this is a confident group," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said of the Niners. "You can see it on tape. You can see it in how they've played. We're going to have to play every play like it's our last play for the duration of the game."

Back in Week 3, the Packers and 49ers battled to the last play, a walk-off field goal by Green Bay's Mason Crosby.

But the extent of both teams' battle-tested-ness goes well beyond that game. Each team played nine contests decided by one score or less in the regular season.

Both have an overtime win over Cincinnati, one of the AFC's final four, and a close loss to a top seed in that conference – No. 1 seed Tennessee beat San Francisco, 20-17, while No. 2 Kansas City topped Green Bay (minus Rodgers), 13-7.

Both also have beaten the NFC West champion Rams (the 49ers did so twice) and overcame early rough patches, with the Niners losing four straight games at one point and the Packers rebounding from a Week 1 disaster.

All that said, these teams know each other well enough, with this the fifth meeting in the last three seasons, that both are focused more on themselves than their opponents.

In the Packers' case, that means following Rodgers' lead and playing a steady hand.

Last week, he mentioned this team is capable of something special, as it has been before, and it's earned another chance. His words then provide the simplest of perspectives.

"It's been a fun season," he said. "Now, we've just got to find a way to finish it off with winning our last game."

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