Packers suddenly 'more dangerous' than they've been all season

QB Aaron Rodgers describes his belief and mindset as playoff hopes ride on next week’s game

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – The Packers still have a big task to accomplish, namely beating the Detroit Lions next week to secure the NFC's No. 7 seed for the playoffs.

But quarterback Aaron Rodgers said what much of the league might be thinking after the Packers dispatched the NFC North rival Vikings 41-17 on Sunday at Lambeau Field in a game that wasn't actually as close as the lopsided score indicated.

"We're becoming a more dangerous team," Rodgers said.

It's hard to argue. The defense has taken the ball away 12 times during the current four-game winning streak, and Keisean Nixon has become a return man who strikes fear in the opposition.

Those two phases put 14 points on the board Sunday before the offense had chalked up its second first down of the game.

That offense, meanwhile, still seems like it has another gear, and to see 41 points on the board when the unit's star since Week 10, rookie receiver Christian Watson, had just one catch for 11 yards shows there's no over-reliance on any one weapon to make something happen.

"We've all seen some of the comments on the outside as we went from 4-8 to 5-8 to 6-8 and nobody's worried about the Packers and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah," Rodgers said. "Now what are they going to say?"

Rodgers is one whose belief has never wavered, though it certainly has grown stronger over the past month. He said back when the team left Detroit following a frustrating loss – maybe the most frustrating of the season – at 3-6, he sized up the schedule like this:

The next three games were against Dallas, Tennessee and Philadelphia, three teams playing very well at the time. He thought if the Packers could get a fourth win somewhere from that trio, then winning the final five games to get to 9-8 was do-able.

He hasn't used the phrase "run the table" like he did six years ago, but it was what he was thinking, even if he had to push himself to believe in the possibility at 4-8 entering December.

"I had faith, much like at 4-6 I think in '16," he said. "Sometimes you've got to fool yourself a little bit into believing a little bit more. But I definitely had faith I was going to go down scrapping, for sure.

"I do believe in the power of manifestation and I do believe in momentum and I believe very strongly in the force of the mind. And when you start to believe something strongly, some miraculous things can happen."

The miracle hasn't been so much the Packers' turnaround as all the help they've gotten to enter Week 18 in charge of their playoff fate.

Back when the Packers were 4-8 following their Week 12 loss at Philadelphia, Washington was 7-5 and Seattle was 6-5. Both teams would need to start losing for the Packers to have a chance.

The Seahawks' overtime loss in Week 12 began a slide of four losses in five games following their bye. The Commanders haven't won a single game since reaching 7-5, tying the Giants and then losing three straight to fall to 7-8-1 and get eliminated.

It also helped for the Lions to get tagged with an eighth loss, and while they were in the midst of winning six of seven games to turn their season around – a run that began with that aforementioned Packers loss in Detroit – that eighth loss hit them last week.

The fates of Detroit and Seattle remain connected heading into next week. With one NFC playoff spot available, the Packers just need to win to get it. But the Lions need to beat Green Bay and have the Seahawks lose to the Rams, while the Seahawks need to win and have the Lions knock out the Packers.

You follow all that?

See scenes from the New Year's Day matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on Jan. 1, 2023.

The bottom line is, while the Packers are riding as high as they have all year, they're taking nothing for granted in a win-to-get-in game.

"It's not the same old Lions," Rodgers said. "They were 1-6 at one point and they've come all the way back to 8-8. There'll be a lot on the line for both teams, and it'll be exciting to line up against them."

It's nothing short of remarkable the Packers find themselves here, climbing back from 4-8 to controlling their fate. And when Sunday's game began with the Vikings blocking a punt and staring at first-and-goal from the Green Bay 1-yard line, the Packers weren't rattled, least of all Rodgers.

"Nothing really changed," he said, referring to the defense rising up to hold Minnesota to a field goal. "Even if it was 7-0 there, I felt like this was our day and things have been happening for us the last few weeks exactly as we need them to happen, and that's the mindset that I've had the entire time – that there's some destiny involved with this and it's on us to go out and fulfill that."

There's another "D" word from Rodgers. First it was dangerous. Now destiny. Perhaps it's fitting the opponent with everything on the line will be Detroit.

To be clear, Rodgers wasn't in some dream world thinking the Packers could get to this point. As the losses piled up and disappointment grew, he understood the reality the team might face, but he had no interest in giving up.

Neither did his team, which seemed to adopt Rodgers' "resolute mindset we could still get back in this thing."

They have, so why turn around now?

"I think that's what I'm most proud of, for myself and our team," he said. "There were a lot of different things that could happen, and we stuck together and we put ourselves in position to do something special."

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