This is not the time to R-E-L-A-X, as Aaron Rodgers once said. This is the time to rally, as Rodgers has done in the past.
With the Green Bay Packers backed against the wall and handcuffed with a 4-5-1 record, only the NFL’s most talented quarterback can bail them out. It’s time to start a winning streak or stop thinking about the playoffs.
The Packers packed a pathetic 0-5 road record for their trip to Minnesota on Sunday night. With the Vikings barely above water at 5-4-1, it’s a potentially pivotal game in the NFC North. The loser will face long odds in December.
Rodgers made this climb exactly two years ago. On the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2016, a 4-6 Packers team on a four-game losing streak went to Philadelphia and upset the Eagles to trigger a six-game win streak. It could happen again because Green Bay will be favored in four of its five games in December.
Maybe that history lesson is just fantasy. Aside from Rodgers’ comeback ability, not much indicates this team is capable of another fantastic finish. Injuries have piled up, turnovers by players other than Rodgers have been costly and Mike McCarthy is making too many coaching blunders.
But if yards-per-play statistics mean something, maybe the Packers are better than their record.
In recent losses at Los Angeles, New England and Seattle, the Packers rolled up yards-per-play advantages against the Rams (6.9 to 5.5) and Seahawks (7.5 to 5.5) and played the Patriots even into the fourth quarter.
The Vikings, 11-3 straight up in their past 14 home games, own slight edges in most areas. But not at quarterback. Kirk Cousins, usually good for one big mistake, has 19 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Rodgers has 19 TD passes and only one pick. I’ll pick the Packers as 3½-point underdogs.
Four more coin flips for Week 12 (home team in CAPS):
* BILLS (plus-3) over Jaguars:
The last time Jacksonville won or covered a game was in September. The Jaguars, 0-6 straight up and 0-4-2 ATS in the past six, made a respectable last stand last week against the Steelers but blew it in an endgame debacle. There actually are more positives for Buffalo, which blew out the Jets before the bye. The Bills might get a minor boost from the return of rookie quarterback Josh Allen.
* Giants (plus-5) over EAGLES:
Eli Manning finally has the New York pass offense clicking. The Giants are off of back-to-back wins against weak opponents (San Francisco and Tampa Bay), but that counts as momentum and Philadelphia is weak too. The Eagles are decimated in the secondary, and Manning’s receiving weapons should exploit the matchups. The Giants are 4-1 ATS on the road.
* BRONCOS (plus-3) over Steelers:
Ben Roethlisberger has a 2-4 career record in Denver, where he last won in 2009. The Steelers, who overcame a 16-0 deficit at Jacksonville a week ago, are in a negative back-to-back road spot. Denver’s defense has improved and is pressuring quarterbacks, with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb combining for 19 sacks. The Broncos, who showed some life by upsetting the Chargers in L.A., can stick in the game with their defense and running attack.
* Titans (plus-4½) over TEXANS:
Houston continues to win coin-flip decisions. The Texans have won seven in a row — a streak that feels like a fluke — with four of the victories by three points or fewer. Which version of Marcus Mariota and which Tennessee team will show up? The Titans showed their potential by beating Dallas and New England. At some point, this lucky Texans streak has to stop. But this is a dull Monday night matchup and just a lean, not a real bet.
Last week: 2-3 against the spread