Dec 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts after the Packers were called for a penalty that nullified a touchdown pass against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Packers defeated the Raiders 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
QB – Aaron Rodgers
Last Game: 22/39, 204 passing yards, -1 rush yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 11.06 fantasy points
Aaron Rodgers continues to have an underwhelming year…or at least that what it feels like at times. As I have said before, while there is some credence to that idea, that is mostly due to the relative malaise of the offense in general combined with the exceedingly great level we have grown accustomed to seeing him play. In reality, his passing stats can still match up right along with any and all of the guys in the MVP conversation — we just expect and demand him to be even better than that.
To me, I think a big chunk of the backlash isn’t just unfounded but is based on the wrong motivations. Sure, there are plenty of Packers fans generally concerned with the offense, but the sad truth is that an unfortunately high amount of the scorn for his lowered performances likely comes due to the fantasy aspect.
Dec 20, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts after a teammate suffered an injury against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Packers defeated the Raiders 30-20. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Though it sounds asinine — and definitely should be — many fantasy players (likely including at least some of you reading this) tend to get so concerned with numbers that they value those more than the final result. There is definitely a high level of correlation between better numbers and better performances leading to a higher likelihood of victories, but numbers aren’t everything; we must remember that or we risk losing the entire reason we became fans of the sport, with it being replaced entirely by the seemingly-absurd idea that the game based around a game matters more than the game itself.
That being said, for those that do participate in fantasy (like you I assume) would likely prefer to win than lose if they are going to play, and Rodgers’ numbers haven’t exactly been reliable on a week-to-week basis. It isn’t entirely on him (as has likely been drilled into your head by now by myself and others) but regardless of the reasoning, at the end of the day it doesn’t help your scorecard.
This past week had to be particularly frustrating, what with the fantasy playoffs either beginning or continuing for many of you. His fantasy point total was full of underwhelming nuggets such as these:
- 2nd-fewest fantasy points of the season; only Denver game was worse
- 2nd time in past four games with under 15.00 fantasy points
- 56.4% completion rate; continues putting up middling percentages in that area
- Multiple drives stalled out in the red-zone; resulted in three field goals
- Red-zone interception; career TD:INT ratio in that area has been one of the best ever, so it was out of character
- Just 204 passing yards; 5 straight games without 300+ passing yards, and only three of those games all season
- -1 rushing yards (on a kneel down); fewest rush attempts and lowest yardage of season
That isn’t too inspiring if you need him to lead your fantasy team to glory.
Really, despite Rodgers seemingly due for a vintage stat-stuffing game at some point, it would be irresponsible to expect him to put up the type of numbers we grew used to seeing every other season. This team just doesn’t have enough in the areas around him — especially not in their inconsistent/underwhelming/injury-depleted receiving corps — to allow him to have that kind of game right now.
That is all before considering that the team they are playing is possibly the best in the league — with their defense being among the best the NFL has to offer in 2015. Going by Football Outsiders’ DVOA* rankings, the Cardinals defense currently sit at #3 in overall defensive DVOA, #8 in Weighted** defensive DVOA, and #7 in pass defense DVOA. This is without even considering some of the individual performers out there, multiple of whom are among the best at their positions.
Patrick Peterson is the biggest name guy and a legit top corner who can shut down half a field in pretty much any matchup. Calais Campbell is one of the better run-stopping defensive lineman in the league, while also being really strong in pass rush situations as well. Built around them is a bundle of strong contributors who play well together and make plenty of plays that are usually influenced directly or indirectly by those other two guys.
Still, I can’t help but think this will be a close game. The Cardinals just lost their most versatile defensive piece, Tyrann Mathieu, to a torn ACL, which has a chance to open things up somewhat — especially while they adjust to life without him for the first time this week. Also, Green Bay has been closer to doing well on offense than we may perceive; if they manage to have a couple breaks go their way (such as a catch instead of a drop at a key moment) that could be the difference between seeming to underwhelm on offense and having a decent day,
I think this situation is ripe for Rodgers to have one of his better games in recent weeks while giving Green Bay a good shot at an upset.
If you’ve got him, I think he’ll give you what you need for your fantasy desires.
Week 16 Prediction: 275 passing yards, 3 TDs, 1 Fumble Lost, 20 rush yards; 23.00 Fantasy Points
Verdict: Giving You What You Need
*DVOA measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent.
**Weighted DVOA gives more credence to more recent games, since those are better indicators of recent play