QB – Aaron Rodgers
Week 1 Statistics:
20/34, 199 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 16 rush yards, 1 rush TD; 23.56 fantasy points
We all know how things went last season for Rodgers. Missing his top target and seeing the talent around him suffer a constant and massive drain across the year, he was not able to live up to the MVP level we know he is usually capable of.
Regardless, he kept his team with a chance to win all but a couple games as his offense cratered at every other position and the Packers fell from a 6-0 start to a 4-6 finish. In doing so, his statistics experienced an obvious drop, but when you look again you’ll realize those numbers were still on a level that would be the best season of some guys’ careers (as an example: his 31 TDs were his lowest in a full season since 2010, but it was a much-publicized career-high for Ryan Fitzpatrick while being just one behind guys like Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, and Derek Carr).
There were of course areas he needed to improve upon — for instance, his accuracy took a major hit (60.7; 2nd-lowest in his starting career is 63.6, his first year taking over for Brett Favre) — but with his cadre of weapons returning around him, there are unbridled expectations for a quick return to form by him and his offense.
The offense still showed far too many inconsistencies last Sunday, but we got to see some signs of what could be to come during the matchup with Jacksonville.
The promise of this offense was shown mainly in two drives right before the half. The first one saw Rodgers getting his favorite target (Jordy Nelson) involved, hitting him for three catches. The biggest part was the TD, where Rodgers was able to scramble around and buy time, with Nelson eventually finding a hole in the coverage to sit in; last year these kind of plays too often came up fruitless, with Rodgers moving around seemingly forever but still not able to find anyone at times.
The second drive was even more indicative of the hopes for the offense.
First off, the team was in hurry-up mode, with little time on the clock to drive the field. Then, Rodgers went looking up the middle for Cook; he didn’t catch it, but the pass interference penalty he drew was paramount in moving the team forward. The offense hasn’t had a massive over-the-middle element for a few seasons now, and Cook has a chance to be that guy.
After efficiently taking some chunks of yardage on the next few plays, Rodgers then pulled off the kind of trademark magic that has made his reign as Green Bay’s QB so exciting to watch — and so frustrating to defenses. He dropped back, noticed an unblocked blitzer, stepped around him and tossed the ball perfectly while being pulled backwards; even better, his receiver (Davante Adams) made an excellent catch in close coverage for the touchdown.
More of those kinds of plays will be needed — as well as better consistency — to make sure Green Bay wins in primetime this week.
Minnesota — or, more specifically, units led by their coach Mike Zimmer — has been one of the few constantly tougher defenses for Rodgers to play against. In the four games he has faced a Zimmer defense, his statistics take a noticeable dip: his completion percentage drops by nearly six points (65.1% to 59.2%), his avergae yardage drops by about 40 yards (268.9 to 228.8), he loses more than a yard per pass attempt (8.0 to 6.7), he gets sacked nearly once more per game (2.4 to 3.3), he loses half a touchdown (2.2 to 1.7), and his passer rating drops from excellent to merely okay (104.5 to 89.3).
The calling card of the Vikings even before the injury to Teddy Bridgewater was their defense, and it won’t make things easy on Rodgers and Co. They have a litany of pass rushing options to throw at the Green Bay offensive line (Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen) and they have a back seven full of good-to-great coverage men led by safety Harrison Smith.
I’m not one to count out Rodgers — as illustrated earlier, even bad seasons by his standards are record-setting for others; the same can be said to a degree for individual games, especially since he rarely turns the ball over — but I must say this isn’t the best matchup for him in terms of fantasy scoring.
With the dip Zimmer’s defenses routinely cause to his statistics, you might be better-suited to choose a quarterback that has a weaker matchup. That being said, it still wouldn’t be a bad idea to just throw Rodgers out there; even if he disappoints, it will likely be a decent performance.