QB – Aaron Rodgers
Week 6 Statistics:
31/42, 294 passing yards, 1 passing TDs, 7 rushing yards, 1 fumble lost, 1 INTs; 13.46 fantasy points
It’s been discussed and dissected ad infinitum: something is wrong with Aaron Rodgers.
Now, some of the takes have been getting well beyond ridiculous (anyone out there suggesting to bench or trade him: stop it), but there is plenty of evidence that something just hasn’t been right with him for nearly a full season’s worth of games, and it has had a sizably negative effect on his value both on the field and in the fantasy realm.
There’s a whole list of areas he is struggling in — all of which reared their ugly heads during the game against Dallas. He’s getting jittery despite excellent protection (per Pro Football Focus, Green Bay’s offensive line has a collective 89.4 pass blocking rating — well above the 86.8 exhibited by the next-best team).
He’s missing receivers high (his missed throw to Cobb in the endzone). He’s struggling with his ball placement (most poignant: at least three different throws to Cobb on likely TDs, a short pass to Ty Montgomery which he had to reach low for mid-run, and multiple throws behind both Richard Rodgers and Jordy Nelson).
Even his usually-stellar decision-making (choosing the wrong spot to aim for two of Cobb’s would-be TD routes, as well as multiple cases of not pulling the trigger while searching for a bigger play) and field awareness (his interception and lost fumble) have dropped off significantly.
At this point it is fair to wonder if he can become the guy he used to be, but even if he isn’t, we may not be as bad off as it feels. It’s a matter of perspective based on our perspective. Prior to the past year of games, he’s basically been on a level all his own; now, he’s fallen back towards the pack — and because of how high above it he was before, it feels like an even more catastrophic drop than it may seem.
Consider a few of his stats from this stretch (17 games total, with raw numbers prorated for 16 games): 58% completion percentage, 3,737 yards, 28 TD passes, 10 INTs, 84.3 passer rating, and 61.4 QBR. That completion percentage is in the range Cam Newton’s 2015 season — a year in which he won MVP.
The yardage and passer rating fall right around the 2015 season of Sam Bradford — a guy right there with players such as Drew Brees in PFF’s grading system for that season — which was by far the best season of his career to that point. The TD-INT combination lands in the range of Philip Rivers’ and Kirk Cousins’ 2015 years; for Rivers (annually a top-10-or-better QB) that is in-line with his average during his 10-year starting career, while for Cousins that was by far the best showing of his career. The QBR is in-line with the 2015 seasons of Newton and Rivers.
I say all of that not to give Rodgers a pass for his relative failings in that time, but before we act as if the sky is irreparably falling we should take note that even with how bad he has been recently, he’s still producing at a level others would be championed for reaching/maintaining — but while they have hit their ceiling, he is merely at his floor.
Now in terms of this game, I think it is about time we got to see a performance more indicative of his insane heights, and there is a ton of factors lining up in his favor.
The Bears are a middling defense at best (#15 in Weighted Defensive DVOA through six weeks), and they have few consistently dangerous players to worry about on their defense, especially in terms of their secondary (none of their CBs are ranked higher than #42 in PFF’s grading system).
Also, the Packers have been hit hard by injuries at running back (Lacy and Starks are both out for likely multiple weeks, and new additions Knile Davis and Don Jackson are expected to shoulder the load), putting more emphasis on passing the ball. While there are also injuries there (a concussion likely will keep Davante Adams out of the contest), the team is deep with receiving options.
Everything is setting up for a decent passing night for Rodgers, and I think he’ll produce enough to quiet the wolves for at least one week.