Aaron Rodgers Is Likely To Miss The Rest Of The Season With A Broken Collarbone.
The news that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was injured couldn’t be avoided on Sunday. It was quickly confirmed to be a broken right collarbone and expectations for recovery are thought to be the entire season. While he hasn’t officially been placed on injured reserve, the opportunity to sidestep him twice and seize the NFC North has to be on the minds of the entire Lion organization. The Lions have never won the NFC North, and need to track back to 1993 to recall the last time they won the formerly named NFC Central. This is a realistic chance to change all that. However, the Lions have been in this position before, and the outcome was disappointing to say the least.
Flash backward to week nine of the 2013 season. The Lions were on their bye, likely watching Green Bay host Chicago in a game the could lead to a three way tie in the NFC North when the unthinkable happened. Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone. Chicago won that game, and the North was tied among all three teams at 5-3. Rodgers would go on to miss seven games including five losses before returning in week 17 to win a game against those same Bears and clinch the division title. That’s right. Green Bay went 2-5 without Rodgers and still held on. Where were the Lions?
In week 10 the Lions earned a win against the Bears and gained a game on the Packers as well. This put them in sole possession of first place in the division at 6-3. There was a lot to be optimistic about. Not only was Aaron Rodgers going to miss a major portion of the season, but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was injured as well and would end up missing the next four games. Aside from the starting quarterbacks being out for both division rivals, the Lions had one more shining reason to feel confident, the schedule. At the time, the Lions had the second easiest remaining schedule in all of the NFL. This is starting to sound familiar.
The Lions would go on to lose six of their next seven games. The only win in that stretch came against the Packers. It wasn’t enough. It was baffling to watch as a fan. How could this team that seemingly had everything handed to them still find a way to blow it? How did Green Bay hold on to outperform the Lions with backup quarterbacks at the helm? The thought had to creep in – “if not this year, then when”?
This season is a brand new opportunity. It can’t make up for last time, but it can make this time worth something. The fact is the Lions have to win games to win the division. Yes, the schedule lightens up moving forward for the Lions. Yes, Rodgers is done, and that hurts Green Bay a massive amount. And yes, a win against Minnesota on the road is a great advantage to hold. But, the Lions have to come out and WIN their games. It doesn’t matter how easy the schedule is if you play down to your competition. History is clear on that topic. It doesn’t matter if Green Bay struggles with a backup if they still manage to keep pace. Win the games to win the division.
On paper, it certainly looks like the Lions should be the team to beat moving forward. The aforementioned soft schedule is something that can be taken advantage of, as is the tiebreaker with Minnesota. But, this is far from a gimme. All of the advantages they currently hold will turn into missed opportunities again if they don’t start performing on Sundays. A 9-7 record may be enough to take down the NFC North this season. If the Lions can’t accomplish it this year, they simply aren’t that good and wouldn’t deserve it. But, if they go out and win the games they’re expected to win there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to head into the post-season with a home playoff game.