If you asked me at the beginning of the NFL season which two teams would be facing off in Super Bowl 50, I would have said the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers.
Yes, I am from New England and yes, I am a die-hard Patriots fan, but all bias aside, the AFC is looking much easier to clinch than the NFC at this point.
This is one of many reasons we are watching Aaron Rodgers and his Packers struggle lately.
Despite their win against Minnesota, should the team’s last streak of three losses in a row automatically put them out of the race? Technically, no.
However, those losses have clearly and rapidly shown the team’s deepest, most prominent weaknesses, making their run at a title highly questionable.
Let’s dive into these weaknesses and reasons why the Packers are beginning to seem less and less likely to challenge for the Super Bowl title.
There’s a significant lack of offensive chemistry.
For the last couple of years, Aaron Rodgers has been notorious for making every player around him better. So what’s changed these last few games?
It's been widely suggested that he's fighting through pain and injuries while still claiming he’s good to go.
And though Rodgers continues to brush off questions from the media regarding his physical status, he was still on this week’s injury report.
After taking a brutal 11 sacks last game, his “banged up” body was clearly acknowledged by head coach Mike McCarthy.
On top of Rodgers' potentially playing while unhealthy, the offense has been faced with a new play-calling system backed by offensive coordinator Tom Clements this season, which people are beginning to question.
And let’s not forget the most important of all setbacks: the loss of their top receiver and offensive gluestick, Jordy Nelson.
We all knew this was going to cause trouble for the Packers, but I think we all underestimated how much Aaron Rodgers shining was aided by having Nelson by his side.
If the offense can refocus on fundamentals, see past Rodgers' confidence issues and put some trust back in one another, they just might be able to start building this chemistry again as the season wraps up.
Packers fans are brutal and unsupportive.
Last Sunday, Green Bay fans actually booed Aaron Rodgers as he walked off the field (I’m sorry, what?)
It’s pretty well known in the world of professional sports that Packers fans are usually ranked amongst “the worst,” but lacking support for your own team in your own stadium? Come on.
Again, I come from New England, so I know some of us NFL fans are no walk in the park to deal with, myself included.
But I also know that I’ve been brought up in a sports culture that no matter how bad things may get, it’s beyond inappropriate to boo a player that represents any of my teams.
It’s one thing to be a die-hard fan that supports your team, it’s another to be an angry fan that lacks loyalty. These men may be professionals, but they are humans and athletes, too.
Which means they still need support and confidence to perform best.
With Aaron Rodgers performing at his best, the Packers have clinched the division every season since 2011.
During those years, many have looked at the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings as pretenders, not contenders.
However, with the Packers struggling, it looks like anyone can be a unicorn in this division.
The Lions, who are currently last in the division, beat the Packers last weekend away at Lambeau Field.
The Bears, though they had a tough start to their season, have won their last two games and have been competitive in their division games.
While many are in awe that the Vikings name actually means something again, the Vikings vs. Packers rivalry is realer than ever and Aaron Rodgers isn’t looking like the favorite.
Cam Newton and the rest of the NFC
Let’s say the Packers do show up these next couple of weeks and bypass their NFC North competitors. The NFC is still full of teams that have people raising their eyebrows.
Cam Newton, who has already led the Carolina Panthers through a beautifully undefeated 10-0 streak this season, just might be the real deal.
Since last year, he has matured as a quarterback in all the right ways.
From his ability to read his offense like the back of his hand. to his radiating confidence on and off the field, he has shown exceptional leadership and athleticism this season.
And it doesn’t look like it’s going away.
As for the rest of the NFC, it’s hard to tell which teams are the most legitimate.
Looking at the playoff picture, I have my eyes on the Arizona Cardinals, the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants.
Sure, a lot can happen in the next seven weeks, but one thing's for sure, the teams mentioned above know how to put up a fight.
I don't think it's wrong to question if Aaron Rodgers and his Packers still have much fight left in them.