Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has insisted that Aaron Rodgers will be the team's quarterback for next season and beyond. 

Rodgers still has three years remaining on a four-year, $134million extension he signed in August 2018, but his future with the team came into question after comments he made following the 31-26 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game. 

"He's going to be a part of our future, and we look forward to all the runs we're going to be able to make here over the next few years," Gutekunst said Monday during a Zoom call. 

"I will say this: We're really excited not only for next year but the years to come. He's playing at such a high level that he always has, and I think this year was a special team.

"It didn't finish like we wanted to finish, but I think everybody's purely motivated to get back and I think, like I said, I don't think there's anything that we have to do. He's our quarterback, and he's our leader." 

After the game against the Bucs on January 24, Rodgers said: ''There's a lot of guys' futures that are uncertain, myself included.'' 

Two days later, the 37-year-old tried to squash any rumour that he would not be returning to Green Bay. ''I don't think there's any reason why I wouldn't be back," he said on SiriusXM Radio's The Pat McAfee Show.

Led by Rodgers, the Packers completed a second straight 13-3 season in 2020, while winning a seventh NFC North crown since 2011. The team averaged an NFL-best 31.8 points per game - second highest in franchise history behind the 35.0 points per game averaged by the 2011 team.  

''Obviously he's under contract, and he's playing at an extremely high level,'' Gutekunst said. ''What we're trying to do as an organization and what we're trying to accomplish, we can't do without Aaron Rodgers right now. He's such a part of what we've done. He's such a part of what we're doing right now and certainly in the future.'' 

Rodgers helped Green Bay to a fourth NFC championship game in the last seven seasons, but the Packers are winless in NFC title games since Rodgers lead the franchise to its fourth Super Bowl championships in the 2010 season. 

Despite the postseason shortcomings, Packers coach Matt LaFleur echoed Gutekunst's viewpoint when asked about Rodgers being his quarterback. 

"Is that a trick question?" LaFleur said. "Absolutely. There's no doubt about it."

The subject of Rodgers' future in Green Bay began back in April when the Packers traded up to draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th pick of the first round. 

Rodgers' play on the field, however, has not given the Packers any reason to turn the keys of the offense over to Love. 

The favourite to win a third NFL MVP award this Saturday, Rodgers threw for a league-leading and career-best 48 touchdowns to just five interceptions this past season. He also threw for 4,299 yards to become the first QB in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards with 45 or more TD passes and five or fewer interceptions in a season. 

''You're talking about the guy that's going to win the MVP of the league,'' LaFleur said. ''We're not in this position without him.

"I couldn't be happier with just not only his performance but how he led our football team, all the little things he does within that locker room to ensure that everybody is locked in, focused and ready to go. Absolutely he will be here for a long time.'' 

Fortune favours the bold. It is a phrase has been used so often that it has become a worn-out cliche. But cliches are cliches because they consistently ring true, and that famous Latin proverb applied at Lambeau Field on Sunday as the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers suffered more playoff heartache.

Their forlorn efforts in last year's NFC Championship game rout at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers still fresh in their minds - defensive coordinator Mike Pettine showed the game to his group last week in an attempt at motivation - the Packers reached the same stage this season seemingly well placed to put those memories behind them and reach Super Bowl LV.

The top seed in the NFC, the Packers matched up significantly better with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than they did the Niners last year and had the potentially crucial advantage of playing in freezing conditions at Lambeau Field in front of 8,500 fans.

And yet, with the chance to force a compelling back-and-forth encounter into overtime, the Packers - specifically their head coach Matt LaFleur - shied away from the opportunity, taking a conservative approach that ultimately proved their undoing.

LaFleur's costly caution

Green Bay faced a fourth and goal from the Tampa Bay eight-yard line trailing 31-23 with a little over two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

If LaFleur had needed evidence of how to approach this situation, it came at the end of the first half when, rather than punting and settling for a 14-10 half-time lead, Bucs head coach Bruce Arians went for it on fourth down and, a play after converting to keep the drive alive, gave Tom Brady the green light to launch a 39-yard bomb to Scotty Miller that put Tampa Bay 21-10 to the good.

Rodgers and the Green Bay defense helped the Packers recover from a 28-10 third-quarter deficit and move into striking distance. However, when it came time to make a crucial decision, LaFleur ignored the old axiom and instead opted for caution, taking the ball out of the hands of his best player as he elected to kick a field goal and trust his defense to get the ball back.

It was a task that proved beyond them as a contentious pass interference penalty gave Tampa a game-sealing first down, leaving Rodgers to reflect on another year in which the Packers came up short.

Wondrous Rodgers

LaFleur's rejection of the aggressive approach that served Arians well at the end of the second quarter ensured that one of the best seasons of Rodgers' Hall of Fame career was wasted.

Rodgers is a near-lock to win the third MVP of his career after a season in which he took an offense of the Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay ilk to new heights.

He led the league in completion percentage 70.7, threw for 4,299 yards, a league-leading 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

His TD-INT ratio of 9.60 was the sixth-best in NFL history and second among quarterbacks to have played 16 games in a season, behind his 2018 mark of 12.50.

Tied for third in the NFL with 37 passing plays of 25 yards or more, few offenses were more explosive than that of the Packers in 2020, with Rodgers' adjusted net yards per attempt figure of 8.89 tied for sixth of all-time.

That is the same number Patrick Mahomes posted in his 2018 MVP season and, just like the Kansas City Chiefs that year, the end result for the Packers was a devastating loss.

Unlike the Chiefs, the Packers now face the prospect of significant changes in the offseason that could impact their ability to continue to contend in the NFC.

A challenging offseason

In an offseason where the salary cap could shrink to $175million, the Packers may lose center Corey Linsley and running back Aaron Jones to free agency, while Davante Adams, who led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (18) and yards per game (98.1) in the regular season, is a candidate for a lucrative contract extension.

The Packers, therefore, face some tough decisions in the offseason and it is the lack of clarity over how the team will look in the immediate future that seemingly led Rodgers to describe his own future as "uncertain" in his post-game media conference. 

Rodgers may have been over-dramatic in the heat of the moment and another season with the Packers appears more likely than a move elsewhere or his retirement.

But the downcast attitude Rodgers presented after the game was indicative of a quarterback who knows that Super Bowl windows are, for most teams, ephemeral by their nature.

With his fourth-down call, LaFleur ensured another year of the Packers' window slipped through their fingers. If they now struggle to keep a formidable team together and Rodgers' career ends without a second Super Bowl ring, LaFleur's rejection of the bold will be remembered as a key reason why.

Matt LaFleur "sure as hell" hopes Aaron Rodgers returns to play for the Green Bay Packers next season amid doubts over his future after falling short of the Super Bowl, describing the star quarterback as the "heart and soul of our football team".

Rodgers indicated his future is uncertain following Green Bay's 31-26 loss to Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

Favourite to be crowned the NFL's MVP, Rodgers was appearing in his first NFC title decider at Lambeau Field as he and the top-seeded Packers looked to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since reigning supreme in the 2010 season.

But the Packers fell short – 37-year-old quarterback Rodgers completing 33 of 48 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns and an interception at home to the Buccaneers.

Asked if Rodgers will be back next season, Packers head coach LaFleur told reporters: "I sure as hell hope so. I mean, the guy is the MVP of this league.

"He's the heart and soul of our football team. So, hell yeah. He better be back here. He's our leader."

LaFleur was heavily criticised after his approach during the closing stages of the blockbuster contest against the Buccaneers.

Trailing by eight points with just over two minutes remaining, the Packers were unable to get into the endzone on three attempts from the eight-yard line.

Instead of taking the aggressive approach in backing Rodgers to pull Green Bay within a two-point conversion of tying the game at 31-31, the Packers elected to kick a field goal and while they reduced the deficit, they never got the ball back following a pass interference call on Kevin King.

"Yeah anytime it doesn't work out, you always regret it, right?" LaFleur said. "It was just the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards and knowing that you not only need the touchdown but you need the two-point [conversion]. The way I was looking at it was, we essentially had four timeouts with the two-minute warning.

"We knew we needed to get a stop, and I thought we were going to have a stop there at the end but we got called for [defensive pass interference] and it didn't work out.

"I think anytime something doesn't work out, do you regret it? Sure, but we're always going to be process-driven here and the way our defense was battling, the way our defense was playing, it felt like it was the right decision to do. It just didn't work out."

Aaron Rodgers had no part in the decision to kick a field goal on fourth down of the Green Bay Packers' final drive in their 31-26 NFC Championship Game defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and indicated afterwards that his future is uncertain.

Down eight points with a little over two minutes remaining, the Packers were unable to get into the endzone on three attempts from the eight-yard line in Sunday's title decider.

Instead of taking the aggressive approach in backing star quarterback Rodgers to pull Green Bay within a two-point conversion of tying the game at 31-31, the top-seeded Packers elected to kick a field goal.

That cut the gap to 31-26 but the Packers never got the ball back, a pass interference penalty on Kevin King giving the Buccaneers a first down on the subsequent drive to effectively seal the game.

Asked about the fourth-down call, Rodgers – making his first conference championship game appearance at Lambeau Field – said he had no influence on head coach Matt LaFleur's thinking.

"It wasn't my decision, I understand the thinking, above two minutes with all of our timeouts, but it wasn't my decision," Rodgers, 37, told reporters post-game as Tom Brady's Buccaneers reached the Super Bowl.

Rodgers added of the penalty on King: "I think it was a bad call, I think there were a few opportunities for some plays down the field for us that weren't called.

"I was surprised that call in that situation was made. We get the ball back there with 1:35 [remaining] and a timeout and a chance to win the game, go to the Super Bowl, didn't look like it [Brady's pass] was even catchable. It was a bad call."

Though he will likely receive the MVP award next week, Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion with the Packers in the 2010 season – hinted his time in Green Bay could soon be coming to a close following a second successive defeat at the NFC Championship stage.

Last year's first-round pick Jordan Love is waiting in the wings as the two-time MVP's successor under center.

"I'm just pretty gutted, it's a long season, you put so much into it," said Rodgers. "We had our chances, it's a different position to the last couple of these where we got blown out and didn't really have a chance. We had a lot of chances.

"The uncertainty of it all, the abruptness, so many futures a little grey right now, so it's definitely sudden.

"A lot of guys' futures are uncertain, myself included. That's what's sad about it, getting this far, obviously there's going to be an end to it at some point.

"Just the uncertainty is tough, the finality of it all. There's a lot of unknowns going into this offseason and I'm going to have to take some time away for sure and clear my head and just kind of see what's going on with everything.

"It's pretty tough right now. It's really, really tough to get to this point, it's a grind just to get to this point and that makes the finality of it all kind of hit you like a tonne of bricks. I'll always be thankful for this season."

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers said he is relishing his first NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field.

For the first time in his stellar career, Rodgers will play a conference title game at home when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers visit on Sunday, with his four previous NFC deciders coming on the road.

Tom Brady's Buccaneers stand in the way of MVP favourite Rodgers and the top-seeded Packers reaching their first NFL showpiece since winning Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 season.

It is set to me a memorable matchup for Super Bowl champion and two-time MVP Rodgers, who told reporters on Friday: "It's historic, it's definitely historic, there's nothing like it.

"I've played in just about every stadium now and been a lover for the NFL for most of my life, definitely most of my life that I remember and dreamt about it, playing in this stadium, since I watched those VHS tapes of the Green Bay Packers and the Ice Bowl, Bart Starr, Max McGee, Paul Hornung, Fuzzy, Willie Davis, Ray Nitschke, that's what I dreamt about, being a part of an organisation with that kind of excellence.

"Vince Lombardi, all the quotes that he has that still resonate to this day. The trophy is named after him for a reason. Our city is nicknamed 'Titletown' for a reason. It's a special place to play. I've never lost that perspective. I think my perspective is slightly adjusted on some other things this year but I've never forgotten where I play, where I live and I'm very proud of that."

Rodgers recorded his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns against the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (10).

The 37-year-old Rodgers also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

The Packers, meanwhile, are 15-1 in home games against the Buccaneers since 1990 – including postseason encounters.

According to Stats Perform, the Packers are in the midst of their longest streak in NFL history without a takeaway (four successive playoff games), while a win would see Green Bay tie the New England Patriots for most all-time postseason wins with 37.

Green Bay is notorious for cold weather and snow, and Rodgers was asked about the difficulty of playing in such conditions as he ages.

"I can say this year, based on the games we've had and the practice outside it hasn't felt any different than years past," Rodgers said. "The cold is still cold. It's bone chilling - not maybe as miserable as Chicago. That weather, when that bone chilling like effect happens, that's tough, that's really tough. But Green Bay ... we embrace our cold weather.

"I haven't noticed any big difference now. I almost enjoy it more, you've heard me say it, authentically. Man, I want it as cold as possible. I don't feel like it's an issue the older you get. We'll see if it gets down to minus 20 at some point. - maybe I can give you a better answer!" 

Tom Brady is braced for a "big test" against Aaron Rodgers and the top-seeded Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers eye a home Super Bowl.

It will be a battle of the titans when six-time NFL Super Bowl champion Brady and the Buccaneers travel to Lambeau Field, where they will face Rodgers' Packers in the NFC decider on Sunday.

Brady – who has as many playoff wins since turning 35 as any other quarterback in his career, while he has 32 in total, twice as many as any other QB – will start his 14th conference championship in the Buccaneers-Packers blockbuster.

The 43-year-old superstar and the Buccaneers, however, will come up against Rodgers – who is tipped to be crowned the NFL MVP.

Two-time MVP Rodgers will play a conference title game at home for the first time in his stellar career, with his four previous NFC Championship appearances coming on the road.

Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion in the 2010 season – eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history en route to the NFC showpiece. Per Stats Perform, the 37-year-old has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history.

Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most TD passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

Sunday's winner will advance to February 7's Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium – home of the Buccaneers – and when asked about Rodgers on Friday, Brady told reporters: "He basically does everything well. He has great command and experience, leadership, players are playing hard.

"He has a great style of play. He obviously throws the ball as well as any quarterback. Gets rid of the ball quickly. Has great vision of the field. He is able to extend plays with his legs. He has a lot of explosive plays.

"A great football team. Top-scoring offense. It's a big test. We are going to have to play great football to beat them."

The Buccaneers head into the clash on the back of wins away to the Washington Football Team and New Orleans Saints.

Tampa Bay are also riding a seven-game winning streak on the road – the longest run in franchise history, while the Buccaneers have nine straight games with 24-plus points and five in succession with 30-plus points – both the longest in team history, per Stats Perform.

"Love working with my team-mates. We've all worked hard," Brady said. "To play in a championship game is a great experience. I love being able to do that with this group of guys who've worked hard to get to this point. We had some rough moments but we've won two road games and will have to win a third if we want to continue playing.

"It's a tough test. A great team we're playing. Not an easy task but we will have to figure out a way."

Brady, whose Buccaneers are looking to become the fifth team all-time to win three road games in a single postseason, added: "Everyone knows what's at stake. You don't get to this point, you don't get one game and get here, you gotta go through a whole process to do it and our team has done that… we have a chance to get back home for a home Super Bowl, which would be a cool thing."

The Green Bay Packers stand between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a Super Bowl appearance in their own stadium.

In Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, two of the NFL's most revered quarterbacks will go head to head in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Both QBs are in the MVP conversation, and Rodgers will be hoping to guide the Packers to the Super Bowl for a second time, having fallen at the penultimate hurdle three times since lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the 2010 season.

But he is up against a veteran opponent with unparalleled experience deep in the playoffs in Brady, setting the stage for a battle for the ages.
 

Looking back

Green Bay had season worsts in points scored (10), points allowed (38) and total yards (201) in a 38-10 loss at Tampa Bay in Week 6. It was the Packers' only defeat by more than seven points this season and Rodgers' 35.4 passer rating was his third-lowest in a start in his career. The only previous postseason matchup between the teams – who were NFC Central rivals from 1977 to 2001 – came in the 1997 Divisional Round, and that was a 21-7 Packers home win.

Championship form

While the Packers have suffered defeat in three straight NFC Championship Games, all of those were played on the road. Not only are they at home on this occasion, they enter the game amid a prolific run that has seen them score at least 20 points in 21 straight postseason outings – the longest streak in NFL history. For the Bucs, this is just their fourth NFC Championship Game of all time, though their last appearance provided a road win over the Philadelphia Eagles in 2002. Tampa Bay could become the first team in the Super Bowl era to reach the Super Bowl, which this year will take place at their Raymond James Stadium, in the season they ended a playoff drought of at least 12 years.

The QB battle

In Green Bay's 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams last weekend, Rodgers had his eighth postseason game with multiple touchdown passes and no interceptions. The only quarterback with more? That's right, Brady (13). Rodgers is up to 50 TD passes for the season, making him the sixth different QB to reach that mark in a single campaign, but no one knows conference championship games better than Brady, who is set to make his 14th start in such games – twice as many as Joe Montana, who has the next most at seven. The 43-year-old is proving that age is just a number. After throwing his only two road game interceptions in Week 1, Brady has gone 368 consecutive pass attempts on the road without being picked off – an NFL record.

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur warned of Tom Brady's "great feel" ahead of the blockbuster NFC Championship Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It will be a battle of the titans when Aaron Rodgers leads the top-seeded Packers at home to Brady's Buccaneers, with a Super Bowl berth on the line on Sunday.

Brady – a six-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots – will start his 14th conference championship when the Buccaneers travel to Lambeau Field.

The 43-year-old superstar has more conference championship wins (nine) than any other quarterback has starts, per NFL Research.

LaFleur is wary of the four-time Super Bowl MVP, telling reporters on Thursday: "I think every game plan is a little bit different, but he's got such a great feel.

"He knows when to get the ball out. Whether you're rushing four or five it doesn't matter. If he feels that rush he gets the ball out of his hands and conversely, if you're rushing four and you're not hitting home he'll hold the ball as long as he needs to, to allow people to get open.

"That's just one of those things that I think is tough to coach. Some guys have great feel in the pocket and that's a tremendous luxury when you have a guy like that."

Not since winning Super Bowl XLV have the Packers reached the showpiece event – beaten by the San Francisco 49ers in last season's NFC Championship Game, having also lost title deciders in 2017 and 2015.

Rodgers will play a conference title game at home for the first time in his stellar career following the Packers' 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round – his four previous NFC Championship appearances have been on the road.

Green Bay's Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion in the 2010 season – recorded his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns against the Rams.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (10).

MVP favourite Rodgers also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

"I think when he speaks he is so well thought out in what he says and he has such a great delivery to our team I think everybody really, truly, takes it to heart," LaFleur said of the two-time MVP.

"Obviously he's a huge part of our football team both on the field and in that locker room. I think those just kind of naturally occur, whatever feels natural in the moment. He's a guy that everybody on this football teams looks to in terms of that leadership role."

On Rodgers and Brady, added: "They've seen everything. There's not a lot you can throw at them that they haven't seen. Now, the whole key is that I think a lot of times when you're playing quarterbacks like this you've got to make sure that you have identical looks, or shells, or contours and you're switching the picture on them on the snap of the ball. I think that's always imperative any time you're playing quarterbacks of this calibre."

The Green Bay Packers have paid tribute to Ted Thompson, the Super Bowl-winning general manager who drafted Aaron Rodgers, after he passed away.

Thompson died on Wednesday, aged 68.

The former Houston Oilers linebacker spent eight years with Green Bay's personnel department up to 1999 before heading to Seattle for five seasons as the Seahawks' vice president of football operations.

The Packers had already won a title during Thompson's initial stint and he returned in 2005 for a successful run as GM.

Thompson built the team that won the Super Bowl XLV championship, including taking stalwart quarterback Rodgers in his first draft and hiring head coach Mike McCarthy.

Brian Gutekunst succeeded Thompson in 2018 and led the response to news of his passing on Thursday.

"Ted was a man of great character and integrity who cared deeply for his family and friends," said the incumbent GM.

"He was honest and hard-working. He valued his scouts and always did what he felt was right for the Packers organisation.

"I learned a great deal from Ted and will always be appreciative for the opportunity he gave me.

"He was a football man and a scout's scout, but more importantly, he was a very special person who will be greatly missed."

Coach Matt LaFleur, who is preparing his team to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, added: "He's a guy that's held in the highest regard in this building and I think just around the league.

"His impact is still felt to this day when you look at our roster.

"I think he's had a tremendous impact amongst many people across the league when you look at all the other GMs that have learned under him."

Thompson's name will be installed on the Lambeau Field facade ahead of the 2021 season "to honour his contributions to the organisation's success and recognise his legacy", the Packers announced.

Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers insisted there is no additional pressure as the NFL franchise look to end their Super Bowl absence against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rodgers and the top-seeded Packers will host Tom Brady's Buccaneers in Sunday's blockbuster NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field.

Not since winning Super Bowl XLV have the Packers reached the showpiece event – beaten by the San Francisco 49ers in last season's NFC Championship Game, having also lost title deciders in 2017 and 2015.

But MVP favourite Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday: "No more pressure than usual. I think a lot of times the storylines, pressure and those kinds of comments are good stuff for you guys to write about, but I think it starts with the mentality and focus.

"Obviously I put pressure on myself to perform every single week, and I think there's a lot to be said for being able to harness that pressure and fear of failure and focus into a real positive. That's something you learn over the years. But I don't feel any extra pressure going into this one.

"Definitely thankful to be back here. A lot of people didn't think we'd be back here after last season. We got a lot of interesting comments last year about us being the worst 13-3 team that people had seen. Not the same type of comments this [time]. Obviously we're clicking a lot better on offense, I do feel really thankful to be back here, thankful for the chance to be playing."

Rodgers will play a conference title game at home for the first time in his stellar career following the Packers' 32-18 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round – his four previous NFC Championship appearances have been on the road.

Green Bay's Rodgers – a Super Bowl champion in the 2010 season – recorded his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns against the Rams.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (10).

Rodgers also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

Brady and the Buccaneers stand in the way of Rodgers and just his second Super Bowl berth, with many feeling the upcoming encounter could be the latter's best chance at progressing past the NFC Championship for the first time in a decade.

But the 37-year-old Rodgers – a two-time MVP and nine-time Pro Bowler – said: "I'm always just trying to stay present, especially this year as much as anything, and enjoy the moments. I hope there's more opportunities, but I don't know. I mean, I really don't. That stuff is out of my control.

"My future is a beautiful mystery I think. The present is such a gift to be able to stay in the moment and to have gratitude for being in this situation again, and being with the guys and having fans in our stadium and maybe snow in an NFC Championship Game. I'm going to enjoy these moments for sure, and just not worry about what happens down the line."

Aaron Rodgers is relishing the opportunity to feature in a long-awaited NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field after the Green Bay Packers downed the Los Angeles Rams.

Rodgers will play a conference title game at home for the first time in his stellar career following the Packers' 32-18 win over the Rams in the NFL playoffs on Saturday.

Top MVP candidate Rodgers finished 23-of-36 passing for 296 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks, while the Super Bowl champion rushed for another TD.

Either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or New Orleans Saints await the Packers in Green Bay on January 24 – the winner progressing to the Super Bowl – and star quarterback Rodgers is excited.

"It means a lot. [Former Packers receiver] Jordy [Nelson] and I talked about it years ago. Made a lot of starts in this league without hosting the NFC Championship," Rodgers – whose four previous NFC Championship appearances have been on the road – told reporters when asked what it meant to host the title game in Green Bay.

"Hopefully it is a little colder than it was tonight. The fans were special and the energy was special. There is a home-field advantage. The fact we get to host, can't say sleep in our own bed because there is still an antiquated idea of staying in a hotel the night before a game instead of your warm, cosy six-night a week bed. I know COVID-19 is involved in that. I'm still salty about that antiquated idea.

"But it is meaningful to have fans at the game. Hopefully we can get even more if this worked out. It will be exciting. Enjoy this tonight, celebrate and to watch tomorrow, knowing whoever wins is coming to our place."

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, less than 9,000 fans were allowed to attend the Packers-Rams matchup in Green Bay, where Rodgers recorded his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (10).

Rodgers – whose Green Bay are eyeing their first Super Bowl crown since 2010 – also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

"It felt like 50,000 when we ran out of the tunnel, it really did," Rodgers said. "It was such a special moment. Forgot how much you truly, truly miss having a crowd there ... it felt like, 50,000, 60,000."

Rodgers added: ''I'm definitely a little emotional, just thinking about what we've been through. It got me emotional with the crowd out there today.''

Another year, another NFC Championship Game berth for the Green Bay Packers, who took down the Los Angeles Rams 32-18.

Aaron Rodgers – the top MVP candidate – led the way as the number one Packers advanced to their second successive NFC title game by beating the Rams in the Divisional Round at Lambeau Field on Saturday.

Packers quarterback Rodgers flexed his muscles – finishing 23-of-36 passing for 296 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and no sacks, while the Super Bowl champion and two-time NFL MVP rushed for another TD.

Rams QB Jared Goff was 21 of 27 for 174 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay, where he was sacked four times.

The Packers, who lost to the San Francisco 49ers in last season's Championship Game, and Rams traded field goals in an evenly contested opening quarter.

But the Packers moved clear after outscoring the Rams 16-7 in the second period – Rodgers throwing a TD pass to Davante Adams and running for his own TD while Goff connected with Van Jefferson as Green Bay took a 19-10 lead into half-time.

Aaron Jones extended the Packers' lead to 25-10 with a one-yard run before Rams star Cam Akers helped close the visitors within seven points of Green Bay.

However, the Packers were too good as Rodgers threw a 58-yard pass to Allen Lazard with less than seven minutes remaining in the final quarter to send Green Bay back to the NFC title contest.

 

Turning point – Green Bay maintain second-quarter dominance

There is no better team than the Packers in second quarters.

Green Back set an NFL season record for second-quarter points with 205 heading into the postseason. The New England Patriots had previously held the record with 199 in 2007.

The Packers showed why they are so good in second periods after scoring 16 points to move clear of the Rams on Saturday.

Rodgers produces the goods… again

Rodgers showed he is the man for the big stage once again after recording his 12th career playoff game with 250-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns.

According to NFL Research, the only other payers in NFL history with 10-plus such games are Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (17), Joe Montana (12) and New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees (10).

Rodgers also eclipsed Brett Favre for most playoff completions (439) in Packers history.

Per Stats Perform, Rodgers has thrown for multiple passing TDs in eight consecutive postseason games, tied with Joe Flacco for the longest streak in history. Now with 233 in his career, Rodgers also passed Favre for the most touchdown passes thrown at Lambeau Field (regular and postseason).

What's next?

The Packers – eyeing their first Super Bowl crown since 2010 – will face the winner of the Buccaneers-Saints matchup in the NFC Championship showdown on January 24.

For the Rams, they are left to pick up the pieces after returning to the playoffs following a year absence, having lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.

The Wild Card Round was, well, wild.

The Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns ended long postseason droughts, while the Los Angeles Rams and Baltimore Ravens impressed as they produced upset results on the road.

Meanwhile, Tom Brady made sure the Tampa Bay Buccaneers progressed, securing a showdown with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints that will be an all-NFC South battle between starting quarterbacks with a combined age is 85.

As for the Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning Super Bowl champions - along with NFC top seeds the Green Bay Packers - prepare to return to action after a well-earned bye week.

A four-game schedule has all the potential for another bumper weekend of NFL action, with fans watching on to found out who will be the final four left standing in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers - Saturday, 4.35pm (all times Eastern)

- The Rams are the only current NFC team with an all-time winning record against the Packers (46-45-2), but they have lost five of the previous six and 11 of the past 15 meetings. Green Bay, meanwhile, earned the No.1 seed in the conference for just the third time in their history.

- Aaron Rodgers posted the second-highest passer rating in NFL history this season (121.5), trailing only his own 122.5 in 2011, when he was voted the league's MVP. Rodgers had six games with four or more touchdown passes and zero interceptions, tying the most in a season all-time (Peyton Manning in 2013). In Rodgers' playoff career, the Packers are 8-1 when he does not throw an interception - but 2-7 when he does.

Baltimore Ravens at Buffalo Bills - Saturday, 8.15pm

- Baltimore (191.9) and Tennessee (168.1) finished first and second in the NFL in rushing yards per game in the regular season, but the Ravens out-rushed the Titans 236-51 last week to progress. Lamar Jackson ran for 136 of them, the third most ever by a quarterback in a playoff game.

- Josh Allen completed 26 of 35 passes in the Wild Card win over the Indianapolis Colts (74.0 per cent), the highest completion percentage by a Bills starting QB in a playoff game. Allen also became the fifth player in NFL history with a passing TD, a rushing TD and a receiving TD in the playoffs, joining Freeman McNeil, Kordell Stewart, Julian Edelman and Nick Foles.

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday, 3.05pm

- This is the first postseason game between the teams. The Chiefs have won the past three meetings, most recently on November 4, 2018 (37-21). In fact, Cleveland have not beaten Kansas City since December 2012, while they have triumphed at Arrowhead only once in the past 32 seasons (December 2009).

- Against the Steelers, Baker Mayfield became the seventh player in league history to throw at least three TD passes without an interception in his postseason debut. Only one other player has done this in the previous 15 years (Alex Smith in 2011). He goes up against Patrick Mahomes, who has accounted for 16 total touchdowns – 13 TD passes and three rushing scores – in five postseason outings.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints - Sunday, 6.40pm

- This will be the 59th all-time meeting of these franchises, albeit the first in the postseason. The Saints have won five straight in the rivalry, outscoring the Bucs by a combined 165-81 during that streak.

- Brady's two touchdown passes against the Washington Football Team moved his career postseason total to 75, while the victory was his 31st in 42 career playoff starts. In the entire NFL, only five teams have as many as 31 postseason wins in their history. Brady (341) and Saints QB Brees (303) rank first and third respectively in career starts among quarterbacks, regular season and playoffs combined.

Aaron Rodgers should have the NFL MVP award "locked up", according to his Green Bay Packers team-mate Davante Adams.

Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns in the Packers' 35-16 victory over the Bears, clinching Green Bay the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time in nine years.

The Packers quarterback connected for TDs with Robert Tonyan, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Dominique Dafney and Adams.

Rodgers finished the regular season with 48 touchdown passes to join Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with at least 45 in more than one season (two each). In the previous three instances they were named MVP.

Adams has enjoyed a stellar season, too. He has taken 115 catches, overtaking Sterling Sharpe's franchise record of 112, while his 18 touchdowns tied Sharpe's franchise-best.

The 28-year-old says there is only one candidate for the MVP award, though.

"The MVP should be locked up," he told reporters after Sunday's win. "There's nothing else to really talk about. You look at what we've done and what he's been able to do, and they've hit him with everything.

"[They] said he didn't have any weapons, and we go out there and go 13-3 regular season, which isn't our main goal, obviously, but it's a hell of an accomplishment, especially when you're in your second year with a new staff."

The win earned the Packers the NFC's only first-round bye as well as home-field advantage, and Adams acknowledged the impact playing at Lambeau Field will have.

"It's a world of difference," Adams said. "People play different, people act different, they talk different, everything [is different] coming through Lambeau. It is what it is.

"You can come in and try to bark and be barefoot pregame, shirt off and do whatever you want to do, but at the end of the day it's a beast playing in that snow. It's a beast playing in that weather.

"It's not going to be easy but it gives us a tremendous amount of confidence knowing we're at home. And from what I've seen in the past, it's taken that confidence away from our opponents."

The Green Bay Packers looked every inch a Super Bowl favourite in Week 16 as they decimated the Tennessee Titans in a 40-14 blowout at Lambeau Field.

However, this week saw the Packers hit a significant bump in their road to Super Bowl LV in Tampa with the news that All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari had suffered a torn ACL.

The silver lining for Bakhtiari is that the injury occurred after he signed a four-year, $105.5million extension to make him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history.

But it still stands as a devastating blow to head coach Matt LaFleur's Green Bay offense, which has this season served as a weaponised version of the schemes run by Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, thanks to the incredible seasons being enjoyed by Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.

Yet the mind-meld Rodgers and Adams have demonstrated in the 2020 campaign risks being shattered if the Packers cannot protect their two-time MVP quarterback properly.

Widely viewed as the best left tackle in football, Bakhtiari is pivotal to them doing that and his absence could prove key in the regular-season finale and the postseason.

The Packers still need to win in Week 17 to make sure of the top seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Not having Bakhtiari could make success against a talented Chicago Bears defense significantly more difficult.

How much will the Packers miss Bakhtiari in that game and when the stakes are raised even higher in the postseason? Here we examine whether his injury could be a potential death knell to their Lombardi Trophy ambitions.

A 2015 drop-off

Bakhtiari has missed snaps in two previous seasons for the Packers -- 2015 and 2017.

The caveat for the 2017 campaign is it was one in which Rodgers was unavailable for all but nine games, making it tough to use that season as a gauge for how the Packers will perform with their starting quarterback but without his top pass protector.

Green Bay's performance minus Bakhtiari in 2015, however, suggests the Packers will find life substantially tougher deprived of his services.

He missed two games of the 2015 season and his absence was keenly felt.

Their yards per play average dropped from 5.29 to 3.93 in the time he was off the field, with the Packers' net yards per pass play crumbling from 5.96 to 4.29.

Similarly, Green Bay's rushing production took a big hit without Bakhtiari, their yards per rush average dipping from 4.4 to 3.21.

The issues Green Bay had throwing the ball minus Bakhtiari were clearly a product of increased pressure.

Without him protecting Rodgers' blindside, the percentage of sacks given up by the Packers more than doubled. Rodgers was sacked on 6.3 per cent of passing plays in the 14 games with Bakhtiari but that figure ballooned to 12.9 in the games in which he was unavailable.

The Packers' quarterback hit percentage also increased from 15.5 to 20.7, with Rodgers pressured on 43.1 per cent of dropbacks compared to 32.3 when Bakhtiari was on the field.

It is no surprise, therefore, that the Packers' efficiency on third down declined without Bakhtiari, moving the sticks on just 25.6 per cent of third downs, falling from 35.5 per cent when he was on the field.

The numbers on plays without Bakhtiari since 2013 reflect the 2015 struggles, though the picture from the Packers' three games without him this season is less clear.

A mixed bag in 2020

There is no doubt the Packers are worse offensively without Bakhtiari.

With him in the line-up in 2020, Green Bay average 6.46 yards per play, 7.48 net yards per pass and 5.19 yards per rush. When they have been bereft of his services, those numbers dip to 5.56 yards per play, 7.19 net yards per pass and 3.62 yards per rush.

Where things are a bit murkier is in the metrics that measure pressure.

The Packers have given up a higher percentage of sacks when Bakhtiari has been out, that figure climbing from 3.7 to 4.1. However, their quarterback hit percentage dropped from 8.7 to 6.6.

It is a similar story in quarterback pressure percentage, though the improvement without Bakhtiari has been marginal, Rodgers pressured 29.2 per cent of dropbacks when he has played and 28.9 per cent when he hasn't.

And the difference may be explained by Rodgers becoming ever more comfortable in a scheme that relies heavily on an aspect of offensive football that is key to neutralisng aggressive pass-rushing defenses. 

Can play-action threat be sustained?

The play-action pass is a staple of the LaFleur offense, and the Packers have upped their usage of it during his second season in charge.

Last season, the Packers ran 131 play-action passes, resulting in 978 yards, an average of 7.46 yards per play.

With one regular-season game remaining this year, that number has jumped to 140 plays. Only seven teams have used it more regularly in 2020.

And they have enjoyed increased success on those throws, which have netted 1,108 yards -- an average of 7.91 yards per play.

Play-action is an excellent tool for putting defenses that look to attack downhill on their heels, and the numbers suggest that, as long as Packers succeed in effectively running such plays, they can mitigate the impact of Bakhtiari's absence.

To subscribe to that theory is to oversimplify things. 

The threat of a productive ground attack is a significant aid to the play-action pass and the Packers certainly had that against the Titans, racking up 234 rushing yards in their emphatic triumph.

Yet the numbers indicate they may struggle to maintain that kind of running game production without Bakhtiari, potentially influencing the respect more talented defenses will give to the rushing attack in the postseason.

History says Bakhtiari's absence will indeed be a significant problem, though what the Packers have done in 2020 hints that they may be able to successfully protect Rodgers without him.

But it is clear the Green Bay running game is a different beast with Bakhtiari on the field. If their production in that regard tails off and negatively influences the play-action game, then the Packers offense might not be the potent threat it has been all season.

The loss of Bakhtiari is not necessarily a fatal one for the Packers, but it is a blow that could critically limit their upside as they bid to emerge as the cream of the crop in the postseason.

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