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Aaron Rodgers is nobody’s underdog

The Rams are the biggest favorites any team has been against the Packers when Rodgers has played. History says that should scare LA.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Aaron Rodgers has never been such a big underdog in the regular season but has a history of covering big spreads.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Packers fans hate to remember the last time Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were such longshots heading into a game. With their MVP quarterback hobbling on one leg, the Packers went to Seattle with a shot at the Super Bowl on the line. Facing the Legion of Boom in the toughest place in the NFL to play at the time, Las Vegas installed the Seahawks as 8-point favorites.

Rodgers didn’t play particularly well in that game, but the Packers shot out to an early lead and it took all-time Murphy’s Law breaks for Green Bay to lose in overtime at the hands (or lack thereof) of Brandon Bostick. No the Packers didn’t win, but they should have. And they covered.

The next year, Rodgers lost his top weapon to an ACL injury in the preseason and the offense sputtered with the loss of Jordy Nelson as Eddie Lacy ate himself out of the league and Davante Adams struggled with injury. Even so, Green Bay managed to make the playoffs, beat Washington on the road to head to Arizona where the Cardinals were waiting. Arizona already beat the daylights out of the Packers in the regular season, so the oddsmakers make them 7-point favorites.

Randall Cobb left the game in the first quarter, but the Packers defense held the high-flying Cardinals offense in check most of the game to give Rodgers one last chance to tie the game. A Herculean effort from Rodgers, replete with a ridiculous fourth-and-long conversion to Jeff Janis and possibly the least famous of his Hail Marys forced overtime. The Packers lost that game without Rodgers ever being able to touch the ball, the second straight season to end that way. But they covered.

Back in 2010 was the last time during the regular season the Packers were anywhere near the 9.5-point underdog status they’ll carry into the LA Coliseum. That season, Mike McCarthy’s crew traveled to New York to play Rex Ryan (and Mike Pettine) and the suffocating Jets defense. Darrelle Revis, Rex Ryan, and maybe the best defense of the modern era. Vegas set the line at Jets -6.

Not only did the Packers cover, they won outright, blanking the Jets 9-0 in a performance that helped spark Green Bay to a Super Bowl run.

In the three biggest spreads of Rodgers career, his team not only covered all three, but was in a position to win all three, finishing the job once. The Packers aren’t in the business of covering; they’re in the winning business, but this was always going to be a tough matchup. When the schedules came out, this was a likely loss for Green Bay. Getting unexpected performances in Washington and Detroit closed down the margin for error on this season, but a loss against the best team in football won’t end anyone’s season.

Cynics might point toward the end of the 2016 season, when the Packers were 5.5-point underdogs on the road in Atlanta, where the Falcons ambushed Green Bay and cruised to an easy win. But that Packers team ended up having to play Letroy Guion at OT they were so banged up. Jordy Nelson played with broken ribs. They had no running game. Joe Thomas, LaDarius Gunter and Quinten Rollins had to make starts on defense. This version of the Packers is significantly more talented.

With the 2018 iteration of the Packers getting the healthiest they’ve been all season, they should be able to give the Rams a much better fight, especially with the upgrades in the secondary that have been made since that 2016 debacle. The offense may have broken out against the 49ers, and a healthy, athletic secondary should provide ample resistance to the Rams. The idea this Green Bay team will get blown out is ... well, overblown.

Pyrrhic victories don’t save coaching jobs or look any better in the standings. Keeping it close and losing is still a loss. That’s not the point either. Despite the enormous spread and the impressive performance from the Rams, the Packers with Aaron Rodgers have faced down the barrel of all-time great units on the road before. They’ve won games just like this, and put themselves in position to win others.

Anyone believing the Packers have no chance on Sunday better study their history.