The NFC’s road to the Super Bowl runs through Lambeau Field.
Green Bay drilled visiting Minnesota, 37-10, Sunday night and wrapped up the NFC’s No. 1 seed.
Green Bay improved to 13-3 and have a one-game lead over the second-seeded Los Angeles Rams (12-4) and third-seeded Tampa Bay (12-4). The Packers hold tiebreaker advantages over both teams, though, and clinched the No. 1 seed for a second straight season.
That means the Packers will have a first round bye, while the NFC’s other six playoff teams all must play the weekend of Jan. 15-16.
“I do think it’s going to be a tremendous advantage,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said of being the No. 1 seed. “You’re talking about a year that’s totally different with packed stadiums (compared to 2020).
“I don’t know what our attendance was for our playoff games last season (8,000), but it certainly is more impactful. I think it definitely translates to success on the field.”
Here’s the good, bad and ugly from Green Bay’s win:
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DAVANTE ADAMS: The Rams Cooper Kupp is in the midst of a brilliant season. But any discussion of the best receiver in football must include Adams.
Adams caught eight passes for 118 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. And he finished with 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown.
Adams became just the sixth player in league history with at least 600 catches, 8,000 yards and 70 touchdowns in his first eight seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison, Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss and Jerry Rice, plus future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
Adams has 31 career 100-yard receiving games, which ranks second in team history behind James Lofton (32). He became just the fourth player in team history with 8,000 career receiving yards, and he broke his own single-season record with his 116th reception of 2021.
“When you start stacking up the numbers for Davante, it’s mind-blowing,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said recently. “I really feel like he’s the best player I’ve played with and I said that to him the other night, actually.
“He’s just such a dynamic player and he can also beat you with his mind. I’m just again, really thankful to be able to play with him for so many years.”
DEFENSE: Green Bay’s defense had allowed 28.8 points per game in its last five contests.
Yes, the Packers faced a backup quarterback in Minnesota’s Sean Mannion Sunday. But the Packers also had their best performance in months.
The Vikings had just four first downs and 70 total yards in the first half as Green Bay built a 20-3 lead. Running back Dalvin Cook, who had five touchdowns in his last two games against Green Bay, had just 13 rushing yards all night and wasn’t a factor.
Minnesota finished with just 206 total yards, averaged just 4.0 yards per play and had only 11 first downs in 11 drives. For a Green Bay team that was struggling defensively, Sunday’s performance should have provided a lift.
AARON RODGERS: Green Bay’s quarterback might have locked up his second straight MVP award and fourth overall.
Rodgers completed 29-of-38 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was 114.4.
Rodgers has now thrown 35 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 2021. And in his last six games, he’s thrown 18 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Rodgers and Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady are the two favorites for MVP. But the fact Rodgers led Green Bay to the No. 1 seed in the NFC could give him the edge.
MASON CROSBY: Green Bay’s kicker, who struggled through a midseason funk, made all three of his field goals.
Crosby made kicks of 35, 36 and 37 yards and has now connected on six straight field goals.
Between Weeks 5-10, Crosby missed 7 of 11 field goals. But he’s turned things around in recent weeks and is now 24-of-33 on the year (72.7%).
“The goal each time we take the field with that unit is to go 1-0,” Packers special teams coach Mo Drayton said. “We’re practicing really well and doing things exactly what we’re supposed to do in practice and take that to the gamefield as well in the other phases.”
THIS AND THAT: Wide receiver Allen Lazard set a career-high with his sixth touchdown catch of the season. … Matt LaFleur is now 39-9 overall and 15-2 against the NFC North during his three seasons as Green Bay’s coach. … David Moore, signed last week, had a 21-yard punt return, which was Green Bay’s longest of the year. … Running back Aaron Jones had explosive runs of 27 and 28 yards and finished the night with 76 yards on eight carries. … Running back AJ Dillon had touchdown runs of 4 and 7 yards.
FIRST QUARTER WOES: Green Bay had been outscored, 77-41, in the first quarter this season. That was the fifth-worst mark in football.
While the Packers outscored Minnesota, 3-0, in the first quarter Sunday, it could have been dramatically more.
On Green Bay’s first drive, it stalled at the Vikings’ 17-yard line and settled for a field goal. On the Packers’ second drive, they moved to the Vikings’ 11, but on fourth-and-3 Rodgers threw incomplete for Adams.
And Green Bay’s third drive of the quarter was a three-and-out.
The Packers’ slow start on offense didn’t hurt them against an inferior Minnesota team. But it’s been a season-long problem, and could be an issue in the playoffs.
REVERSING RECENT HISTORY: The Packers were giddy to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC. By no means, though, does that equate to postseason success.
From 1921-2001, Green Bay was 13-0 in home playoff games. Since then, though, the Packers are just 7-6.
Green Bay’s losses include:
2002 — Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons routed the Packers in a wild card game, 27-7.
2004 — Minnesota toppled Green Bay, 31-17, in a wild card game.
2007 — The New York Giants defeated the Packers, 23-20, in the NFC Championship Game. That marked Brett Favre’s final game as a Packer.
2011 — The No. 1 seeded Packers lost to the Giants, 37-20, in the divisional playoffs.
2013 — San Francisco toppled the Packers in the wild card round, 23-20.
2020 — Tom Brady and Tampa Bay downed No. 1 seeded Green Bay, 31-26, in the NFC Championship Game.
There was a time the Packers were unbeatable at Lambeau Field in the postseason. Green Bay will hope to re-establish that playoff dominance in the next month.