Aaron Rodgers among the betting favorites to win the MVP

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers already has two Most Valuable Player awards, and he’s among the favorites to earn a third in 2017.

According to Bovada LV Sportsbook, the 33-year-old has the second-best odds behind New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to take home the award. Rodgers is 7/1, while Brady sits at 4/1. There are five more players behind them before someone that doesn’t play quarterback – Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott – makes an appearance at 20/1.

There are two defensive players named, including former Wisconsin star and current Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who is listed at 66/1.

Few players were as hot as Rodgers was to end 2016. He was the driving force behind a six-game winning streak to earn a playoff spot for a eighth straight year and led Green Bay to the NFC title game for a third time since 2010. For the season, Rodgers finished with an NFL-high 40 touchdowns and his passer rating of 104.2 was fourth-best in the league.

Rodgers earned his first MVP award in 2011 and picked up his second in 2014. Only Johnny Unitas, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning have won the MVP three or more times in league history.

Thompson on RBs: “We need some more guys”

PHOENIX — Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson touched on a variety of topics during Monday’s NFL Owners Meetings, including a need for more bodies in the backfield.

“We need some more guys,” Thompson said in reference to adding running backs. “We’re a little short in a couple of areas. So from a personnel standpoint, we’ve got to get some more bodies, but we like the guys that we have. It’s just that we’d like to get some more.”

The departure of Eddie Lacy and the release of James Starks leaves just three running backs on roster, none of which have carried the workload a full season would entail. Ty Montgomery, who switched from wide receiver to running back last season, carried the ball 77 times for 457 yards and three touchdowns.

Reports from over the weekend indicated Thompson and the Packers were considering a meeting with former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson but that his asking price was too steep. Those reports also stated that Green Bay may address Peterson after the NFL Draft next month if their needs aren’t met. But when Thompson was asked about Peterson on Monday, he became tight-lipped.

“Let’s all together answer that question,” Thompson told a group of reporters. “We don’t talk about players that are not on our team. We never have, we never will. It doesn’t serve a purpose, I don’t think.”

Thompson and the Packers have roughly $24 million in cap space remaining for this offseason, and while he admitted it’s possible another player is added, that money might be saved for a future contract extension for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

McCarthy comments may indicate more active offseason

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be 34 years old by playoff time in the 2017-18 season, and coach Mike McCarthy’s comments during his end-of-season press conference on Thursday may indicate a more aggressive approach to a Super Bowl run.

“We all want to win the world championship, and I can just promise you and our fans that we’re doing everything we can to get that done. And I think — going back to Aaron [Rodgers’] statement, ‘all in’ — we can control what we can control. With everybody in football ops, we need to max out this opportunity and we’re already working on the next opportunity.”

The narrative for several years now has been on Rodgers’ perceived “window” for how long he can play at an elite level. Rodgers has already made several changes to his lifestyle to maximize his health, including the removal of dairy from his diet, a decision not taken lightly in Wisconsin, the nation’s dairy production leader.

But a healthy Rodgers hasn’t been enough to return to the Super Bowl after the team’s title run in the 2010 season. Much of the criticism has fallen on general manager Ted Thompson, whose “draft and develop” philosophy has largely meant straying away from signing players in free agency. Occasionally he’ll take a flier on a position of need, most recently signing tight end Jared Cook to a one-year, $2.75 million contract.

With the obvious success of Cook’s season, Rodgers and McCarthy have stated that re-signing the former Rams utility man is a high priority. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport says Cook’s emergence, as well as continued areas of need, could force Thompson to go away from his rule of thumb and get more weapons in free agency.

“From what I’m told,” Rapoport said, “I would think the Packers are going to go and get some free agents this year along with trying to re-sign Jared Cook — which is a priority for them.”

In his Thursday press conference, McCarthy added that Thompson would indeed return for another season, seeming to end speculation that either director of football operations Eliot Wolf or Kansas City Chiefs GM John Dorsey could be his successor next year. What McCarthy didn’t say, however,  is whether Thompson’s role would remain the same.  Rapoport reported earlier this month that Thompson may step down to become a senior scouting advisor — a position change McCarthy didn’t address.

Packers’ Bakhtiari added to the Pro Bowl roster, Lang and Rodgers decide not to play

David Bakhtiari is going to the Pro Bowl after all.

The NFL announced Monday that Bakhtiari had been added to the roster as an injury replacement for Philadelphia’s Jason Peters.

The Green Bay Packers left tackle was among several players that were viewed as snubs when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced last month, but now he’ll get the experience in Orlando anyway.

He won’t, however, be joined by all of his teammates that were selected.

Guard T.J. Lang, a first-time Pro Bowler, will be replaced by former Packers guard Josh Sitton due to injury. Lang, who is a free agent this offseason, will undergo hip surgery on Friday.

“Definitely wanted to be there,” Lang said Monday. “But it’s not the end of the world.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers also won’t play in the game. He’ll be replaced by Washington’s Kirk Cousins.

Another first-time Pro Bowler, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, is from Orlando and said he intends to be there.

Falcons beat Packers, advance to Super Bowl LI

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons are moving on to Super Bowl LI in Houston after defeating the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the final game held at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons marched 75 yards down the field on their opening possession to score on a short shovel pass to Mohamed Sanu. The Packers were unable to answer on the ensuing possession, with Mason Crosby missing a 41-yard field goal. That ended his NFL-best 23-game streak of consecutive converted postseason field goals.

Atlanta faced little resistance on their second drive of the game, getting inside Green Bay’s 10-yard line before a holding penalty on third down forced them into a field goal attempt, where Ryan was good from 28 yards.

The second quarter started to look like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense were on the path to points, but fullback Aaron Ripkowski’s longest rush of the season ended in the red zone, fumbling the ball and getting recovered by the Falcons in their own end zone.

Things went from bad to worse when Atlanta’s Matt Ryan decided to do the damage with his legs. In the middle of the second quarter, he rushed for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Falcons on top 17-0. They didn’t have their first punt until 3:17 remaining in the first half.

Rodgers tried to rally the troops after that punt and get points before halftime, but a sack on second down set Green Bay up with a long third down deep in their own territory. Trying to make something happen, Rodgers fired deep down the middle of the field where the ball was intercepted.

Green Bay would pay for that mistake, as Ryan and the Atlanta offense marched down the field to score a five-yard touchdown to Julio Jones just before the intermission. The soon-to-be MVP had 271 yards and two touchdown passes in the first half.

The Packers got the ball to start the second half, hoping to mount the largest comeback in NFC Championship game history. Instead, a pair of drops by tight end Jared Cook led to an early punt and the Falcons capitalized once again. Ryan hit Julio Jones for his second touchdown of the game, this time from 73 yards out.

It took until the 9:19 mark in the third quarter for the Packers to get on the board, with Rodgers connecting with Davante Adams for a two-yard touchdown. But once again, Atlanta marched down the field for another score, this time a four-yard grab by running back Devonta Freeman.

Rodgers got another shot at points, however, hooking up with Jordy Nelson for a short touchdown late in the third quarter. Atlanta would recover the ensuing onside kick, eventually scoring another rushing touchdown to extend the lead.

With less than seven minutes left in the game, Rodgers hit Jared Cook for a score, but the two-point conversion failed and Green Bay trailed 21-44.

Majkowski: Rodgers once asked me if he should demand a trade

ATLANTA — As the Green Bay Packers get set to meet with the Atlanta Falcons for the NFC Championship game, former quarterback Don Majkowski told the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network that Aaron Rodgers once asked for his advice on a potential trade.

Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for three long years before his rise to one of the greatest to ever put on the green and gold. During a pep rally in Atlanta Saturday night, Majkowski told the story of how frustrated Rodgers was with his lack of playing time while a backup to Favre. The story was first reported by the Wisconsin Sports Zone Network’s Jake Zimmermann (LINK).

While not surprising Rodgers voiced frustration about a lack of playing time, it’s the first time reports have linked Rodgers to a potential career outside of Green Bay. Just how close Rodgers was to talking with management about a trade remains unknown, but perhaps Majkowski’s advice kept Rodgers in Titletown.

Majkowski says he told Rodgers at the time to be patient, as he would be rewarded with the metaphorical keys to the Packers Ferrari franchise.

Green Bay lists five players as questionable for the NFC title game

The NFC title game is less than 48 hours away, and the Green Bay Packers still have major injury concerns and now an illness going through the team to worry about.

The team released its final injury report Friday afternoon, and saw five players — wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison, along with defensive backs Morgan Burnett and Quinten Rollins — listed as questionable.

“They’ll be given every chance to play in the game,” coach Mike McCarthy said of the wide receivers. “If we know (Saturday), we’ll know (Saturday). If we know Sunday, we know Sunday. I’m going to give these guys the open time frame to do everything they can to play.”

If that wasn’t enough, there is an apparent illness that has hit the team, including Nelson, who was told to stay away from the facility on Friday to avoid spreading it. Still, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and kicker Mason Crosby have been affected by it.

“Rest, fluids, all that stuff. We’ll be OK,” Rodgers told reporters Friday afternoon. “We’re going to be OK and deal with it.”

On Atlanta’s side of the things, wide receiver Julio Jones practiced on a limited basis Friday and is expected to play on Sunday. He had missed the previous two days with a toe injury.

Crosby sends Packers to NFC Championship game with late FG

ARLINGTON, Tex. —After a back and forth battle in the final moments of regulation, Mason Crosby won it for the Packers 34-31 to send Green Bay to Atlanta for the NFC championship game.

What initially seemed like the making of a Packers blowout, the Cowboys found Dez Bryant on a 40-yard touchdown to close the gap to 21-10. It was Bryant’s first career postseason touchdown, and now Green Bay will likely have a hard time answering. Left tackle David Bakhtiari exited the game in the second quarter with a right knee injury and was deemed questionable to return. Aaron Rodgers and the offense went three-and-out on the first possession after his injury.

The Cowboys struck first in the pivotal matchup, but Rodgers answered, leading the Packers down the field for a 34-yard touchdown to Richard Rodgers.

The Rodgers-to-Rodgers connection was set up by a drive that saw No. 12 take advantage of Dallas’ defensive substitutions, catching them with an extra player on the field, resulting in a first down. After hitting big plays from Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb, Rodgers again took advantage of a defensive miscue, launching the ball to his tight end in the end zone after seeing  Dallas jump offside.

The Packers extended their early lead to 14-3 after Ty Montgomery ran the ball in from the seven yard-line in the second quarter of Sunday’s NFC divisional round playoff game. He would find the end zone from a yard out on their ensuing possession.

Tight end Jared Cook hauled in a third quarter touchdown to give Green Bay a 28-13 lead over the Dallas Cowboys.

The downside to the score is that Dallas would get the ball back, allowing them to attack a weakened Green Bay secondary. Safety Morgan Burnett left the game in the first quarter with a quad injury and his return was ruled out at halftime.

Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers to a 31-24 victory over the Lions and an NFC North title

It was a never a guarantee, just a feeling. But whatever you want to call it, quarterback Aaron Rodgers delivered on it.

A little more than five weeks after telling reporters that he felt the Green Bay Packers could run the table and win out, that’s exactly what the team did with a 31-24 NFC North-clinching win in Detroit Sunday night.

“That’s what you have to do sometimes as a leader,” Rodgers said of his ‘run the table’ comment that came in the midst of a four-game losing streak to drop the Packers to 4-6 on the year. “You have to exude confidence even in a situation where it seems to the outside world that confidence shouldn’t exist. And that’s what I did. I believe in myself and my abilities, but I also believe in this team. This wasn’t just a shot in the dark.”

Since making that comment, the Packers are 6-0 and Rodgers has thrown 15 touchdowns and no interceptions, and put himself firmly in the race for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award, something he’s taken home twice in his career already.

“Great players make other players so much better around them,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Rodgers, who finished the season with 40 touchdowns to lead the NFL.

The Lions led at the half 14-10, but a 10-play, 75-yard drive, that Rodgers capped off with a 3-yard touchdown to wide receiver Davante Adams, gave Green Bay a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. All but one of the Packers four touchdown drives went at least 70 yards, including on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter to virtually seal the game.

“There was never any reason not to believe we were going to be here today,” McCarthy said when asked how his team turned things around after the 4-6 start. “This team, they’re different.

“This team has an energy, it has an edge, it has confidence that was evident very early in our preseason. I’ve always believed in that. And they believe in that. Maybe that’s why we aren’t doing cartwheels right now.”

They aren’t because the end goal wasn’t to win the NFC North. It was a goal, but not the goal. That — a victory in Super Bowl LI — remains out there, starting with a visit from the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon.

“We have bigger aspirations,” McCarthy said. “This is the first step. This is the threshold to get in the playoffs, getting in this tournament. We’ll move on Monday. Get healthy (and) get ready for the Giants.”

Injuries strike

Green Bay has been tormented by injuries throughout the year, and that continued on Sunday night, specifically in the secondary where they lost three cornerbacks — Quinten Rollins, Damarious Randall and Makinton Dorleant — in close succession.

The most serious appeared to Rollins, who landed hard on the Detroit sideline early in the second half, and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. He was taken to a local hospital, and Packers officials said he was alert and able to move all his extremities.

Randall injured his knee in the first half and didn’t return, while Dorleant was carted off after being injured on special teams in the second half.

The injuries left safety Micah Hyde as one of the two outside cornerbacks along with LaDarius Gunter, while safety Morgan Burnett was forced to play as the nickel cornerback in the slot.

Tickets on sale

The team announced that about 8,000 tickets were available to the general public for the playoff game against the Giants at Lambeau Field. The sale was the result of tickets not claimed by season-ticket holders.

You can order them here:

Three Packers selected to the 2017 Pro Bowl

The NFL announced the 2017 Pro Bowl rosters on Tuesday night, and three Green Bay Packers were selected.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, guard T.J. Lang and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were all voted in through a combination of fan, player and coach balloting.

For Lang and Clinton-Dix, it’s the first time they’ve earned the honor, while Rodgers was selected for a sixth time.

Earlier on Monday, Rodgers told reporters that the entire offensive line was worthy of making it, and that Clinton-Dix should be a “no-doubter,” though he admitted that it can be a popularity contest at times and sometimes guys get the nod a year after they truly deserve it. But for Clinton-Dix, Green Bay’s first-round pick in 2014, his third year has been a bit of breakthrough and it didn’t go unnoticed. He leads the team in interceptions with five, which is tied for the most among safeties in the league.

Lang makes the team despite missing nearly a month with a broken foot, but it’s an honor some, including his teammate Bryan Bulaga, feel should have happened long before this season.

“Congrats to (T.J. Lang) for being named to his first Pro Bowl,” Bulaga tweeted soon after the announcement. “Well overdue buddy. You deserve it.”

The Eastern Michigan product has started all but six games over the last six seasons for Green Bay.

“I’m speechless guys,” Lang tweeted. “All I can say is no way in hell I could get this honor without my (offensive line) brothers especially, Bulaga. We share this honor.”

As for Rodgers, his selection comes in what has been a weird year for the 12th year pro. At times, many were left questioning whether he’d lost something as he and the team struggled. But no one has been hotter than Rodgers of late as the Packers have gone on their four-game winning streak. For the season, he’s tied for second in the NFL in touchdowns (32), sixth in yards (3,781) and fifth in quarterback rating (100.3), and he’s just two wins shy of clinching his fifth division title in the last six years.

Rodgers hasn’t actually played in the Pro Bowl since 2012, with injuries keeping him out of the 2014 and 2015 games. But he’s expecting a different reason for his absence this time around — getting ready for the Super Bowl.

“It’s always a good thing to get nominated,” Rodgers said of the Pro Bowl. “But I don’t plan on playing in it.”