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Rodgers, Packers the NFL's best right now

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

Green Bay Packers linebacker Julius Peppers (56) celebrates with fans after returning an interception 52-yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

Green Bay Packers linebacker Julius Peppers (56) celebrates with fans after returning an interception 52-yards for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

Ladies and gentlemen, the best team in the NFL right now is the Green Bay Packers. Full stop.

You can make a case for Arizona or New England, but if you watched either of the Packers’ past two blowout victories, there really isn’t an argument.

If they can figure out a way to play like this away from Lambeau Field, no one’s going to touch the Packers this post-season. They’re looking that good.

Green Bay’s latest statement win came Sunday at Lambeau in a 53-20 demolition of the NFC West-leading Philadelphia Eagles. The win followed by seven days the Packers’ 55-14 strafing of the Chicago Bears, also at Lambeau.

It’s only the fifth time in NFL history a team has put up 50-burgers in back-to-back weeks.

Offence, defence, special teams -- the Packers are ballin’ like no other team in the league, to coin a hip verb the players use nowadays.

And Aaron Rodgers. You just shake your head. He’s quarterbacking as well as he anybody ever has, period.

His fast release, arm strength, vision in or out of the pocket, and his accuracy whether in the pocket or on the run -- all over the field, at any depth -- is as remarkable as it is unrivalled.

“I need to figure out new ways to compliment Aaron,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s playing at an extremely high level.”

Record numbers bear that out.

Rodgers has thrown 29 touchdowns without an interception at home, and 322 consecutive passes at home without an interception -- the longest such streaks in NFL history.

Rodgers merely threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles, after tossing six TDs last week against Chicago.

Rodgers and the Packers have been so incredibly good in going 5-0 at home this season, their average margin of victory has been 27 points. In the last four -- against Minnesota, Carolina, Chicago and Philly -- they’ve scored at least 28 points in the first half. According to Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN), no other NFL team has ever done that.

“We have a great homefield advantage -- probably the best in football,” McCarthy said. “It’s a special place to play. This is our element.”

Would you believe when Sunday began the Packers weren’t even in position to make the playoffs? True. But now they’re 7-3, and tied atop the NFC North with Detroit after its loss at Arizona.

“This was important to gauge where we’re at,” Rodgers said. “This was the kind of win we needed.”

Away from Lambeau this season, the Packers got smoked at Seattle in the opener, and again at New Orleans late last month. They could barely move the ball in a September loss at Detroit, and in their other road games the Pack eked out an unlikely win at Miami and, of course, crushed Chicago at Soldier Field.

Green Bay has three very winnable road games left -- at 4-6 Minnesota next Sunday, at 5-5 Buffalo on Dec. 14 and at 2-8 Tampa Bay on Dec. 21.

Atlanta’s a gimme home win, but the other two could be fun: Nov. 30 against New England, and the season finale against Detroit.

“It’s probably not going to be 50 points every game,” Rodgers said.

Yeah ... Probably.

’ZONA IN THE ZONE: Speaking of teams that can’t be beat at home, the Arizona Cardinals just keep on winning.

They improved to 6-0 at University of Phoenix Stadium and 9-1 overall after hanging on for a 14-6 win over the Detroit Lions.

With quarterback Carson Palmer gone for the season with a re-destroyed right knee, elevated Drew Stanton was good enough -- and the defence magnificent -- for the Cardinals to remain the NFL’s best team, record-wise.

Arizona now has a three-game lead in the NFC West, ahead of Seattle and San Francisco, both 6-4.

Stanton threw two bad interceptions but in the first quarter he drilled two touchdown passes to receiver Michael Floyd, Arizona’s only scores, which proved enough.

“It was a great win for us, and solidifies the belief in our locker room that whoever steps in, steps up,” Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said.

In keeping the Lions out of the end zone, Arizona’s secondary blanketed Detroit wide receiver Calvin (Megatron) Johnson, holding him to five catches for just 59 yards.

It was just the second game this season in which the Cardinals never trailed.

CHARGERS RECHARGE: It was hardly an impressive performance, but San Diego ended a horrible three-game losing streak with a 13-6 homefield win against still winless Oakland.

San Diego is now 6-4, just a game behind AFC West leading Denver and Kansas City at 7-3.

“We’re going to enjoy this one and get back on the winning track,” Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said.

Added quarterback Phil Rivers, who passed for 193 yards and the game’s lone touchdown: “It’s great to win again, but we’ve never doubted that we’d get back on track.”

FALCONS IN FIRST: A team that lost all five of its October games is now in command of the odoriferous NFC South.

After edging the Panthers 19-17 in Carolina, the Atlanta Falcons improved to 4-6. That’s the same record as the New Orleans Saints, whom the Falcons beat in Week 1, which gives Atlanta dibs on first place. For now.

Atlanta led Carolina 16-3 in the fourth quarter, and wobbled as the Panthers offence woke up to score two fast touchdowns. But Matt Ryan drove the Falcons drove 54 yards in 12 plays to set up the winning 44-yard field goal from Matt Bryant.

UH-OHHHHH: Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration paid surprise visits to at least three stadium locker rooms on Sunday, according to multiple reports.

Team medical and training staffs were targeted in the inspections,

“in an effort to determine whether they violated federal drug laws governing the handling and distribution of prescription painkillers,” ESPN reported Sunday night.

Multiple reports said the surprise inspections follow allegations raised in a federal lawsuit filed in May on behalf of several NFLers, claiming team doctors and trainers regularly supplied painkillers illegally so as to minimize their pain from injuries and keep them playing.

“DEA agents (interviewed) NFL team doctors in several locations as part of an ongoing investigation into potential violations of the Controlled Substances Act,” DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said on Sunday, per ESPN.com.

Payne added that the DEA is charged with ensuring “that registrants who possess, prescribe and dispense controlled substances are following the law.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued a statement to ESPN saying, “Our teams cooperated with the DEA today and we have no information to indicate that irregularities were found.”

The DEA visited three visiting-team locker rooms: San Francisco 49ers (who played at the New York Giants, in New Jersey), Seattle Seahawks (who played at Kansas City, in Missouri) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who played at Washington, D.C).

Some reports said the DEA planned to check whether team doctors and trainers were licensed to dispense painkillers in those states/jurisdictions.

JOINS 2100 CLUB: Indianapolis Colts placekicker Adam Vinatieri joined the 2,100-point club on Sunday night against his old team, the New England Patriots.

Vinatieri, 41, kicked a 31-yard field goal in the first quarter. He joined Morten Andersen, Gary Anderson and Jason Hanson as the only others in that club.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, I: “We can’t do what 3-7 teams normally do. We can’t throw knives and stab each other in the back,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said (per CSNWashington.com), after he and his Washington Redskins mates played awfully in a 27-7 homefield loss to previously 1-8 Tampa Bay.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, II: “It’s a loss. How we react to it will be important. We’ve got character in that room, so I think we’ll respond fine. I still like our chances as a football team,” head coach John Fox, after his Broncos lost feebly on the road for the second time in three weeks, 22-7, at St. Louis.

CRAZY FACT, I: Oakland, at 0-10, officially is eliminated from playoff contention in the AFC. Tampa Bay, at 2-8, is just two games behind 4-6 Atlanta and 4-6 New Orleans for the lead in the NFC South.

CRAZY FACT, II: Detroit has not defeated a team with a winning percentage of .889 or better this late into the season since Week 13 of 1974, according to ESPN and Elias Sports Bureau.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/krykslants/‚Äč


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