GREEN BAY—Not counting the Packers, there are only four NFL teams Aaron Rodgers has not defeated as a starting quarterback, and Cincinnati is one of them.
The victory over Washington last week scratched the last NFC opponent off Rodgers’ list. He has now beaten every team in Green Bay’s conference, and it took him more than two tries versus only two of them – Atlanta and Tampa Bay, against whom the third time was the charm, in the 2010 playoffs and 2011 regular season, respectively.
Should Rodgers and the Packers notch a win on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium over the Bengals, Rodgers’ list of unvanquished foes would fall to three, all in the AFC – Kansas City (lost in ’11, the team’s only regular-season defeat), Miami (lost in OT in ’10) and New England (never played, missing only possible start in ’10 due to a concussion).
A list of the conquered is a statistical detail that’s fun to chart more than anything. Its meaning or value is debatable. Players aren’t likely to even pay attention.
When Brett Favre was told in ’07 prior to facing Kansas City that the Chiefs were the only team he hadn’t beaten as Green Bay’s starting QB, he had no idea, but thought it was pretty cool when he got the win. It took him 16 seasons to beat all 31 other franchises, mostly because he lost to the Chiefs the first three times he faced them (in ’93, ’96 and ’03).
Favre, of course, eventually defeated the Packers, too, extending his list to 32 teams in ’09.
For what it’s worth, if Rodgers beats the Bengals on Sunday, he’ll have a chance to knock off all 31 other squads in half the time it took Favre. Assuming continued good health, he’ll face the Dolphins and Patriots next season and the Chiefs again in 2015, which will be his eighth year starting under center for the Packers.
However, should Rodgers fall to 0-2 against Cincinnati this Sunday (the Packers lost to the Bengals, 31-24, in ’09), he’ll have to wait until 2017 for another shot, unless the two teams were to meet in a Super Bowl before then. That’s how Rodgers got his victory over the Steelers, having to wait only one year after the last-second defeat in ’09, rather than the regular four-year schedule rotation with AFC opponents.
On the subject of statistical anomalies, here’s another one: It’s only been two games, but the Packers are on pace to make James Jones’ preseason proclamation of three 1,000-yard receivers come true.
Randall Cobb (236 yards), Jordy Nelson (196) and Jones (178) are all on pace for well over 1,000 yards this season, though Rodgers is on pace for a ridiculous 6,400 yards passing following his franchise record-tying 480-yard game in Week 2, so expectations should be tempered a bit.
The Packers have never had a trio of 1,000-yard receivers in the same season. They’ve had a pair five times (’97, ’99, ’04, ’08, ’09), coming closest to three in ’09, when tight end Jermichael Finley had 676 yards behind Greg Jennings (1,113) and Donald Driver (1,061). Mathematically, the Packers were even closer in ’11, when Jennings (949) just missed joining Nelson (1,263) at 1,000 and Finley had 767 yards.
Oddly, the Packers didn’t have a single 1,000-yard receiver last season for the first time since ’03, but that’s primarily because Cobb (954 yards) missed the regular-season finale and Nelson (745) sat out four games and parts of two others due to injuries.
Good health will help in getting three to the milestone in 2013, obviously, and the fact that the Packers go with Cobb, Nelson and Jones almost exclusively at receiver will help, too. There’s much less rotating in and out than in the past, and that continuity extends to Finley as well, whose 121 yards thus far have him on pace for just under 1,000.
“It’s possible,” Nelson said. “It’s two games, but you’ve seen how quick it can happen. James went from no yards in Week 1 to (178) in Week 2. That’s how quick it can change week to week, and it’ll be interesting how the year plays out.”
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