Armour: Packers looking like class of NFC North again

Aaron Rodgers torched the archrival Bears for six TD passes — in the first half.

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Enjoy your time atop the NFC North, Detroit Lions.

The way Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are playing, it won’t last.

Just as it has the past three years, the division will once again go through Green Bay — and not simply because the Packers host the Lions in the regular-season finale. Rodgers and the Packers were relentless in picking apart the Chicago Bears in a 55-14 rout Sunday night, and their well-balanced attack is the kind that could carry them deep into January.

Granted, the Bears aren’t exactly the best test these days. The team that began the season with Super Bowl aspirations is playing for little more than draft position now, and players appear to have quit — on each other, on coach Marc Trestman and on the season.

When Eddie Lacy scored on a 56-yard slant from Rodgers, the Bears barely gave chase. They didn’t bother trying to get a hand on Jarrett Boykin when he forced a fumble on Patrick O’Donnell’s botched punt early in the third.

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But the numbers Rodgers put up are impressive no matter who was on the other side of the field.

Rodgers had tied his single-game career high of six touchdown passes before halftime, matching an NFL mark that is older than he is in the process. He connected with five different players on the TDs, with Jordy Nelson torching Chicago’s secondary for 73- and 40-yard scores.

When Mike McCarthy finally pulled his quarterback midway through the third quarter, Rodgers was 18-of-27 for 315 yards. His quarterback rating was 145.8, which only ranks as his third-best of the season.

“There’s not a target on the field that he can’t hit,” McCarthy said.

Oh, and this was the same guy who was on the injury report this week after tweaking his hamstring against New Orleans two weeks ago.

What was that Rodgers said a few weeks ago?

When Rodgers made his now infamous “R-E-L-A-X” comment, he was trying to bring some sanity to Packers fans who were up in arms after a loss in Detroit dropped Green Bay to 1-2. Three games into the season is far too early to panic — unless you’re the Jets; then you panic after three quarters — and Rodgers is smart enough and confident enough to know that was a blip rather than a crisis.

He also knows how to read a schedule. Yes, Green Bay has Philadelphia next week and New England on Nov. 30. But both of those games are at Lambeau Field, where the Packers are undefeated this year. The Packers also have games left against Minnesota, Atlanta and Tampa Bay, teams that are a combined 8-19.

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The Lions, meanwhile, have to play at Arizona and New England the next two weeks.

Detroit’s record is impressive, no question. At 7-2, the Lions are tied for third-best record in the NFL, and only the Cardinals are better in the NFC. But there have been more than a few glimpses of their bad old selves in recent weeks, winning just one of their last four games by more than four points.

Sure, that’s a sign of resilience. It also signals that all that young talent the Lions have amassed is finally coming into its own. But dance on the edge for too long, and you’ll eventually fall. When they do, they’ll find themselves looking up at a familiar sight: Rodgers and the Packers, atop the NFC North again.

Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.


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