Perhaps Chicago Bears defensive end Shea McClellin unwittingly became the NFC North’s most valuable player Monday night when he sacked Aaron Rodgers with 12:38 remaining in the first quarter at Lambeau Field, causing a small fracture in the quarterback’s nonthrowing shoulder that jeopardizes his availability as the division’s postseason push gets underway.
“Do I feel good about that?” McClellin asked. “No, not at all. Rodgers is a great player. I wish him a speedy recovery because he’s great for the game of football. I had no idea he was hurt. You never try to injure anyone. It just kind of happened.”
It also potentially altered the landscape of the NFC North and perhaps the entire conference -- which currently has five or more teams fighting for the two wild-card spots -- because of Rodgers’ significance to Green Bay’s offense, not to mention the uncertainty concerning backup Seneca Wallace’s ability to help the Packers hold it together down the stretch.
That bodes well for Chicago. And while it’s bad form to laud an injury, the simple fact is that attrition is common in pro football. The banged-up Bears obviously know this firsthand. So if Rodgers -- one of the NFL’s top offensive players -- is forced to miss significant time, that can only help the Bears in what’s shaping up to be a three-team race for the NFC North crown over the next eight weeks.
“This is a thing that’s been built over time with Aaron as the centerpiece,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
With that centerpiece likely out of commission for the foreseeable future, the Packers need to find a way to beat the Giants, Lions and Cowboys on the road with matchups against the Eagles, Vikings and Falcons sandwiched in between. In the meantime, the Bears could help themselves Sunday with a win over the Detroit Lions to claim sole possession of the division lead.
If the Bears do that, and eventually bring back Jay Cutler, Lance Briggs and a healthy Jay Ratliff to beef up the defensive line while winning two of the next three against the Lions, Rams and Vikings, they’ve got a decent chance to capture the NFC North crown for the first time since 2010. The Bears advanced to the conference championship game that season, only to be done in by Rodgers and the Packers.
In the aftermath of Rodgers' injury, Chicago’s prospects look bright.