GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When Aaron Rodgers stood at his locker on Nov. 23 and said he felt the struggling Green Bay Packers, at 4-6 and on a four-game losing streak, could "run the table," many heard it as a prediction.
But it was much more than that to Green Bay's quarterback.
Here are the Packers now, at 8-6 and in control of their own playoff possibilities -- beat the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday and the Detroit Lions the following Sunday, and they'll win the NFC North -- and it's clear Rodgers' comment was more than just some pie-in-the-sky remark.
"It was a feeling; I just felt that our team had it inside of us," Rodgers said this week. "Obviously it's a leap of faith, but also a feeling based on seeing these guys every single day, understanding how close I felt like we were to being a better offense.
"I felt like regardless of how our defense was playing, if we could set the tone offensively, vis-a-vis it would help out the defense, give them a little confidence when they took they field that they're not behind or against the field position every single time, as they were many times in that four-game stretch."
Rodgers has certainly done his part. In the past four games, he has completed 70.7 percent of his passes, has seven touchdowns and no interceptions with a passer rating of 114.5. That completion percentage ranks fourth in the NFL over this stretch and his passer rating first. He's the only quarterback in the league to play in multiple games since Week 12 and not throw an interception. Only two other quarterbacks have 4-0 records in this stretch: Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
And Rodgers is the only one to do it while playing with two separate leg injuries -- a strained right calf and a pulled left hamstring.
"In my opinion, he's the best out there because of all the different things he can do, his arm strength, the things he sees, the communication he has with the receivers, the way he moves in the pocket, and honestly I think they have a great scheme and the things they do for him," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said this week. "Anytime you're playing a guy like him, you're holding onto your rear end the whole game anyway."
Maybe it's a coincidence but Rodgers seems to know just what to say and when it say it. His R-E-L-A-X comment on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show after the Packers started 1-2 in 2014 preceded a four-game winning streak on the way to a 12-4 season.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy loved Rodgers' run-the-table remark.
"It's an expression of confidence," McCarthy said at the time. "That's a statement that he made. I read about it just like everybody else. I think it just shows what's going on internally, but the fact of the matter is we have to win the next game. We all get that part."
Sure enough, the Packers have pulled themselves out of the doldrums. But that's not enough for Rodgers.
"Not if you don't finish it off," Rodgers said. "Like I said after the game, you know what it feels like to be 4-6, that's a tough situation to be in, it's frustrating, it's a struggle, it's a grind. Luckily in those situations we've stuck together, didn't have any fracturing in the locker room. No finger-pointing, no unnamed sources coming out, taking shots at guys.
"We stuck together, and I think we all believed that sometimes in this business it just takes one to get going. We got that first one, then we came home and won a couple. We won a tough one on the road. Now we've got two left, win 'em both and we're in and we're division champs. But that's the goal at this point."