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Aaron Rodgers looks to set Packers’ TD mark against Browns

Sportsnaut
Dec 19, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  during Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws on the run during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2021; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; during Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws on the run during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In one respect, Aaron Rodgers now stands where no Packers quarterback has before. And on Saturday, when Green Bay hosts the Cleveland Browns, he could erase Brett Favre from the franchise record book in another way.

Rodgers, who earned his Packers-record 10th Pro Bowl berth on Wednesday night, needs just one touchdown pass to surpass Favre’s 442 regular-season scoring strikes atop the storied franchise’s list.

Given how well Rodgers has played lately in guiding the Packers (11-3) to the top of the NFC standings with three games remaining, it seems like only a matter of time before he claims his spot atop that category as well. He tied Favre on Sunday in Baltimore with three touchdown passes in a 31-30 win.

“It’s been awesome to watch,” said third-year Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur. “He’s a phenomenal quarterback obviously — makes some unbelievable plays, and (I’m) looking forward to the next one.”

Rodgers’ league-leading passer rating (110.4), interception percentage (0.91) and touchdown-interception ratio (7.50) have put him squarely in the running for a fourth NFL Most Valuable Player award.

The Packers’ season-opening 38-3 loss to New Orleans on Sept. 12 in Jacksonville must feel like years ago, given how they have developed into a Super Bowl contender while overcoming a fairly long list of injuries and other forms of adversity. And they might have to go without wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who landed on the COVID-19 list Tuesday.

Their opponent Saturday hasn’t quite been able to shrug off an even more daunting collection of obstacles. Cleveland (7-7) enters Week 16 fighting for its playoff life after a gut-punch 16-14 loss to Las Vegas on Monday.

This was one of the most highly anticipated seasons since the franchise’s reboot in 1999, but the Browns have spent the year taking two steps forward and two more back. In their last eight games, they have gone win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss.

That would seem to point toward a win this week, but Cleveland is still dealing with multiple injuries and starters being sidelined with COVID-19 issues. It missed 18 players, including quarterback Baker Mayfield among eight starters, against Las Vegas.

While the Browns get coach Kevin Stefanski back after he stayed home Monday, they have lost defensive end Takkarist McKinney for the year after he tore his Achilles tendon against the Raiders. In addition, running back Kareem Hunt (ankle) and cornerback Troy Hill (knee) aren’t likely to play at Green Bay.

What’s more, defensive end Myles Garrett (groin) might not be able to answer the bell in a game where Cleveland could use him the most to pressure Rodgers. Having just four days between games won’t help, either.

Stefanski hopes the team gets reinforcements off the COVID-19 list.

“The hope is guys test out sooner so that you get them in the building and get them back going physically, mentally, get them back out at practice,” he said. “We just have to plan on the people who we have and know about.”

The Browns could have taken over first place in the AFC North had they beaten Las Vegas. Instead, they are now in last place and must jump four other teams over the last three weeks to get a playoff berth.

–Field Level Media