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The Vikings and Lions catch the first end-of-season scheduling break.

By Jacob Feldman
December 20, 2017

This time, Aaron Rodgers is really done. After a one-game return from collarbone surgery, the Packers QB was put on IR Tuesday with Green Bay officially out of playoff contention. "This was clearly in Aaron Rodgers' best interest," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's not happy about it. It's a hard day for him . . . We all understand and appreciate and respect his competitive spirit, but we felt as an organization this was in his best interest."

But just because the Packers can't make the playoffs, that doesn't mean their final two tilts are meaningless. Sunday, they'll face a Vikings team that has secured a playoff spot but could be anything from the No. 1 to the No. 4 seed. Then comes a Week 17 matchup against the Lions, who could get in if an NFC South team or two stumbles. Ultimately, the entire shape of the playoff field could be determined by a simple question: Did you have to play Aaron Rodgers?

The Lions are the luckiest in that regard, having already beaten Brett Hundley once. The Saints control their own destiny largely thanks to a win over a Rodgers-less Green Bay team, and the Panthers are in the same spot now that they knocked out a clearly limited No. 12 last week. In the AFC, the Ravens have a clear path to the playoffs after shutting out Hundley & Co, while the Steelers hold a bye only because of a three-point win over the backup QB. The Cowboys and Seahawks, on the other hand, currently sit a game back due to early-season losses to Rodgers (for what it's worth, the Falcons beat the Packers when the star QB was still playing).

Had Rodgers not been taken down by Anthony Barr, who knows what the standings would look like. But I'm sure of one thing: All of those contenders would have had one more team to worry about.

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PRESS COVERAGE

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1. The 2018 Pro Bowl roster is out. The Steelers led with eight selections as kicker Chris Boswell will join the three other Killer B's in Orlando (Ryan Shazier also made the cut, though he obviously won't be playing). In the NFC, both rookie Saints stars, Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore, made the list. You can view the full rosters here

2. Shock, shame, and now anticipation for NFL executives, who are beginning to consider the next possible owner of the Carolina Panthers. Sean 'Diddy' Combs is serious about putting together an offer, though Charles Robinson notes he'll need to find some wealthy friends to make it a reality.

3. A couple Patriots appreciations for your reading pleasure: their kicking game is great, and their tight end is really great. But all might not be perfect in Foxboro. The Boston Globe has excellent detail and useful context on a developing rift between coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's health associate Alex Guerrero, who has reportedly had his access to the team and its players curtailed this year.

4. Cancer survivor and offensive lineman David Quessenberry was added to the Texans' 53-man roster Tuesday. He has not played since 2015.

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5. The Capital News Service reports that the number of high schools playing with the Redskins nickname has dropped by nearly half over the past 20 years, but this story goes far beyond that, too. Many of those changes have taken place over the last four years, and many of the schools sticking with the name are located in the midwest. There are specific stories recounted as well, such as a high school editor-in-chief getting reprimanded over her refusal to print the name in the school paper.

6. In the wake of sexual harassment allegations against multiple employees at NFL Network, Diana Moskovitz wrote about her employment there. "My main takeaway from my time at NFL Media was that the NFL treats most of its employees like the players," she writes, "as disposable things barely worth an investment beyond seven months . . . That, truly, is the NFL way."

7. Chuck Pagano​'s time with Andrew Luck may be coming to an end, as most expect the Colts coach to be let go after this season, but he still only has good things to say about his injured QB. "He’s a great teammate and he’s a great pro and he’s a great player," Pagano said Tuesday. "I can’t say enough about the kid and how bad we all feel for him, especially myself.”​

8. During training camp, Myles Jack couldn't stick at middle linebacker. But playing on the strong side for the Jaguars, the 22-year-old has become a key piece for a dominant defense. “Now, I’m comfortable,” Jack said. “I know the defense. I know what’s going on. If it’s run, I know where I need to be. If it’s a pass, I know where I need to be. I’m getting cozy out there. I can’t believe how good this has gone.”​

9. A historic franchise, the Chiefs have somehow managed to never win back-to-back division titles. After Saturday's win, this should be the year.

10. The Bucs lost, sure, but Jameis Winston gave Tampa Bay fans a reason to hope, and maybe also a reason to stick with Dirk Koetter.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.


THE KICKER

Maybe Joe Thomas should buy the Panthers? That'd be one way for him to get to the playoffs.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

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