Word out of Green Bay is that this has not been Aaron Rodgers' best season. The iconic Packers QB still has a fine passing line and still made the Pro Bowl as usual. But critics point to his sudden sackability, missing open receivers and throwing errant passes in crucial situations that he used to own. And there is of course the Pack's 5-8-1 record and no-playoffs-again status.
But try selling that State Farm salesman to the Jets. They aren't buying.
S Jamal Adams, just selected for this year's Pro Bowl, will be eager to strut his stuff against Rodgers, assuming the QB's injuries allow him to go.
"We have a guy coming in that to me is the best quarterback in the league when he's healthy, and he's going to be ready to play," Adams said after today's practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center. "He's a hell of a competitor and I'm definitely looking forward to going up against him for the first time. I used to watch him as a little boy, and I'm definitely looking forward to the matchup."
Sam Darnold, who'll be starting his 12th game as the Jets' rookie QB and who also as a child no doubt watched No. 12 in green and gold on his TV in Southern California, has a list of things he likes about Rodgers' game.
"Just the way he's able to see the field so fast, it's almost like he knows what the defense is going to do before the snap. For him it looks so easy and effortless," Darnold said. "And he has probably the best arm talent that I've ever seen debatably in the NFL's entire history. He's just really gifted throwing the football, but on top of that, he's super smart so we've got our hands full with him."
But those injuries have entered the outside conversation about Rodgers' status. There was the knee he injured in Green Bay's opener and the groin strain he came out of Sunday's loss to the Bears. Interim head coach Joe Philbin said earlier this week players being paid to play, but today he said, "I'm hopeful he's going to practice and I'm hopeful he's going to play."
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Then later today, Rodgers told reporters he's determined to go against the Green & White.
If Rodgers goes and if he's feeling back to his old self, the Jets will be getting all they can handle in the final two games of their season, since the finale comes again at New England against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
But just as football players are paid to play, they also play the game to go against the best. And two of the Jets' best are ready to experience this particular holiday 1-2 punch.
"We're going against the best of the best. There's nothing like that," Adams said. "You can't ask for two better quarterbacks to compete against."
Darnold was asked about ending his rookie year against two men whose on-field stature he'd someday like to attain.
"Yeah, it's pretty fun to be able to go up against those guys," the Jets QB said with a small smile, before reminding everyone it's not just No. 14 going in solo against No. 12 each of the next two weeks. "And to go up against tough defenses as well. So I'm just really looking forward to the opportunity."