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Aaron Rodgers makes Green Bay Packers an NFC threat

The Green Bay Packers are welcoming back the NFL's biggest difference-maker just in time for a win-and-in grudge match versus the Chicago Bears this weekend.

Since taking the baton from Brett Favre in 2008, Aaron Rodgers boasts a 62-32 record while tossing 203 touchdown passes against 54 interceptions. No other quarterback -- not even Peyton Manning or Tom Brady -- matches his combination of arm strength, accuracy, mobility and football acumen. He's a surgeon as a passer and an escape artist in the pocket.

Rodgers' return not only makes the Packers the sudden favorites to take the NFC North, but also a dangerous draw for the NFC playoffs.

Before Rodgers' Week 9 collarbone fracture, Green Bay's offense was firing on all cylinders, rivaling the Broncos' record-setting attack as the NFL's most dangerous.

Having Rodgers back under center will open running lanes for Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite Eddie Lacy, who is leading the most effective Packers' ground attack since the glory days of Ahman Green.

Throw in the emergence of Jarrett Boykin and the potential return of playmaking slot receiver Randall Cobb, and this offense is as loaded as it has been since Rodgers took home the Most Valuable Player award while leading the Packers to a 15-1 record in 2011.

If Rodgers does lead the Packers past the Bears on Sunday, the concern for January is on the other side of the ball.

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This team almost is a mirror image of the Broncos, stacked on offense but hemorrhaging points and key players on defense.

All-Pro pass rusher Clay Matthews is out indefinitely after breaking his thumb -- again. Top cornerback Casey Hayward is done for the season with a nagging hamstring injury.

The remaining personnel have surrendered 20-plus points in every one of Green Bay's last nine games.

Even with Rodgers back in the saddle, the Packers will have their hands full with an imposing wild-card team, such as the 49ers or Saints. If they get past the divisional round, a foreboding road game at Seattle likely looms.

Rodgers is the game's biggest X-factor. As the Ravens, Giants -- and Packers themselves -- have shown us the past three years, anything is possible once the postseason dance kicks off.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" delivered a Christmas gift, analyzing the chaotic playoff picture in both conferences.

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