Aaron Rodgers' return lifts Green Bay Packers into playoffs

Winning on the road with winner-take-all stakes is a tough assignment. It becomes even more difficult to do so when you're returning to the field after missing seven games due to an injury.

Greatest on the road ...

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers and crew converted on three fourth-down plays on their game-winning drive, including a 48-yard touchdown play to Randall Cobb, to earn a 33-28 win over the rival Chicago Bears, claim a third consecutive NFC North crown and make the playoffs for the fifth time in a row. Did we mention it came against the Bears? In Chicago, where "fourth-and-8" could go down among the team's most disappointing losses to their neighbors from the north. Here's a quick top-of-my-head power rankings of bitter Bears losses to the Packers ...

1. 2010 NFC Championship Game
2. 2013 regular-season finale
3. Instant Replay Game

Rodgers broke his collarbone the last time the Bears and Packers played, a 27-20 Bears win on "Monday Night Football" in Week 9. Three weeks before that, Cobb injured his knee in a win over the Baltimore Ravens. On Sunday, the two combined for a play that will be one of the signature moments of the NFL's most storied rivalry.

Also considered:

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Manning used the O'co Coliseum stage to put an exclamation point on a record-setting season for him as well as the Broncos. Manning extended his single-season touchdown passes record to 55 (five more than Tom Brady posted in 2007), and the Broncos set a record for most points scored in a single season (606, beating the New England Patriots' total of 589 set in 2007). Adopting a "sharing is caring" approach to ball distribution, Manning helped the Broncos become the first team in NFL history to have five players with 10 or more touchdowns (Demaryius Thomas, 14; Knowshon Moreno, 13; Julius Thomas, 12; Eric Decker, 11; Wes Welker, 10).

Geno Smith, New York Jets

Smith helped the Jets play spoiler, eliminating the Miami Dolphins from playoff contention in the season's final week with a 20-7 win, and setting the stage for the San Diego Chargers to earn the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot in dramatic fashion. Smith led three long scoring drives, and ran for a touchdown, to bring a once-promising season to a disappointing end for a bitter division rival.

Previous Greatness on the Road winners:

» Week 1: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
» Week 2: Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
» Week 3: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
» Week 4: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
» Week 5: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
» Week 6: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
» Week 7: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
» Week 8: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
» Week 9: Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
» Week 10: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
» Week 11: Matt McGloin, Oakland Raiders
» Week 12: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
» Week 13: Eric Decker, Denver Broncos
» Week 14: Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins
» Week 15: Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
» Week 16: Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.