Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is magical at home

An athlete has not reached the optimum in stardom, in any sport, until his (or her) excellence is assumed. Remember in his prime when you’d take Tiger Woods against the entire field? Or now, when you expect Serena Williams to win every tournament she enters?

It’s tougher in team sports — even Michael Jordan had the occasional off night — but we are seeing something in the NFL right now that is astounding. The streak has gone on so long we take it for granted. The streak surely must end soon, but we keep saying that, and it keeps going.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, great everywhere, is insanely, ridiculously magical at home, at Lambeau Field, where he goes to work again Monday night vs. Kansas City.

He has 43 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his past 18 consecutive home games. He was last picked off at home on Dec. 2, 2012, or 545 passes ago.

That’s excellence, but it’s also crazy luck, considering so many INTs come from deflections. It’s an NFL record that seems as unassailable as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

The “greatest quarterback” debate segued from Dan Marino or Joe Montana to Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but I’m not sure any of them will win an eventual argument against Rodgers. Consider:

Rodgers’ career passer rating of 106.4 laps the field; second place (Tony Romo) is 97.6. Rodgers’ career home rating of 112.7 also is No. 1; second is Manning at 100.8.

Rodgers’ career TD-interception ratio of 4.05-to-1 dominates, too. Runner-up Brady is at 2.79-to-1. Rodgers’ career home TD-pick ratio of 5.64-to-1 dominates even more. Brady is second at 3.66-to-1.

Rodgers is why Green Bay is the early season Super Bowl favorite at 17-4 odds.

Appreciation of Rodgers should be at an apex, and not just because of the statistics and streaks mentioned. Look around. Manning and Drew Brees seem clearly in sharp decline. Brady isn’t, but he’s 38 now. The bloom is at least temporarily off Andrew Luck as The Next Big Thing. Ben Roethlisberger is still top tier. But he isn’t Rodgers.

At 31, Rodgers is in the heart of his prime.

“I’m driven to be the best,” he said this week.

That’s a shorter and shorter drive. He might already be there.

▪ Early voting for the NFL’s MVEH award — Most Valuable Ex-Hurricane — might find Browns receiver Travis Benjamin among front-runners. He’s first player since Jim Brown in 1963 with four TDs of 50-plus yards in first two games.

▪ Panthers QB Cam Newton had his 25th game with a TD both passing and running last week. Career mark for that is 31 by Steve Young.

▪ Colts, still 1-3 favorites to win their division, and Seahawks, at 5-6, are given best chance of the nine 0-2 teams to recover and still make playoffs. Eagles at 3-2 and Ravens at 13-4 are next. Indy in 2014 and Carolina in ’13 both shook off 0-2 starts to make playoffs — but the were first since 2008 to do it.

▪ Fort Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas has 15 current NFL players — more than double any other high school in America. Miami Norland is next locally with six. Miami Central has four.

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