Take a Chill Pill: Packers Can Still Win Super Bowl
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor
~Nobody wins em all. And the best team does not, in fact, always win each game that’s played.
Sometimes, luck is involved, whether it’s the bounce of a ball, terrible officiating, injuries, tipped passes falling into open space or into the waiting arms of a safety, etc.
In 2010, the Packers were not the best team in the NFL. Rodgers didn’t even make the Pro Bowl that year, and Brandon Jackson was the starting running back. Jermichael Finley was injured during the year, and he was the Packers dangerous mismatch.
But the Packers were the last men standing, and won Super Bowl XLV.
The Packers lost back-to-back close games to Miami and Washington in the 2010 season. They also lost four other games that year, and got lucky to win the Wildcard game at Philadelphia as the Pro Bowl kicker David Akers uncharacteristically hooked not one, but two field goals.
In 2011, the Packers were 13-0, finished the regular season 15-1, and were clearly the best team from start to finish, except that one day in Kansas City week 15. But the Packers not only did not win that Super Bowl, they didn’t even win a single playoff game despite having the #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout.
Last year, 2014, the Packers were the best team in football. They had a good and improving defense. They had Rodgers at an MVP level, with an effective Eddie Lacy and James Starks, as well as a healthy Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and healthy, talented offensive line.
They marched through the Patriots late in the season, and into the playoffs, with a gimpy Rodgers’ leg, and made their way to Seattle for the NFC Title game.
The Packers, for 56 minutes, were clearly the better team. It took luck for the Seahawks to escape with that game. Anytime you need a desperate fake field goal to work for a touchdown, there’s an element of luck. Anytime you need a prayer of a two-point conversion hail-mary to work, there’s an element of luck. Anytime you need to recover an onside kick, there’s an element of luck. Seattle needed all three of those lucky plays, and they got them all. That’s miracle luck, and we Packer fans still have scars on our hearts.
The point is, that 2014 Packers team was better than the 2010 Packers team, and better than the 2014 Patriots or Seahawks, but the Packers, again, did not win the Super Bowl. As they didn’t in 2011 when they were 15-1 and being touted nationally as a dynasty-in-the-making and a possible Best Ever team.
But they did win the Super Bowl in 2010 with a 10-6 record and close to 20 players on IR.
This year, the Packers started 6-0 and were rated by most as the best team in the NFC and were a co-favorite, along with New England, for the Super Bowl.
Then Denver happened. Then Carolina happened. Now, two losses in a row, and a tie with the Minnesota Vikings for the division lead, and a game in Minnesota looming after this week’s game, there’s panic in Cheeseland. True, there are multiple things wrong with this team, both on offense and defense. Significant problems.
Jordy Nelson was as good as any WR in the NFL, from Dez to Julio, Calvin to Antonio, He was just as important to the Packers as those guys to their teams. Jordy’s stats the past three years were off the charts. He was the deep threat that loosened up the opposing defenses. He was more than a “threat”. He also hit the deep passes more than anyone in the NFL. He both hurt opposing defenses with quick, long touchdowns, and he opened things up for Cobb and the other receivers short and in the middle, and he kept safeties further back, de-clogging the running lanes for Lacy and Starks.
You cannot replace that. Not with anyone. Not with Cobb, James Jones, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis, or Jared Abbrederis.
True, Janis does have similar speed and size as Nelson did. But Nelson is more than just pure speed. His route running is sensational. His recognition of opposing defenses and his adjustments being on the same page as Rodgers is unique and cannot be replaced.
That being said, this team is capable of beating anyone.
They are capable of running the table at home once again, going 8-0 at home. The Packers will be favored by at least a touchdown in each home game remaining (Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, Minnesota). The remaining road games are at Minnesota, Detroit, Oakland, and Arizona. Those are some tough road games and I can see the Packers losing a few of them, even two or three more (Minnesota, Arizona the most likely. Oakland a possibility as well).
Let’s say the Packers lose two of those road games. The Arizona and Minnesota games are pivotal as they are divisional games and conference games. If the Packers lose at Arizona, that gives them a game, and a game with the tiebreaker. Arizona currently also has two losses.
The Cards’ remaining games include, in addition to the Packers game, Seattle two times, at San Francisco, Cincinnati, Minnesota, at St Louis, and at Philadelphia. That’s a touch schedule. I like the Packers chances to finish ahead of them and gain the #2 seed. Winning at Arizona on December 27th almost would make that a certainty. But even losing it, the Packers may finish a game ahead of Arizona.
That being said, the road might look like this: Packers get a bye, as does Carolina. Week two of the playoffs would have the Packers and Carolina host, perhaps, Arizona, or the Giants, Atlanta, Minnesota, or Seattle. Maybe Philly.
Most likely, it would be Arizona. I would expect the Packers to be able to beat Arizona in Green Bay, especially in mid-January. Then a rematch at Carolina? Or if one of those teams upsets Carolina, the Packers would host them. You see, there’s still a legitimate chance.
The Packers played terribly last week in Carolina for 2/3rd of the game, and still almost tied the game at the end, but Rodgers somehow didn’t throw it to the wide open Cobb. And the Packers were playing without half of their cornerbacks and without their speed WR, Montgomery.
The path to the Super Bowl, thru the NFC, is doable for the Packers, and perhaps that path still will run through Lambeau Field if Carolina is upset. Even if not, winning in Charlotte in the NFC Championship game would be quite possible.
Once you get there, anything can happen.
Whether it’s Tom Brady and the Patriots, or Peyton Manning and the Broncos, or Yankee Doodle Andy (Dalton) and the Bengals, the Packers are certainly capable of beating any of them. Yes even Denver, who embarrassed the Packers last week, in Denver.
Remember, until Pete Carroll threw that Super Bowl away for Seattle last year, Brady had lost his past two Super Bowls to inferior teams (Giants, who coincidentally also beat the Packers each of those playoffs).
The Packers, as with other teams, will change significantly between now, as we finish up week 9, and playoff time.
Injuries will hurt some teams, some more than others. Someone could be wiped out with an injury to a player such as a Jordy, Gronk, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Le’Veon Bell, Roethlisberger, etc.
It always happens. It ended Arizona’s dreams last year. They were clearly better than Seattle last year when Palmer was there. When he was lost, they free-fell and weren’t legit contenders anymore.
Dallas and Pittsburgh have been doomed this year by injuries. You cannot replace Romos and Bryants.
New England was doomed in 2008 when Brady’s ACL was busted on the cheap hit by safety Bernard Pollard.
New England was also doomed in 2013 when Gronk’s ACL was busted on a cheap shot by safety T.J. Ward.
The Packers also might see a lot of change at ILB if rookie Jake Ryan steps up as many hope. Other teams have rookies step up at linebacker and inject life and playmaking to the position. Why not Jake? Where is Carl Bradford at? This guy has the physical ability to be good to great. He has passion too. Why he can’t “get it” both perplexes me and disappoints me tremendously. But maybe he will catch on. It took Desmond Bishop until 2010 to hit his stride, and he was a 2007 draft pick.
Remember fans, it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. The NFL doesn’t award trophies in early November. It’s also not a beauty contest, as the Packers 2010 regular season proved.
It’s last man standing in February, and as long as Aaron Rodgers plays well, and the other key guys (Clay Matthews, Cobb) stay healthy, this team can repeat the accomplishments of the team five years ago.
Brian E. Murphy obtained his undergraduate in Minnesota, and grew up there as a life-long Packer fan, living thru the miserable 70’s and 80’s, before finally being rewarded in the early to mid-90’s when Favre and Reggie took the Packers to Super Bowl XXXI.
His decades in enemy GrapeApeland makes the Vikings his arch-enemy, and his last decade working in Dallas has put the Cowboys in the crosshairs. Fortunately, the Packers have owned Dallas since he’s been there, unlike the mid 90’s when the Cowboys crushed Packer Nation’s dreams three straight years.
Reggie, Robert Brooks and Nick Collins remain his favorite all-time Packers, with Chuck Cecil, Rodgers, Matthews, Donald Driver, James Jones, Charles Woodson, Sterling Sharpe, and Ryan Pickett right there.
His career highlight was being at Super Bowl XLV in Dallas in 2011, as a Dallas resident. He also was at this year’s Super Bowl (2015) which should have been the Packers beating the Patriots. You think you had your heart broken by that miracle by the Seahawks? Try having a ticket to that Super Bowl.
His message to current Packer fans: Aaron Rodgers is not God. He’s human. But Packer fans need to take a deep breath and realize that this guy is the best QB the NFL has seen, perhaps ever. As long as he’s healthy, and has a decent supporting cast, the Packers have a chance to beat anyone, although he does struggle on the road against good teams and good defenses. After Rodgers is gone, the chances are the next 10-20 years will result in a cast of QB’s that more resemble what the Bears or Vikings or Chiefs, 49ers, Rams, Eagles, Bucs, have had recently. So cherish and appreciate this, him, now. Stop taking him for granted, and also stop expecting perfection.