What the heck is going on in the NFL?
The returning Super Bowl champions return 22 starters who were on the team last season, their schedule is easier and their division is terrible. Somehow, the Patriots and Chargers are getting way more ink as the contender in the AFC this year.
In the NFC, the Panthers are getting no love, despite winning 12 games last year mostly because their quarterback threw an epic stink bomb, not to mention about 54 passes to the other team, in their playoff game.
Meanwhile, the Giants were almost equally terrible in their only playoff game, and yet they continue to get serious love from preseason pundits. That doesn’t even include the fact that they have absolutely zero at wide receiver and lost a key cog in the running game to free agency.
Then, and this is perhaps the strangest of them all, a team that went 6-10 last season is being picked as an NFC title contender and potential Super Bowl team.
Yes, I’m talking about the Green Bay Packers. The third place NFC North team from a year ago.
What is the basis?
Talent? That can’t be, this team is essentially intact from last season from a starters stand-point. If anything the loss of Mark Tauscher is the biggest roster change. Losing one of your best horses upfront can’t be a talent upgrade.
The Packers are loaded from a talent standpoint, but like I said, its not any different from last year when they went 6-10.
What about experience? The Giants are deserve some of their credit because they are just a season removed from one of the greatest and most improbably runs in playoff history. The Packers are just a few months removed from losing close game after close game, finishing third in the division.
Aaron Rodgers has never started a playoff game, and Mike McCarthy has only won one, count ‘em, one, playoff game as the Packers head coach. Oh, and the Packers roster is still among the youngest is the NFL.
Then it must be injuries? Ok, this one I’ll buy to some extent. Green Bay was hurt by injuries last year, even players who fought through injuries and played, like Ryan Grant, were clearly not 100%. Getting this team back to full strength will be a key factor in improved play this season.
But the real reason the Packers have sports writers salivating? The preseason.
Read that again. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The preseason? You mean the game where no one schemes for opponents and you play your scrubs and you’re just really getting back into shape? Oh yeah, that one.
The same season where an 0-16 regular season team went undefeated. That preseason.
I saw the games too. They were impressive. At times, it honestly looked like a varsity high school team against a middle school team.
Let me be clear cheeseheads, that isn’t going to happen every week.
People will scheme for the defense. They won’t cause 34 turnovers a game. They will give up points and the Packers will lose some games.
The offense will not move the ball at will every possession…Well maybe they will. The offense was damn good last season, they’ll be even better this season with a healthy Ryan Grant and an emerging superstar at tight end. I will believe the offense is good for 8-10 wins this year. In fact, the Pack should win 12 games this year. But they should have done the same last year.
The preseason is like the NFL Combine, never get too excited or too discouraged by what you see. The tape will tell you what you need to know. And the tape, shows a 6-10 team last year. I don’t care if the games were close, the point is you lost.
Go back and watch the games from last year, you’ll see inconsistent play-calling, poor red zone offense, and a defense that couldn’t get a stop when they needed one.
That is all that matters. Ask any coach, there’s no such thing as a moral victories. Players don’t get millions and fans don’t play hundreds for tickets to watch moral victories.
As Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the games.” And that means when they count.
You can expect some of those things to change, heck you might even expect them all to change. I don’t believe the Vikings are the team people think they are, nor would I trust Jay Cutler to win me a playoff game….ummm ever.
The Packers, based on talent, are an NFC title contender. Not making the playoffs should be considered absolute failure and not winning the division should be considered disappointing. But that is the case every year in Green Bay. Packers fans are the best in the world (everyone says that, but you go to Lambeau and you’ll see it’s true about Green bay), they expect a winner.
And you should. It’s up the players to get motivated and make changes this year. They don’t keep track of preseason. You’re 6-10 until you win a game in the regular season the next year.
No, they don’t deserve credit for being a talented team, because they’re a talented 6-10 team. Until they take the field Sunday Night against Chicago, that is what they are. Period.
Yes, they have a shot to win it all this year, but until they start winning ball games and changing the things that killed them last year, and I mean in games that matter, they don’t deserve the kind of positive press they’ve been getting.
They have not arrived, not until they win some games. Not until they beat the defending NFC Champions when it counts, or the defending division champions when it counts.
A wise man once said, “Don’t believe the hype.” The Packers have to earn it. I believe they will. So do they.
Until then, you’re a 6-10 team. Go out and earn it. It starts this week in primetime.