NFL Week 13: Why the Green Bay Packers Control the NFC North

MJ KasprzakSenior Writer IIDecember 8, 2010

Once public enemy number one for trading away Brett Favre, Ted Thompson has now won over all but the least objective Favre fans
Once public enemy number one for trading away Brett Favre, Ted Thompson has now won over all but the least objective Favre fansNFL Photos/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers victory over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday still is not enough to crack the playoff picture, but it does keep the Packers in the driver's seat. People like to say, "They control their own destiny." However, destiny by its very definition cannot be controlled; it's inevitable.

Nevertheless, if the Packers win out, the second seed in the NFC is guaranteed. Keeping pace with the Chicago Bears prior to winning the head-to-head at Lambeau Field in the regular season finale all but guarantees the division goes to the Packers, as well. The only way the Packers could lose a tiebreak with the Bears is if the Detroit Lions win this Sunday and the Bears do not lose to the Minnesota Vikings.

In the meantime, all the team can do is keep winning, and this team is focused. Perhaps Vikings fans complaining that officiating costs them games would do well to see how the Packers handle their business to understand why this team has won the division in seven of the last 15 seasons:

  1. For starters, the Packers do not place individual players above the team. When Brett Favre wanted to skip mini-camp in 2007 because of his daughter's graduation (even though it was weeks later), the team made it known he was expected at camp. When he quit in 2008 and then tried to return after training camp had started, the team made it known they would not demote Aaron Rodgers. By contrast, the Vikings offer him $4 million more and go down to Mississippi to convince him to play, then give him chauffeur service when he arrives.
  2. Green Bay builds through the draft, so there is no desperation to bring in and cater to a star because the window to win is just two years wide.
  3. When the Packers get bad calls, there is no dwelling on it. Aaron Rodgers was called for intentional grounding when he threw a ball directly over the head of a receiver, and the yardage the team lost was just enough for Mason Crosby to miss the ensuing field goal. A free play that would have widened the Packers lead at halftime was inexplicably blown dead. But the Packers failed to make the plays afterward that would have made those calls moot, so not one player or coach complained about them. Instead, enough plays were made later to win anyway.

This is the blueprint that leads to success. To see how it worked on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, check out my companion piece on PackerChatters .

Favre and Vikings fans were focused last year on beating the Packers twice. But everything that Minnesota sacrificed in integrity and future netted them one playoff win and will leave their franchise in shambles for the next couple years, by which time Adrian Peterson may already be wearing down. By contrast, Green Bay is focused on winning a division title and winning playoff games.

Chicago fans talk about how Lovie Smith is 8-5 vs. Green Bay. When Smith was hired, he made the first priority beating his rivals, not winning the division or making the playoffs--you never hear that out of Green Bay. That is why the Packers made the playoffs three times in that stretch compared to the Bears two, and the team's overall record is better.

It's all about priorities.