For the Green Bay Packers, the playoffs officially started today with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles, but unofficially the Packers' playoff run started two weeks ago against the New York Giants, a game they needed to win to have any chance of making the postseason.
After dismantling the Giants, the Packers got another must-win victory over the division champion Chicago Bears to punch their ticket to the postseason.
Now with some momentum on their side, the Packers look like they could be one of the most dangerous teams to face this postseason.
Here are 10 reasons why they can win it all.
The Packers have not trailed an opponent by more than seven points all season and have not lost a game by more than four points all season.
Yes, they have lost six close games, but even against arguably the best teams in the league, the Patriots and the Falcons, both on the road, the games came down to the final minute.
To have success in the postseason, the Packers will have to do something they have struggled to do all season: Play mistake-free football.
I know it's only one game, but rookie James Starks provided the spark the Packers' running game needed all season. If the Packers are able to continue to run the ball, it will make their play-action passing game all the more effective.
Starks set a Packer postseason rookie rushing record with 123 yards on 23 carries against the Eagles.
The Packers' poor special teams play has been costly in their close game losses, but as of late the Packers seem to have straightened their special teams issues out at just the right time.
Kickoff and punt return coverage against both the Eagles and Bears, both of whom have dangerous return men, has been impressive, and the Packers have finally seem to have found a consistent punter in Tim Masthay, something they have been missing since the loss of Jon Ryan.
Over the past few years penalties have killed the Packers, regularly ranking as one of the NFL's most penalized teams, but aside from an 18-penalty game against the division rival Chicago Bears early in the season, the Packers have kept the penalties to a minimum.
In only his second year as defensive coordinator, Capers has transformed the Packers into one of the stingiest defenses in the league, with only the Pittsburgh Steelers (14.5) giving up fewer points per game than the Packers (15).
Consider the fact the Packers had the 20th-ranked defense in 2008, and since implementing Capers' 3-4, the Packers have been ranked in the top five both seasons.
Capers was not a success in two attempts as a head coach, but it is hard to argue that he is not one of the greatest defensive minds in the game today.
Matthews' sack total may have trailed off towards the end of the year, but his impact on the Packers defense has not. Matthews consistently commands double teams, and he is still able to make plays.
To get an idea of the impact Matthews has on the Packers defense, look no further than the Packers' loss to the Miami Dolphins, which Matthews missed due to injury. The Packers' pass rush, which averaged almost three sacks a game, was completely shut out by the Dolphins at Lambeau.
In only his second year, Matthews has become the type of player that other teams have to game-plan for.
According to Pro Football Weekly, the Packers are the team that has been most affected by injuries this season, and although they will not be able to get any of the 15 players on injured reserve back for the postseason, they are getting healthier.
Defensive end Cullen Jenkins was able to play against the Eagles after missing the past four weeks with a calf injury, and outside linebacker Frank Zombo and safety Atari Bigby could be ready to face Atlanta.
As I already pointed out, the Packers have had to overcome many injuries this season—injuries that may have crippled a lesser team.
A lot of the credit must go to head coach Mike McCarthy for keeping this team together through the injuries, and credit must also go to general manager Ted Thompson, a very divisive figure in Green Bay, for putting together such a deep roster.
If the Packers want to make a Super Bowl run, they will need to win three road playoff games, something no other NFC sixth seed has ever done.
No doubt cornerback Tramon Williams was a Pro Bowl snub, and you could argue that Charles Woodson got his Pro Bowl nod based on his reputation more than his game play this season.
Williams has only allowed one touchdown pass all season, and although he may not have the coverage skills he once had, Woodson is still one of the most versatile defensive backs in the league, able to cover tight ends or wide receivers, and he can still play the run as well as anyone.
Aaron Rodgers had taken a lot of heat recently for not winning a playoff game, a criticism that is fairly meritless considering how well he had played in his one previous playoff opportunity (four touchdowns and over 400 yards passing).
Even though he was a Pro Bowl snub, there are few quarterbacks playing at as high of a level as Rodgers has been playing.
How good has Rodgers been? Rodgers threw for over 4,000 yards his first two season as a starter and missed 4,000 this year by less than 80 yards. This season Rodgers was third in the league in passer rating (101.2) behind only Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, and he became the first quarterback to throw seven touchdowns in his first two playoff games.
Rodgers appears to be peaking at just the right time, and the Packers will need him playing his best if they are to have a chance to get to the Super Bowl.
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