With their 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday, the Packers are now all but formally eliminated from playoff contention. I wouldn't go as far as Pro Football Talk to say we stink because we lost to an "expansion" team (seriously, I'm having major PFT backlash this week), but the Packers are not a good enough team to play past their scheduled 16 games.
Sunday's game is the Packers fifth loss this season by four points or less, each one more painful than the last. Maybe it's karma for winning all those close games last year (Chargers, Broncos, Chiefs, Redskins, Eagles). When you really look at it, the 2008 Packers are basically the same team they were in 2007, except for one major exception.
And unlike what ESPN would like you to think, it's not Brett Favre.
If Aaron Rodgers isn't an upgrade over Brett Favre, he's certainly not a determent. You really can't ask Rodgers to do anything more than what he has been doing in these games. Sure, there have been a few bumps along the way, but riding with Brett Favre was one big roller-coaster as well.
Those who sided with Brett Favre instead of the Packers this summer are now realizing it, too. There are many people out there who are rooting for Favre, but also appreciative of the work Rodgers is doing, and it's great. I would say the only people who are still anti-Rodgers are those who have jumped ship for the season to follow the Jets 100 percent.
The problem this year is the inability to close out games, and the blame falls on two entities. Mike McCarthy and the defense.
McCarthy is calling some of these games so conservative, and I can't think of a logical reason why. It's almost as if he's trying to reel Rodgers in the way he reeled Favre in last season, as if he doesn't trust him. The play calling this season has definitely been tight, to say the least.
As for the defense, they are an absolute mess. Losing Nick Barnett was a way bigger deal than people thought it would be. I'm not sure where defensive coordinator Bob Sanders will be working next season, but it won't be in Green Bay. The defensive line has more holes in it than an episode of Prison Break. And there isn't a word in the English language to accurately describe how poor the kicking coverage is.
The way these games are playing out, though, is nearly identical to last year, just occurring in a different order with different results. Every game so far in 2008 has a doppelganger for 2007, a game which was played out in almost the same manner. Let's take a look:
2007: Packers 16, Eagles 13
2008: Texans 24, Packers 21
Packers beat Eagles on a field goal with two seconds left to play, Texans beat Packers on a game-winning field goal.
2007: Packers 35, Giants 13
2008: Packers 34, Colts 14
Both games controlled by the Packers from the opening kickoff to the final whistle, and against quality opponents.
2007: Packers 31, Chargers 24
2008: Panthers 35, Packers 31
A late fourth quarter touchdown by the road team in a hard fought game severely deflated the enthusiasm of the home crowd.
2007: Packers 23, Vikings 16
2008: Falcons 27, Packers 24
A close game throughout, as either team could have won if they had another possession.
2007: Bears 27, Packers 20
2008: Packers 27, Seahawks 17
The winning team is able to hang on despite a valiant comeback effort.
2007: Packers 17, Redskins 14
2008: Vikings 28, Packers 27
It came down to the wire for both of these games—neither will be on ESPN Classic anytime soon.
2007: Packers 19, Broncos 13 (OT)
2008: Titans 19, Packers 16 (OT)
Get the ball first in overtime, and you'll probably win the game.
2007: Packers 33, Chiefs 22
2008: Packers 24, Vikings 19
Sloppy games for many reasons, with the Packers prevailing in both.
2007: Packers 31, Panthers 17
2008: Cowboys 27, Packers 16
In both contests, the winning team held a lead for most of the game.
2007: Packers 37, Lions 26
2008: Packers 48, Lions 25
In both games, the Packers seemed to have it wrapped up in the fourth quarter before the Lions made a comeback. The Packers responded quickly and put the game out of reach.
2007: Cowboys 37, Packers 27
2008: Buccaneers 30, Packers 21
The Packers are never really in either of these games, mostly due to losing their starting quarterback. In the Cowboys game, Favre was replaced by Rodgers. Matt Flynn took over for Rodgers in the Buccaneers game.
2007: Packers 38, Raiders 7
2008: Packers 37, Bears 3
An all around brilliant effort from the Packers at Lambeau.
2007: Bears 35, Packers 7
2008: Saints 51, Packers 29
Packers are embarrassed in every way possible.
Games yet to find their doppelganger:
2007: Packers 34, Vikings 0 - Shutout performance, or at least another dominating effort.
2007: Packers 33, Rams 14 - Packers cruise on the road (I'm thinking the Jacksonville game).
2007: Packers 34, Lions 13 - Packers roll over the Lions in a meaningless game.
Are the Packers that much worse of a team than they were last year? I don't really think so. Because of the regression of both McCarthy and the defense, this is pretty much the same squad. The problem is last year, the Packers were able to catch the breaks to advance all the way to the NFC Championship.
This year, they're already 5-8, with their season essentially over.