If you’re a Patriots fan or a Packers fan, now is the time to start feeling really good about your team.
Quick story, though.
After the Bears/Packers game, I was roaming around ESPN’s website when I was startled by a video headline curiously titled “Concern for Packers?” And yes, I clicked on it. Why? I don’t know. I just had to hear the logic behind this thesis.
In the video, Merril Hoge gave his two cents when he was asked if the Packers are where they want to be. “No,” he said. “In fact, I’d be very concerned if I were a Green Bay Packers fan...They get pushed all over the football field. The second you can push a team around like that, you control the tempo of the game...You’re gonna play teams like the Saints, [and] they’re gonna put points on the board. I’d be concerned if I’m a Packer. Really concerned. Very concerned.”
Now, I’m not saying he doesn’t make some good points. Hoge is a smart analyst. I value his thoughts. But...
The Packers are 14-1.
And they won the game that caused Hoge to keep telling Packers fans to feel concerned. Aaron Rodgers threw five touchdown passes. Yeah, they didn’t blow out the Bears for 60 minutes, but they blew them out eventually. Enough for Aaron Rodgers to rest on the sidelines. And didn’t the Packers bludgeon the Saints on opening night?
In a league where any team can lose on any day, you can never feel totally confident, and the natural impulse is to point out the weaknesses that can potentially be exploited.
I mean, you’re talking to a guy who still hasn’t gotten over Super Bowl XLII.
So how can you argue with the Packers now that they’re 14-1?
Yeah, this Packers team has issues. Their defense is weak. The same can be said about the Patriots. But all the other great teams have issues too.
The Giants are lazy, and unless they’re playing against a team with a perfect record or a team that’s been trash-talking, they won’t show up to play.
The Jets are a tough and proud team composed of players who, deep down in their heart of hearts, know they’re not as good as their coach claims.
The 49ers have Alex Smith, who’s one playoff loss away from being outed as a mediocre quarterback.
The Saints are great, but they had a cupcake schedule this year, and the actual degree of their greatness is completely up for debate.
Boom. Issues. All the great teams. Issues.
But who cares? All of these teams are fantastic in their own ways. Don’t believe the drama or the man-made controversies. In the end, it’ll come down to the same question as always: Who’s going to show up and play their best when their best needs to be played?
You should not be worried if you’re a Packers fan. And you shouldn’t be worried if you’re a Patriots fan either. Both teams have questionable defenses, but consider this: if they had great defenses, they’d both be the best teams of all time. A defensive potency to match their offensive prowess would be ridiculous. Teams like that do not exist. So of course they have shortcomings!
And don’t forget, they play against players who get paid too.
The Bears wanted to beat the Packers, which is why they played terrific defense. It’s not the weakness of the Packers that kept that game close, it’s simply that the Bears are a solid professional football team and they wanted to win. They tried their best. The Packers made the proper adjustments, and they won.
The Patriots did the same thing against the Dolphins. Great teams make great adjustments. They don’t just blow out teams for sixty minutes. Each game has a unique flow and design, like fingerprints or snowflakes. Just because your team doesn’t win by 10 touchdowns doesn’t mean you should be concerned.
The Patriots and the Packers are playing mentally tough football right now. These teams are on fire. They both have weaknesses, and they’re aware of those weaknesses. Trust me, they are aware. If you listen to Vince Wilfork’s weekly postgame interviews on WEEI, you know he hears about the Patriots defense all the time. Tom Brady hears about it too. They know where they’re soft.
But they also know where they’re championship material, and that’s the best foot they put forward. The teams who maximize their best qualities as a team, and then make the best adjustments against tough foes, those are the teams that win championships. And based on the events of Week 16, the Patriots and the Packers are those teams.
Heading into Week 17, Patriots and Packers fans should realize that the clock is ticking now. There are only three games left before two teams battle for a Lombardi trophy.
The Patriots and the Packers are the two best teams in the NFL this year. Either Rodgers is going home with his second ring or Brady’s going home with his fourth.
Let the games begin.