No More Perfect Season for Green Bay

The Green Bay Packers fell to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs yesterday, and it was the best thing that has ever happened to them.

From Day 1 of this season, the Pack has looked as good as any team in the history of football, but they started to show more and more holes as the season has progressed….bad running game, suspect offensive line, suspect passing D.  We saw similar things down the stretch with the 2007 New England Patriots.  They were smoking teams by multiple touchdowns, but after a near loss to the Ravens late in the year, teams started to figure out how to slow down their offense and put some points up on their slower, veteran defense.  As they continued to win, you could feel the pressure mounting. Once you get to 18-0 and you’re in the Super Bowl, there’s no way that you can just treat it like it’s the “next game.”  The Patriots ran into a buzz saw.  The Giants had a phenomenal second half of the season, and the Patriots seemed tired and tight in that Super Bowl.  They just didn’t look like the same team that put 50+ on the Bills in three quarters earlier in the season.  They weren’t just trying to be the best team that year, they were playing to be the best team EVER, and it obviously got to them.  If that Giants team and that Patriots team played ten times on a neutral field that year, the Pats probably win eight or nine times.  They were that much better than everyone else, but a team can only take so much pressure before cracking.

We’ve seen this type of undefeated run a few other times in recent history…

2009 Indianapolis Colts – 14-0, lost last two games. Lost Super Bowl to New Orleans Saints.
1998 Denver Broncos – 13-0, lost two of their last three. Won Super Bowl.
2005 Indianapolis Colts – 13-0, lost two of their last three. Won Super Bowl.
2009 New Orleans Saints – 13-0, last three straight. Won Super Bowl.
2011 Green Bay Packers – 13-0, lost in Week 15…Super Bowl – TBD.

Do you see a pattern there? Every other team in this modern era that started the season 13-0 went on to win the Super Bowl. Would anyone care about the 72-10 Chicago Bulls if they had ended up losing in the Finals? We all know the answer to that question. As much as the regular season matters to these teams, I can assure you that Tom Brady would have loved to drop a game or two in the regular season in 2007 if it meant winning the Super Bowl that year.

There is something that happens psychologically and emotionally to these teams when perfection is at stake. As soon as that is off the table, teams have the time and the ability to play loose, just like they’re just another team that is part of the chase. They also have a chance to look internally to see what those teams did to beat them…what are their weaknesses, what are their strengths, what kind of gameplan works best. The Patriots played so well for so long in 2007 that they just kept doing the same thing knowing that it had worked so many times before, but like the Chiefs showed this last weekend, there are certain schemes and scenarios that can shut you down regardless of how much better your are than everyone else.

The Packers are the best team in football. As long as they can be healthy for the Super Bowl run they’ll be our world champions. And they’ll probably look back on this one week and realize how helpful it was for them to get healthy over the final three weeks, refocus on their gameplans, and remove all the pressure of playing for perfection.

Image: http://www.nfltouchdown.com/green-bay-packers-ranking-every-player-on-the-2010-roster/

Coach Shuffling, Championship Rematch, and a Quest for Perfection

John Wells Stevens lends his soothing voice to the program to discuss the glorious return of the NBA, the Packers quest to perfection, and the thrilling close to the college football season….and some brief commentary on the Robert Allenby v. Geoff Ogilvy upcoming cage match at Wrestle Mania.

I Want to Watch Tom Brady in the Super Bowl…There, I Said It

Goodness gracious the NFL is having a great year.  I feel like I can’t take my eyes off of a game even when the Jags, Chiefs, or Seahawks are involved.  Anthony Dinwoodey Morris brings his unmatched expertise to discuss the NFL playoff picture, pick our favorite teams for the Super Bowl, and to discuss the tragic current state of the National Basketball Association.

The Packers…and Everybody Else

As I sat down to think through who the five best teams in the NFL are today, the #1 team was super easy to decide upon.  After that…not quite as clear…

1- Green Bay Packers (9-0) – This offense is filthy. The defense is good enough to make plays when plays need to be made. Their schedule down the stretch isn’t anything crazy (Tampa Bay, @Detroit, @NYG, Raiders, @Chiefs, Chicago, Detroit). They’ll handle TB and Detroit on the road, but at the Giants and the home game against the Bears are going to be tough. No question this is our Super Bowl favorite.  And thank you for the thumbs up fist pound.  Very refreshing.
2- San Francisco 49ers (8-1) – An overtime loss against a good team away from being undefeated. Each week shows that they’re more of a complete team than we all expected. They came out this last week against the Giants planning to throw the ball, basically just to put a middle finger out there so everyone knows that they can do more than run Frank Gore 35 times per game. This team could beat the Packers in a cold game at Green Bay in the playoffs. Tough games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh remain, but they also get Arizona and St. Louis twice by season end.  Expect a first round bye.
3- New Orleans Saints (7-3) – Let’s just pretend like the loss to the Rams didn’t happen. Other than that disaster, the Saints have proven to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Brees looks as good as ever, and his dynamic backfield of Ingram, Sproles, and Thomas makes them even more dangerous. Sean Payton always makes me feel like he knows something that no one else does. They’ll win the NFC South.
4- New England Patriots (6-3) – Everyone made a big fuss after the Pats lost two straight (reminder – they lost on the road to a great Steelers team, and a close one to a pretty good Giants team and a surging Eli Manning…did I just say that?), and their only other loss came in dramatic fashion against the Bills when the Bills weren’t playing like they are now (at least Fitzpatrick’s beard is disgusting/awesome). Here’s the deal, the Pats have maybe the easiest schedule in football down the stretch (Chiefs, @Eagles, Colts, @Redskins, @Broncos, Dolphins, Bills) and we know this team can beat any team when the chips are on the table. This is my pick to come out of the AFC.
5- Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) – After a 2-2 start, the Steelers have proved that they are just as good as they were last year. Impressive wins against the Bengals and the Patriots sandwiched a tough close loss to the division rival Ravens. Big Ben is proving that he can throw the ball to win them games now (How about him doing a pretty solid job in cleaning up his image?  The guy has been a saint since he made an idiot of himself.). If they get Mendenhall running the ball well, this is going to be a really tough team to beat. They’ll edge out Baltimore and Cincinnati for the AFC North crown.

On the fence – Bears (slowly starting to prove that they’re the real deal), Ravens (one week they look like they’re the best team in football, the next…they lose to the lowly Seahawks or Jags), Giants (they’ll be lucky to make the playoffs with the schedule they have left), Texans (Matt Leinart as the starting QB?)