Sunday, November 23, 1997

Packers Spank Cowboys - Head for Last Turf Game

I have to admit that I was nervous about the game against the Cowboys. I picked the Packers to win, I felt that the Packers were the better team, I believed that nobody beats the Packers at Lambeau Field.

But still - what if they didn't win? After all, they got beat by the Colts last week. They couldn't stop anybody, including people none of us ever heard of, and gave up 467 yards of offense and 41 points to an 0-10 team. If they could lose to the Colts, surely the Packers were capable of losing to the Cowboys, especially if the breaks went against them. And if the Packers were to lose, the
devastation, at least to the fans, would be total. How would the team react? Would they go into a tailspin, having left it all on the field against the Cowboys?

Fortunately, we don't have to find out. Despite a slow start, during which the Packers wasted good field position on two successive drives, and despite a Deion Sanders interception for touchdown, that allowed the Cowboys a tie at halftime, the Packers rolled like they have not rolled all this year, crushing the Cowboys in the second half. And so they moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC Central, with Minnesota and Tampa Bay looking up at them.

They did this, in my opinion, through a more aggressive approach, especially on defense. Last week, it seemed that after Gilbert Brown went out, the Packers played very conservatively on defense, and perhaps as a result, never got any pressure on Paul Justin. This week, they blitzed, they took chances, and they came through. And they did so even though it seemed as if both Gilbert Brown and Reggie White missed substantial portions of the game.

So one major monkey is off of the Packers' back. And now they get a chance to try to remove the other one. Next week, the Packers travel to Minnesota to try to win for the first time there in the Holmgren-Wolf-Favre era. I'm worried about this game. Heck, I'm worried about every game this year. There could be a letdown factor after the big Cowboy game. There could be funny bounces of the ball, like there always are at the dome. And there is no question that the Packers remain a team built for grass, not turf. But win or lose, this should be the last turf game for the Packers this year, as the last 3 regular season games are all on grass, and the post-season games will be in Green Bay, maybe in San Francisco, and, just maybe, in San Diego.

POST SEASON PROGNOSIS

I've given up on getting the number 1 seed. The 49ers don't seem interested in providing any assistance to the Packers whatsoever. The 49ers will get the number 1 seed. (There, I've said it. Maybe NOW they will go on a losing streak.) So here are my predictions for final records in the NFC:

NFC Central: Green Bay (12-4, DIV); Minnesota (11-5, WC); Tampa Bay (9-7, out).

NFC West: San Francisco (13-3, DIV).

NFC East: NY Giants (10-5-1, DIV); Dallas (10-6, WC); Washington
(9-6-1, WC).

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