There has been a fair amount of grumbling among Packer fans in the first quarter of the 1997 season. "The Packers were in some danger of losing each game this year!" "They haven't looked dominating in any game, except for the second quarter of the Vikings game!" "They lost to the Eagles and didn't even score a TD!" "The rash of injuries has robbed the Packers of all of their depth!" Etc., etc. etc.
But let's stop for a second and take a closer look. One quarter of the regular season is over, and the Packers are 3-1. Last year, they dominated in the first 3 games, but then lost at Minnesota, and had the same 3-1 record. Many of us (myself included) overreacted to the situation. I know that I felt that the Packers would never be able to catch the Vikings, given tie-breakers. What an overreaction that was, as the Packers won the division by 4 games, with the home field advantage throughout the playoffs. And, in a sense, the Packers are better off this year, since their loss is outside of the division.
By contrast, take a look at the 49ers. They have started to dominate their opponents, and to all appearances, they seem to have overcome the loss of Jerry Rice, and seem to be taking better care of Steve Young. But hold on a minute! The teams they have beaten are the Rams, the Saints and the Falcons, three of the most pathetic teams in the league. They lost to Tampa Bay, but as we are beginning to appreciate, that is no great shame given the way the Buccaneers are playing. Let's wait until the 49ers have a couple of games against quality opponents before concluding that they are back in the driver's seat.
All in all, I feel pretty good about the Packers' season. I think they will only get better, as some of the injured players return to the lineup, and as some of the reserves pressed into action get more experience. Last year, the injury plague induced a two game losing streak against Kansas City and Dallas. This year, the Packers have come through an injury plagued first quarter with a 3-1 record. Not too bad. I see (conservatively) at least an 11-5 record for the Packers this year.
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