At the beginning of the season, the late-November to mid-December part of the season looked rather daunting for the Packers.
November 23, Cowboys at home. True, the game would be at Lambeau at last. But the Cowboys had won 7 in a row against the Packers - maybe they just had the Packers' number.
And then comes a three game road trip. Not again!
December 1, at Minnesota. The dome jinx. True, the Packers have to win one sometime, but something weird always seems to happen.
December 7, at Tampa Bay. At least it is on grass, but weren't the Bucs much improved at the end of 1996? And didn't the Bucs beat the Packers here in December a couple of years ago?
December 14, at Carolina. Omigosh, the NFC Championship game rematch, in their stadium.
Back at the beginning of the season, this looked like a stretch where the Packers could easily go 2-2, even though I hoped for better.
Now fast forward to the aftermath of the Colts debacle on November 16. Deep down, didn't you feel that the Packers could lose 2 or maybe 3 of these 4 games if they continued to play like they did in that game? I did.
What a difference 3 weeks and three W's make. The Packers now seem to be on the best roll they have been on since last December-January. They have exorcised two demons, won the division for the third year in a row, and have clinched a bye week for the playoffs. They ought to win the next two games and cruise into the playoffs with another 13-3 record. As a matter of fact, an objective observer might just conclude that the Packers have put it all together at exactly the right time.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look as if 13-3 will be good enough for home-field advantage. I think the 49ers will lose Monday night to Denver, but I think they are good enough to beat a fading Seahawks team the following week. And if they do, they get the home field advantage for the NFC Championship game ASSUMING that they get past their first opponent on the weekend of January 3-4. They probably will, but I don't take that as a given with the 49ers.
Here in San Francisco, the fan sentiment seems to be that the 49ers have very little chance against the Packers if they have to play them in Green Bay. I agree with that. If the game is in San Francisco, the consensus is that the 49ers have a much better chance, but just beneath the surface I detect the belief that the Packers are probably a better team. I think they are right about that, too.
We'll know soon enough. The Championship games are less than a month away, and at this point it sure looks like the NFC opponents will be the Packers and the 49ers. In the AFC, my guess would be Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Could we be heading for a rematch of Super Bowl I? That would be an interesting matchup.