Monday, November 20, 2000

Still Alive?

My last column was written after the discouraging loss to Detroit, when the Packers were 2-4 and going nowhere. Five weeks later, they are 5-6, and most likely still going nowhere. But there are some signs of life in the last few weeks. They barely beat San Francisco, but then they should have beaten Miami but let the game get away in the second half. Then they beat Minnesota on the "improbable bobble" play in overtime. Then they lost at Tampa Bay, although they certainly had their chances, even with Favre gone for most of the second half. And this week they hung on to beat the Colts in the snow flurries.

Considering that the Dolphins, the Vikings, the Colts, and probably the Buccaneers are playoff teams, to go 3-2 the last 5 weeks is not bad. If I had guessed the results after the Lions game, in the mood I was in at the time, I would have predicted 1-4 over that stretch. What do the next five weeks hold for the Packers? Only two home games (Detroit and Tampa Bay), with a third road game in "Packer weather" at Chicago, and two other games at Carolina and at Minnesota. It will take another three wins to get to 8-8, and it will take 4-1 or 5-0 to make the playoffs.

The Packers could win this coming Monday at Carolina, they could win at Chicago, they might beat Detroit at Lambeau Field, and history tells us that they probably will beat the Buccaneers in the cold on December 24. It will take something just as improbable as the bobble for the Packers to win at Minnesota, however, and my guess is that they will also lose another game somewhere along the way. That would put them at 8-8, same as last year, and home for the playoffs for the second year in a row. Then we will be able to debate about whether the 8-8 this year is more encouraging than last year's 8-8, and whether Mike Sherman should meet the same fate as Ray Rhodes.

But all of that is a few weeks away. For now, they are still alive. We should take some encouragement from the fact that the Packers have beaten two of the best teams in the league in the last 3 weeks, and hope that they can continue to improve as the season winds down.