Monday, October 1, 2001

Turning Points

The turning point in the season last year was the Monday Night game at Carolina. The Packers lost, 31-14, and looked bad in doing so. Their record sank to 5-7, and although they didn't know it at the time, losing that game ended up knocking them out of the playoffs. It was a turning point, because the Packers ended up finishing up the season with four straight wins, all against division opponents, just barely missing the playoffs but raising hopes for a better season this year.

Three weeks into this season, the Packers are now on a seven game winning streak in the regular season, the longest active winning streak in the league. The turning point in this week's game at Carolina is easy to identify. It was early in the second quarter, with the Panthers leading 7-0. Brett Favre's pass had been intercepted, and the Panthers had a chance to add to their lead. Weinke threw what looked like a touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad, which would have made the score 14-0. But there was a flag, on our old ex-central division foe, Todd Steussie, and the touchdown did not count. The Panthers did not score on the drive, or for the rest of the game. And the Packers scored 28 unanswered points to easily win their third game of the season.

Meanwhile, the Buccaneers and Vikings were still playing in Minnesota. What a dilemma for a Packer fan. Do we hope for the Buccaneers to win, thereby driving a stake through the heart of the Vampires (oops, I meant Vikings), even though this would leave the Buccaneers at 2-0? Or do we root for the Vikings to pull it out, giving the Buccaneers a loss, but keeping the Vikings closer to the Packers? Well, the Vikings of course did pull it out, which is probably the better result for the Packers and their fans, but I simply could not bring myself to root for the Vikings.

So, after three weeks, there are only three undefeated teams in the league, the Packers, the Rams, and the surprising San Diego Chargers. A great way for the Packers to start the season, and it gives the Packers a little bit of a cushion to play with as they head into the scariest three-week stretch of the season. The next three games are at Tampa, Baltimore (at Lambeau Field) and at Minnesota. Before the season, I frankly would have thought there was a good chance that the Packers would lose all three of these games. But now, all three of these teams look at least somewhat beatable,plus the Packers look much stronger than I expected them to look. So my expectations are higher. I think winning two out of these three games is a realistic goal, and if the Packers achieve that, they will be in great shape.

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