My Mom would sometimes say that I liked to do things the hard way. I suppose there is some truth to that. But if she thought I had this tendency, she should have seen the 2003 Green Bay Packers. During the course of this season, the Packers have lost games on the road to 2 of the worst teams in the league, the Arizona Cardinals and the Detroit Lions. They have also lost home games to 2 of the (arguably) best teams in the league, when they had the upper hand but let games against the Chiefs and Eagles get away from them. I still have trouble believing the Packers really lost that game against the Chiefs.
I realize that almost every team can play this mind game almost every year, but just imagine if the Packers had beaten the Cardinals and the Lions, or if they had not let the Chiefs game and the Eagles game get away. They would be leading the division at 9-4, with a realistic hope of a bye week in the playoffs, if not home field advantage. If they had won all 4 of these games, they would be tied for the best record in the league at 11-2.
Of course, Packer fans who have watched the games know that these Packers are not playing like an 11-2 team, or even (at least most of the time) like a 9-4 team. But, in doing things the hard way this year, they have put a lot of pressure on themselves in these last 3 weeks of the season. They are a game out of first place to the Vikings, and if the Vikings beat the Bears in the cold this weekend, the Packers will also have screwed up any chance at having a tie-breaker advantage against the Vikings, since the Vikings will finish their NFC North games with a better divisional record. The Packers also trail the Seahawks and Cowboys by a game for a wild-card spot, although at least in this instance, the Packers have the tie-breaker advantage locked up against the Seahawks because of the Packers' victory over the Seahawks in week 5 of the season.
So, what lies ahead for the Packers? Two road games against 2 of the worst teams in the league, the Chargers and the Raiders, followed by a home game (now anything but an automatic win) against a good Denver Broncos team. The Packers could lose any or even all of those games, but to have a real shot at the playoffs, they must win all of them. If they do, I think they will get into the playoffs. I think Seattle (itself a bad team on the road) will lose this Sunday at St. Louis. And I would not be shocked if the Vikings lose to the Bears on Sunday, although I am not really expecting it. Both the Vikings game and Seahawks games will be just about over by the time of the kickoff in San Diego. In all likelihood, there will be good news in at least one of those games. Maybe, just maybe, the Packers will manage for a change to win a game when they have a chance to move into a tie for a playoff slot.