Sunday, December 12, 2004

Another Close Shave

So the Packers wrap up an exciting little victory over the Lions (way too exciting, in fact), giving them an 8-5 record, and sole possession of first place in the NFC North for the first time all season. They are all set to take some new momentum into the playoffs, and then who knows what will happen? It is possible to believe that, at least somewhat.

The Packers host the Jaguars next week, followed by a Christmas Eve trip to Minnesota, and then finish upon the road at Chicago. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the Packers lose the Vikings game and win the other two. The will end up at 10-6 in this scenario.

Meanwhile, the Vikings play at Detroit, then host the Packers, and then play on the road at Washington. Now everyone knows that think the Vikings could easily lose a road game outdoors at Washington in January, but again, for the sake of argument,let's say they win all remaining games to also finish at 10-6. The Packers and Vikings will have split the season series, so we look next at the Division records, where we find the Packers at 4-2, and the Vikings also at4-2 (given these assumptions). Turning to common opponents, the next tie-breaker, the Packers will have a record against common opponents of 7-5(wins against Dallas, Houston,Detroit, Jacksonville, Chicago, Detroit and Washington, and losses against Philadelphia, Chicago, Tennessee, N.Y. Giants, and Indianapolis), while theVikings will have a record of 8-4 (wins against Dallas, Chicago, Houston,Tennessee, Detroit, Jacksonville, Detroit and Washington, and losses against Philadelphia, N.Y. Giants, Indianapolis, and Chicago). So, under this set of assumptions, the Vikings would win the division. If this is incorrect,please send an email, but it appears to be correct.

If that is so, then it will take a Packer victory at Minnesota to win the division (or it will take Minnesota to stumble against one of the other teams). You could have lost a lot of money over the years counting on a Green Bay victory at Minnesota. Could have? Many of us probably actually have lost a lot of money counting on Green Bay wins at Minnesota.Now, even if the Packers lose the division, they might still be a wild card,but that means no home games, and frankly not much of a chance.

To be honest, there is no strong reason for optimism even if the Packers do win the division. Take a look back at the Packers' record this year. They have played only 3 games against teams that currently have winning records (Indianapolis,Minnesota, and Philadelphia). The Packers are 1-2 in those games, and the Colts and Eagles games were pretty tough to even watch until the end. The other 10 games have been against teams with a losing record as of now, and the Packers are 7-3 in those games, with some close shaves thrown in, which is NOT a reference to Brett Favre's new hairdo. In other words, the Packers are not exactly blowing the doors off even in games where you might say that they should win. For this reason, even though the Packers have won 7 out of their last 8 games, it is hard to develop too much excitement about their chances this year. In spite of the improbable way the Packers got into the playoffs last year, the Packers' chances last year were much better to go somewhere in the playoffs last year than they seem this year. Only the 4th and 26 disaster stopped the Packers short of a trip to the NFC Championship game, where they certainly would have had a real shot of earning another trip to the Super Bowl. This year, the Packers look distressingly like a team heading for one and out in the playoffs.

Obviously, they still have to play the games one at a time, and it is not too late to get really hot going into the playoffs. They may get lucky if they get there, and go a long way. But nobody should count on it.

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