In the course of one day, the Packers: (1) won their 18th straight game, a streak that began with their win against the Giants last year; (2) successfully completed the third quarter of the regular season without a loss; (3) achieved a 12-0 record for the first time in team history; (4) clinched a playoff spot when they beat the Giants on the last play of the game; (5) executed a classic one-minute drill to lead to the final play victory; and (6) clinched the NFC North Title later Sunday evening when the Lions lost. Not bad for a day's work. As for goals for next week, the Green Bay Press-Gazette Facebook page, NFL Historian Jon Zimmer reports that a win next week will match the best start ever by a defending Super Bowl Champion (matching the 1998 Denver Broncos).
Still . . . it is impossible to ignore the problems on the Green Bay defensive side. From total points given up (35) to total yards allowed (447) to gain per rush (5.0) to gain per pass (8.5), this was not an elite defensive performance against the Giants. And the Giants, while talented, are not really an elite team, having been crushed by the Saints on Monday Night Football six days before the Packers played them. The Packers started the game with starters Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk inactive, and ended the game with Charles Woodson out with a concussion. But the Packers and their fans have come to expect that the "next man up" will get the job done. Looks like Woodson will be back this week, Hawk may be back, but Bishop probably will not be ready this week.
And now another wildly inconsistent team, the Oakland Raiders, comes to town on Sunday. It was only four years ago that I reminisced about some of the great moments in Packers-Raiders history, from Super Bowl II, to the first Lambeau Leap, to the Irvin Favre game. So rather than repeat that history now, just go take a look at the 2007 article.
The Raiders, at 7-5, are tied for first place in the AFC West, but as of now would lose the tie-breaker to the Broncos, and would finish out of the playoffs. They have beaten some good teams, but have also lost, in embarrassing fashion, to the Chiefs and to the Dolphins in the last six weeks. Suffice it to say, a team with a positive record, at 7-5, but with a negative points differential (giving up more points than it scores), is unlikely to be able to keep up with the 2011 Green Bay Packers. I expect a fairly easy win (but bear in mind, I expected the same last week, too).
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Meanwhile, the Packers' latest sale of stock is underway, as I mentioned last week. Sure, being an "owner" of the Green Bay Packers is not, in any meaningful way, an investment. But the fact that we, the fans, actually own our team is, and always has been, one of the greatest things about the Green Bay Packers. Apparently I am not the only one who feels that way, from comments sent in by shareholders to ESPN's NFC North reporter, Kevin Seifert.
Occasional ramblings by Tom Freeman, a life-long Green Bay Packers fan, season ticket holder, and shareholder, now living on the idyllic Central Coast of California. My articles were previously published on the South End Zone web site.