The feeling is in the air – just like six years ago, when the Green Bay Packers last treated us to such a glorious and unexpected run of wins. Let’s reminisce and compare.
October 17, 2010. In their sixth game of the year, the Packers lost at home to the Miami Dolphins, 23-20. It was their second consecutive three-point overtime loss, putting the team in great jeopardy of not making the playoffs.
November 21. The Packers reel off their fourth straight win, made all the better because the first and last of these were over the Minnesota Vikings – that last one a 31-3 drubbing.
December 12. With injuries mounting, the Packers drop three of the next four, leaving them with a tenuous 8-6 record (sound familiar?). Even so, the last of these, a narrow loss in New England to the powerhouse Patriots, 31-27, was probably Green Bay’s best game of the year – enough to rekindle some hope in its fans.
December 26. A 45-17 spanking of the New York Giants at Lambeau Field has the team at 9-6, but it will require another win in the New Year for the Packers to keep playing.
January 2, 2011. The pesky Chicago Bears roll into Lambeau determined to squelch the home team’s hopes. In a low-scoring, slug-it-out contest, the Packers finally get into the end zone with 13 minutes to go on a 1-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Lee.
Then, with just under four minutes left, QB Jay Cutler leads the Bears on a colossal 15-play drive toward a tying score. With the game clock down to 20 seconds, Cutler’s pass to Devin Hester is picked off by Nick Collins.
Tens wins, six losses – enough to secure a wild card berth in the postseason.
The rest is part of Packers’ lore: three victories on the road over the Eagles, Falcons, and Bears, followed on February 6 by a 31-25 Super Bowl victory at Cowboys Stadium over the Steelers.
Déjà Vu in 2017 for the Packers?
As we head into the New Year, Green Bay is once again at nine wins and six losses, and again must overcome a divisional rival to reach the 10-6 mark.
The current situation, though, is actually more favorable than in 2010: if the Packers win against the Lions, they become division champs, rather than a wild card playoff participant – thereby reaping important benefits.
That game in mid-January would be in the very friendly confines of Lambeau Field, where the Packers went 6-2 this year, and where they’ve gone 32-7-1 in the previous five years. The Packers of course have a good history in cold-weather games – they’ve just prevailed three times in the last three weeks in such climates.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Detroit has the identical incentive to win on January 2 as does Green Bay.
Five weeks ago, statistics would have suggested that the teams’ quarterbacks were also nearly identical. That has changed greatly, however, since Aaron Rodgers issued his “run-the-table” prophecy. Aaron is now ranked in the league’s top five in passer rating, completion percentage, and passing yardage; Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is 10th, ninth, and 14th in these categories.
It should be a tight game, where every advantage will count. One such edge: Green Bay has eight days to rest and prepare for the game. Detroit, who plays the Cowboys on Monday night, will only have six.