After capping off their 2020 campaign with a satisfying smackdown of the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers get a week to rest, recuperate and reflect.
So do those of us who have had the pleasure of watching this team throughout the season so far.
If it weren’t clear to the Packer faithful after the team’s thorough dismantling of the Tennessee Titans, it should be clearer than ever now that this Packers team has everything it takes to win a championship.
- An MVP quarterback playing out of his mind, but in a sustainable way (compared to 2016 when he was asked to carry the team)
- A high-quality running game to offer support to the passing game
- A plethora of pass catchers to overwhelm defenses
- A versatile offensive line that’s played outstanding football all season long no matter who’s lining up
- A capable pass rush that, while it’s seen its box score numbers shrink from last year, is still affecting the quarterback
- An outstanding secondary, including the game’s best safety tandem and the game’s best shutdown corner
- An improving run defense
- A clutch kicker
The weaknesses this Packers team has can basically be boiled down to a tendency to have special teams mishaps and occasional lulls in defensive quality. But there’s no denying this defense has really gelled over the second half of the season and looks to be playing its best ball just in time for a playoff run.
For my money, there may not be a more complete team in football right now. They’re certainly playing more consistently excellent football than the heralded Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC. Their strongest competition in the NFC is themselves and their ability to get up for whatever competition they have. Their strongest competition in the AFC may well be the Buffalo Bills, who will likely need to win in Kansas City if they wish to get a Super Bowl berth.
I’ve seen so many Packer fans express their fears about running into Tampa Bay again, or about having to play the Seahawks or the Saints or whoever else.
Guys, guess what: this Packers team is the best team in the NFC, and maybe the league. It’s time for the rest of the teams and their fanbases to start fearing Green Bay, rather than the other way around.
This is a Super Bowl team.
The Jordan Love pick actually looks better in hindsight
There have been a lot of piping hot takes all season long about the Packers’ selection of Jordan Love in the first round of the NFL draft. Fans continue to foam at the mouth over the issue, despite the team going 13-3 and clinching the top seed in the NFC. Media talking heads continue to spew their word vomit all over people’s television and computer screens.
The latest twist on the criticism is, “See? The Packers never needed to pick a quarterback, because Rodgers is still an MVP!”
This is, of course, completely revisionist history when many had written Rodgers off as being “washed” before the season started, but I digress.
If anything, Gutekunst’s selection of Love looks better than ever.
Let’s completely put aside the idea that selecting Love lit a fire under Rodgers that helped propel him to one of the finest years of his legendary career. While that may very well be the case, that is complete conjecture, and it’s just as easy to say it could have been a second year under LaFleur’s offense that has seen other quarterbacks have significant second-year jumps in the past.
But consider this–the Green Bay Packers are the best team in the NFC despite “wasting” their first round pick on a QB who was going to ride the bench for the foreseeable future.
Paul Noonan, with whom I frequently disagree and often find to have overly negative and reactive takes himself, actually had a great article about this the other day. The combination of value from the rookie contract with upside for long-term success is extremely valuable in itself.
If Love pans out, the Packers secure another decade of dominance without having done anything to hinder their present chances at a Super Bowl title. If he doesn’t, it costs the Packers almost nothing–just about any first round pick is capable of flaming out, and there are just as many misses as hits, especially with later round selections.
Gutekunst essentially got to have his cake and eat it too. He was able to start planning for the long-term future of the Packers, an inevitability of a time without Aaron Rodgers, while also building a team around Rodgers that is extremely capable of winning a championship this season.
At this point, anyone who still harps on the Love pick is just incapable of seeing the bigger picture, and looking for a reason to complain.
One game to watch this week
Seeing as the Packers aren’t playing this weekend because they’re, you know, the best team in the NFC, I figured I’d focus on one game I’m most interested in watching, rather than one Packer.
To me, the two most interesting matchups of the weekend are both in the AFC: Colts at Bills, and Ravens at Titans. I’m going to go with the Colts/Bills matchup as the one I’m most looking forward to.
While the Chicago Bears are an example of how the seventh seed can be a stupid idea, the Colts are an example of how it can actually add to the NFL playoffs. They’re a team that is capable of competing with any of the other teams in the AFC and aren’t just going to be an easy out.
Watching them play hard-nosed defense against the powerful offense of the Buffalo Bills should be a lot of fun, especially in the chilly Buffalo weather. It’s been many, many years since the Bills last hosted a playoff game, and it’s really a shame that it’s happening during a pandemic this year, because you know that stadium would be absolutely rocking.
For the Colts, this game is going to hinge on their ability to dominate the game in the trenches on both sides of the ball. They’re going to need to work the clock on offense with Jonathan Taylor to keep the Bills’ offense off the field, and on defense their front seven is going to need to be able to generate pressure on Josh Allen and get some push on the Bills’ offensive line.
See below for my prediction.
Wild Card Weekend Predictions
With no Packers’ opponent to skewer this week, we get a week off of Two Minutes’ Hate and we’ll instead take a look at this jam-packed weekend of wild card football.
Indianapolis Colts (AFC 7) at Buffalo Bills (AFC 2)
You already saw me give the keys to the game up above. But to me, the Colts just don’t have the firepower to keep up with what Buffalo has to offer. I see the Bills winning this game and, in fact, taking down the Chiefs to get to the Super Bowl. Bills 31, Colts 20
Los Angeles Rams (NFC 6) at Seattle Seahawks (NFC 3)
This game would have been a lot more intriguing had the Rams not lost Jared Goff. The Rams always give the Seahawks fits, but without their starting quarterback this game will likely be merely a formality. Seahawks 30, Rams 16
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC 5) at Washington Football Team (NFC 4)
I actually do think this one will be closer than most people expect, simply because of how good Washington is at generating pressure and affecting the passing game. That being said, there’s a massive gulf between these two teams offensively that I don’t see Washington capable of overcoming. Buccaneers 23, WFT 17
Baltimore Ravens (AFC 5) at Tennessee Titans (AFC 4)
Good game. Expect a lot of offense and a lot of running clock due to the number of times both teams will run the football. The Ravens have been building momentum at the right time, but the Titans’ ability to control the clock and also play a vertical passing game give them the edge for me as they take down Baltimore in the postseason for a second year in a row. Titans 33, Ravens 24
Chicago Bears (NFC 7) at New Orleans Saints (NFC 2)
Lol. Saints 38, Bears 13
Cleveland Browns (AFC 6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC 3)
I was all set to predict this as my upset of the week until the news broke about Kevin Stefanski getting COVID. Without their head coach on the sidelines it’s hard for me to envision the Browns pulling this one off. Steelers 27, Browns 17
All chalk, SO SUE ME. If an upset DOES happen, give me WFT over Tampa.