I laughed when the headline to Kevin Seifert’s game story popped up on my Twitter account Sunday night: “Emotional Packers save their season.”
“Really, Kevin?” I thought. “A season cannot be saved in week four. Calm down.”
I thought Kevin was reaching for a story angle to try and be different, get people riled up and generate web traffic.
But Seifert is an excellent reporter, one that isn’t prone to hyperbole and weird narratives that attempt to push reader’s buttons just for the hell of it. So I clicked on the story, read it, and decided that Seifert might be on to something.
This passage in particular stood out:
At 1-2, the Packers were facing some long odds if they lost Sunday’s game. Since the NFL moved to its current playoff format, 85.3 percent of teams that started 1-3 missed the playoffs. In a league in which most teams have relatively equal talent, the so-called “snowball effect” is very real.
I won’t summarize Seifert’s entire post — read it for yourself — but he makes some excellent points about emotion and the toll it would have taken on the Packers to lose another emotionally-charged game, this time at home to a team that was just as desperate as they were.
Instead let’s focus on the immediate future. If the Packers lost Sunday, not only would they be facing long playoff odds at 1-3, they’d be facing them with their next three games on the road; a tough situation in any case, let alone coming off two straight heartbreaking losses.
It’s silly to project more than three games into the future during the NFL season (even three games might be too far), but there’s a common theme among the Packers next three road opponents: Hope. The next three teams the Packers face all have reasons to be hopeful, and likely view the Packers games as a chance to go from hopeful to confident.
- The Colts are coming off a bye week armed with a phenom quarterback and Dwight Freeney returning. Their coach was also just admitted to the hospital for treatable leukemia, which means emotions will be running high in that stadium. There’s hope for a promising future in Indianapolis, and what better way to take a step forward than by beating the Packers.
- The Texans might be the NFL’s best team and have realistic hopes of reaching the Super Bowl. They’re going to need a signature win, though, to prove to everyone that they’re for real. Beating the Packers would meet that criteria.
- Who knows where the Rams might be by week seven. What if they knock off Arizona at home, then beat Miami on the road to enter the Packers game 4-2? Suddenly they have playoff hopes and anything is possible. The Rams secondary is sneaky good, too. The Packers have struggled against good secondaries so far.
Maybe Sunday’s win did save the Packers season. Or maybe we’re getting too worked up over a week four game.
Either way, it’s likely the Packers’ next three opponents will be viewing their matchups against Green Bay as a chance to define the first part of their seasons. The Colts, Texans and Rams will likely match the Packers in the emotions department.
If the Packers want to come out of this stretch 5-2, or even 4-3, they need to get back to winning the turnover battle, pressuring the quarterback, and slicing defenses apart through the air. We’ve seen flashes of these things happening all season, but no consistency.
Since the Packers’ season is now (apparently) saved, it’s time to find out just how good they are. These next three weeks will tell us a lot.