The calendar still reads August. If I’m the Green Bay Packers, I don’t care.
Tonight is just not another preseason game. For Green Bay, it shouldn’t be a preseason game at all. Coach Mike McCarthy of course will eventually get his backup players into the game, but since the third preseason game is the closest to a dress rehearsal as you can get in the NFL, McCarthy very well could roll with his starters into the third quarter.
As well he should.
The game tonight at Lambeau Field against the Seattle Seahawks doesn’t count at all in the standings. The results will have absolutely no bearing on either team making the playoffs. As long as they both emerge without any major injuries, the game could be considered a win for both sides.
Not for the Packers. Preseason game be damned, this is war.
There’s no need to sit here and recap the “Fail Mary” game in Seattle last year that ended up costing the Packers a first round bye in the playoffs. Had the correct call been made, Green Bay (more than likely) would have still faced the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round but at Lambeau Field rather than San Francisco.
No matter how much McCarthy or the players said otherwise, that “loss” to Seattle had to sting all season long. The coach and his players did an admirable job in public, but that kind of situation just has to sting a locker room. Imagine being passed over on a promotion at work because someone read your resume wrong. You’d be upset for a long time, wouldn’t you?
The Packers went on to win six of their next seven games and still won the division and made the playoffs. Still, you can’t help but wonder what might have been.
Never before did I think it possible that a preseason game could set the tone for the regular season, but the game tonight against the Seahawks very well could. This summer everyone has been going gaga over Seattle and second year quarterback Russell Wilson and the Packers have largely been ignored except when former players open their mouths about the leadership of the best quarterback in the league.
Everyone knows how well Aaron Rodgers plays with a chip on his shoulder. Rodgers and his teammates need to use this game to remind people of that fact. If they can’t get up for this game, preseason label aside, then I have some concerns about the team’s mindset heading into 2013.
All of training camp we have heard how much hungrier and physical the team is compared to past years. That’s all well and good. This game is the perfect time to go out and prove it. Seattle plays a very physical style of defense and a signal clearly would be sent to the NFL if the Packers manhandle the Seahawks and even push them around a bit.
Thanks to the events of the “Fail Mary” game and the incredibly smug response by the Seahawks after it, they’ve basically become the schoolyard bully. The best way to handle a bully (in football anyway)? Punch them square in the mouth.
The Packers have been fighting a stigma all year about being a “soft” team and beating Seattle can go a long way towards to erasing that. Seeing Golden Tate laid out over the middle of the field is a sight many Packers fans have been waiting to see, so hopefully the defense doesn’t disappoint. The game is being broadcast nationally on CBS, so this is a prime opportunity for the Packers to prove they’re tougher than many are giving them credit for.
This isn’t to say McCarthy should be foolish with his players. He still needs to keep those nursing injuries out. It’s not worth the risk at this point, but McCarthy knows how much this game means to his players. He should have the team ready for battle.
The Lambeau faithful should be ready as well. They know this is preseason, but they don’t care. This is revenge and for an exhibition contest, Lambeau will be at its rowdiest. Wilson should be expecting plenty of boos on his return to Wisconsin.
The bottom line here is that this game counts. It may mean squat in the standings, but it counts for the Packers’ psyche. People normally should shrug off preseason games (the 2008 Lions went 4-0 in preseason, remember) but this one probably shouldn’t be. A win and it’s a glorious moment for the Packers and their fans and would help erase the bitterness of last year’s “defeat.” A loss and the questioning of the Packers’ toughness and ability to compete in the NFC will be renewed.
This might sound utterly ridiculous for a preseason game, but when you combine the fact that it is the most action starters will see until Week 1 and the opponent happens to be the team that literally got handed a win against you last year, but a win is still a win in the NFL. Victory tonight would send a charge through Packer Nation and the locker room that could very well carry over into the regular season.
Don’t kid yourselves, folks. This one counts.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke