Sports Check: Packers could end up on 'good' list
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December 22, 2010 | 08:25 AMSo far, the 2010 season has been nothing but "Bah, Humbug" for the Green Bay Packers.
The team has stumbled to an 8-6 record with two games left thanks to a 31-27 loss Sunday night at New England.
With the holiday season here, hopefully Santa Claus will be in the giving spirit for the Pack with a playoff berth.
Adversity has plagued Green Bay since players were talking about Super Bowl aspirations before the season began. Key injuries to stars such as tight end Jermichael Finley, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker Nick Barnett and running back Ryan Grant have resulted in make-shift lineups for the Packers all season.
And close games have been kryptonite for the Pack. All six losses have been by four or less points. The guys just can't find a way to win it at the end. The low point for the Packers was a humiliating 7-3 loss at Detroit a couple weeks back.
But, have no fear, Packer fans, and I know there are some of you out there despite Lake Geneva's affinity for Chicago's teams, it is still possible for Green Bay to find a warm, fuzzy playoff berth in its stocking instead of the usual coal.
Santa had some elves looking out for the Packers Sunday. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost, dropping to 8-6, and so did the New York Giants, who are now 9-5. Although the Packers lost, these two gifts put them in control of their own destiny. All the Packers have to do is win their final two games, both home contests against the New York Giants and the Bears.
If Green Bay ends up taking care of business and beating both teams, the Packers will win the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Giants, who would likely finish 10-6 just like the Pack. Also, if the Buccaneers end up with the same record as the Packers, Green Bay will hold the conference edge.
It seems like someone (Santa) is secretly looking out for the Packers in their rough road through injuries and constant setbacks.
Let's face it, Packers fans, you don't need to see your family or watch holiday movies this Christmas, all you really want is a return trip to the playoffs!
In order for the Packers to make it to the playoffs, they will need a couple of things besides just holiday spirit.
First, it would nice for a couple presents from the Bears, who probably truly hate Green Bay. Chicago must face the New York Jets (10-4) and travel to Green Bay in its final two games, but the Bears clinched the NFC North division title with a 40-14 beating of Minnesota Monday night.
Although I can't stand the Bears, I must give them some credit. They have consistently found ways to win all year. At least the Packers will still have a shot at the wild card. If Green Bay joins Chicago in the playoffs, it would be a Christmas present in itself for area fans.
Second, Aaron Rodgers must be at full strength the next two games. Rodgers missed his first start in his three seasons Sunday, and backup Matt Flynn started his first career game for the Pack.
While Flynn threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns, he showed inexperience in several key late drives when the team needed him most. Green Bay had a chance to win the game at the end, but bad clock management on the last play of the game allowed 20 seconds to tick off before the Packers called a play, and New England sacked Flynn. Green Bay had no timeouts, and Flynn looked visibly confused out there.
Rodgers has suffered two concussions this year, with the latest one at Detroit costing Green Bay the win and forcing him out of the New England game. Rodgers looked OK on the sideline, but still isn't starting for certain this coming Sunday against the Giants.
Rodgers, with his ability to make any throw and scramble as well as any quarterback not named Michael Vick, is simply the most valuable player on the Packers. If he doesn't play the entirety of the last two games, Green Bay will not make the playoffs.
Finally, Green Bay must continue to establish a running game. Even though Rodgers likes to fire 40 or 50 passes in some games, the ground game actually worked Sunday night. The normally invisible Brandon Jackson racked up 99 yards on the ground, and the Packers gained a total of 143, well above their season average. Playing in frigid conditions at Lambeau Field in Green Bay their last two games, the Packers will have to run because Rodgers can't do it all. This will make Rodgers even more dangerous.
So it's still possible for the Packers to have a White Christmas. It's win and they're in. After all, Christmas trees are green, not orange, and that bodes well for Green Bay.