Scaling a Dam of Doubt

With a 12 – 3 record, the Green Bay Packers continue to cling to the No. 1 seed in the NFL’s NFC, the position which entitles the team that secures it to both a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the Conference’s playoffs.  As Green Bay squares off against the Minnesota Vikings in Lambeau Field this evening, a few impressions emerge:

Say what you will of his personal idiosyncrasies — and there is plenty that can be said 😉 — Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers seems, at 38, to be as good as he has ever been and is obviously the difference between the team’s current standing and, I would suggest, around a .500 record.  I don’t know whether a 3- or 4-year deal with record money will hold him in Green Bay after this year, but if it will, I’d pay him.  It is not a large stretch to suggest that the team would fare better next season fielding Mr. Rodgers and the Little Sisters of the Poor than it will by playing Backup Quarterback Jordan Love with the rest of the current team.

Although I thought the team performed well enough overall on December 12 – despite atrocious special teams play – against a weak Bears team, the team has regressed over the last two weeks:

Much has been made of Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh’s decision to go for a 2-point conversion and the win on December 19 — an attempt which failed, providing Green Bay the 31 – 30 victory.  I haven’t seen as much said about Mr. Harbaugh’s decision, at the culmination of Baltimore’s first drive of the game, to forego a certain 3-point field goal to try for a touchdown – an effort which also failed.  If Mr. Harbaugh had taken the chip-shot 3 points (which I would have in his place; I’m an advocate of setting strategy by the game situation rather than by statistics), and all things being equal, Baltimore’s late touchdown would have won the game.  Green Bay was in large part lucky not to have been beaten by a team fielding a second-string quarterback and a fourth-string secondary.

On Christmas Day, as much as I credit Cornerback Rasul Douglas’ contributions to Green Bay’s defense over the last half of the season, it was obvious that Mr. Douglas was guilty of pass interference on his last interception that sealed the 24 – 22 victory.  If instead of letting that last interception stand, an official had made the correct call against Mr. Douglas, the Browns would have had a first down on the Green Bay 40 yard line with over 40 seconds left – seemingly providing Cleveland ample time to set up a victory-clinching field goal.  Green Bay could well have lost despite intercepting Browns Quarterback Baker Mayfield three times prior to the last drive.  Arguably, the Packers were, again, more lucky than good.

Of course, in an NFL game, “all things” are never “equal.”  If the Ravens had taken the field goal early in the December 19 game, it might have affected game strategy and altered outcomes throughout the contest for both sides; and a final Browns field goal cannot be taken for granted, given Mr. Mayfield’s uneven performance and the number of field goals that have been missed across the NFL this season.  Even so, as the Packers enter the last two weeks of the season they hardly seem the juggernaut that their record would imply. 

May we Packer fans see championship-worthy performances against the Vikings tonight and on the road against the Detroit Lions next weekend.  Wall Street has a term, “Climbing the Wall of Worry,” to describe financial markets’ sometime tendency to keep rising in spite of negative indicators; until we see more dominant play from the Green and Gold, I would submit that optimism about Green Bay’s prospects of winning a Super Bowl is tantamount to Scaling a Dam of Doubt. 

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