Many of us who offer our take wait until MNF is done. I'm not sure if it's being polite to that last game or if it's because that last game of the week is really important, but that's just what's done. I thought about doing that this week, but then decided against it because MNF this week is so terrible that it doesn't affect much and doesn't deserve respect. Seriously, the only way it has any meaning for the playoffs is if Seattle wins and wins out to sneak into the playoffs. If that happens weep for the NFC because we deserve to be thought of as second to the AFC.
Well things have cleared up since the last time I checked in on this front. The Packers have a strangle hold on home field advantage and may be able to clinch that next week. The Niners are folding, the Saints are surging, and the NFC East is still over hyped and a mess. Then there is the wildcard race. Man, these wildcard teams are fluky this year.
So let's break this down and see what all of today's action means for the Packers.
The Division Leaders.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers. Isn't it funny how you don't see the Packers celebrating their NFC North crown? No division champ hats on the players or big celebrations. No Gaterade baths for MM. This team is built for one thing, winning another Super Bowl and nothing is going to get in their way.
NFC South: New Orleans Saints. Sure they haven't wrapped this up yet, but I don't see anyone in their division catching them. No this team is rolling and look to have an easy schedule down the stretch with their only road trip going to the Minnesota Vikings....and since the Vikings looked like they just rolled over and died this week I think they are pretty safe in that win. The last two games at home and this team is double tough to beat with their crowd cheering them on.
NFC West: San Francisco 49ers. This team is folding fast. If I were a betting many I would put my money on the Niners pissing away the first round bye and solidly taking that three seed in the playoffs. The main reasons? Patrick Willis out and Alex Smith remembering that he's Alex Smith.
NFC East: Who cares? Errrr....New York Giants? I hate the NFC East. For some reason this division gets more attention than the other three in the NFC combined no matter how these teams play, and for the record all of these teams have been mediocre to terrible this year. So I don't care which team gets in. Right now the Giants are leading by their victory on SNF. On one hand the Giants seem threatening since they can score with the Packers and get to the QB with a four man rush. On the other hand they are a fluky team that struggles to play consistently. Go figure.
The Wild Card Race:
Speaking of fluky, the Wild Card teams seem to lose or just hang on week in and week out. Yes I'm looking at you Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers are better than their record indicates, but shouldn't give you that much of a panic.
Speaking of teams that hung on against a lesser team, let's talk about the Detroit Lions. I watched that game and thought "man, if this isn't the dirtiest team in the NFL I don't know who is." Then I watched the Raiders play and came to the conclusion the Lions are probably the second dirtiest team. That said, the Vikings got jobbed. If you beat a team who has turned it over 5 times and you still need obvious non-call to put them away you are not playing well. Hang your head in shame Lions.
Unfortunately the teams in the hunt aren't looking much better. The Bears got Tebowed today. I despise Tebowmania, but listening to Rich Eisen & Co chant Tebow instead of even mentioning highlights playing gave me the giggles. Really it's getting near time for the Bears to pack it in for the year, and next week may be do or die for them.
An interesting team to watch though may be the Cardinals. If they can win out (big if) then they just might be that hot team that causes problems. The defense has been playing better and the offense isn't terrible. It will be interesting to watch.
What does this mean for the Packers?
It means there is only one or two teams that can really scare the Packers right now. The Saints are one. They are hot, but can they take their high powered offense on the road and in the cold? The Giants are another, but only if Eli and JPP continue to play at a high level. I'll even bite the bullet and say the Lions could be interesting, but they need more balance in their offense and more discipline across the board to be able to be a real threat.
Perhaps most interesting though will be what MM and crew decide what to do after next week. If the Packers win next week then home field advantage is clinched. Then we know exactly what sort of team the Packers are....are they 2009 Colts? Who thumb their nose at the opportunity for history. Or are they the 2007 Patriots who tried for the brass ring?
Earlier I suggested that the Packers would go for it. Part of that though was the assumption that the Packers would have to win through the Bears game in order to clinch everything up since I figured that the Niners would be 14-2. Now it all changes. Jennings looks to be missing some serious action and the line still can be shaky at times. Not to mention that the o-line, running backs, and linebackers are all looking a bit thin. A rest could be good, especially against the Lions who will need a win and have proved to be a dirty team who plays beyond the whistle.
Then again, it's your most bitter rival on Christmas and an up and coming rival on New Years. It's history and something beyond winning a championship. I'm convinced that MM is a humble guy as far as NFL coaches are concerned, but he still has a healthy ego, knows history, and is generally aggressive as a coach and play caller. It'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.....