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Cheese Curds, 1/22: End to Packers’ 2023 hurts, but it showed they’re contenders again

Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but it it certainly appears that the Packers are set up for long-term success.

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NFC Divisional Playoffs - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

In the NFL, nothing is ever truly guaranteed. Teams that should be impressive sputter out and and fail, whether due to injury or simply poor play or coaching. Even a lot of “guaranteed” money in players’ contracts can vanish — just ask Russell Wilson.

But the process in Green Bay largely looks sound, as the Packers achieved far more in Jordan Love’s first season as a starting quarterback than expected. Love’s play and the rapid development of a young offense should have Packers fans excited and thrilled for the direction this team is heading.

At the same time, having multiple opportunities to clinch an upset of a #1 playoff seed on the road don’t come around every day. That’s what makes the Packers’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday night so frustrating and disappointing: they had every chance to finally beat that team again in the postseason, but they did not pull it off.

Again — even though the arrow is pointing up, there’s no guarantee they’ll have that opportunity again. Look at the 2022 New York Giants as a cautionary tale: behind a hot young quarterback, that team came up with a surprising Wild Card upset in Minnesota then lost a close road game against last year’s top seed. In 2023, the team fell apart, with injuries and issues galore, and finished just 6-11.

Then again, for a more optimistic look, one can stay in the NFC North and check out the Detroit Lions for an example of a team cashing in on high expectations. Last season ended on a high for the Lions after knocking the Packers out of the playoffs in week 18, and now they are in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers.

The missed opportunities will hurt. They hurt in Aaron Rodgers’ first playoff game back in 2009 as well. And they have hurt in so many tough playoff losses over the last 15 years, largely because you can never truly know when the next chance will arrive. But at least this team is set up to have plenty more of them in the near future.

Packers’ future is bright, but divisional round playoff loss to 49ers will sting - The Athletic ($)
This headline pretty much sums it all up. There's plenty to be excited for in 2024 and beyond, but chances like Saturday's aren't guaranteed and that makes falling short that much more painful.

Key to the game: Missed opportunities add up in loss to 49ers | Packers.com
To make matters worse, the Packers had plenty of chances to expand their lead or seemingly clinch a victory, and they just didn't take advantage of them.

Packers establish massive jumping off point heading into 2024 and beyond | Packers Wire
Simply by making this postseason run, the franchise showed that it's back as a legitimate contender after one off year.

Packers' Jordan Love had an 'outstanding season' despite end - ESPN
Obviously, the biggest reason they will be contenders moving forward is their quarterback, who will surely get a new contract this offseason. The last play of the season was a gut punch, but he's just 24 and that late interception will undoubtedly be a play he learns from moving forward.

Aaron Jones’ Domination Shows Why Packers Must Draft Running Back - Sports Illustrated
Jones probably ends up coming back next season on a modified deal once again, but the Packers need to find a dynamic talent for when he does finally depart.

NFL Championship Weekend schedule finalized | NFL.com
Here's the schedule for next Sunday, with Chiefs-Ravens early and Lions-49ers late.

Thieves Cut Down Radio Broadcast Tower In Southeastern Oklahoma To Steal $100 Worth of Copper | News on 6
The damage caused by the downed tower was estimated at over half a million dollars. But the radio station in question broadcasts country music, and you can decide for yourself if it was a net negative or positive.