If the Green Bay Packers come full circle in a sense this season, they will find themselves hoisting their fifth Lombardi Trophy.
It was 20 years ago this training camp when the Packers were preparing for a Super Bowl season, eventually claiming their first title in 29 years and third Super Bowl overall. Including that season, the Packers have since put together a string of sustained success in the NFC really unmatched in many ways.
It starts at the most basic and important level – wins. The Packers are No. 1 in the conference dating to 1996 with 206 regular-season wins. The Philadelphia Eagles are a distant second at 176.
The Packers also have played in the most playoff games (28) and have the most playoff wins (15).
One of the Packers’ first goals at the beginning of each season is to win their division. They have done that 10 times over the last 20 years, best among all NFC teams. The next closest pursuer in their own division is the Minnesota Vikings, who have won the Central/North just five times over the same span.
It was the Vikings, of course, who put a chink in the Packers’ NFC armor last season when they won the North, ending the Packers run of four consecutive division crowns. The Vikings’ 20-13 victory at Lambeau Field on Jan. 3 marked the first time the Packers had lost a division championship game at home in the regular-season finale. In the previous two seasons, they closed out the division with wins against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau and the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
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Luckily for the 2015 Packers, they still earned a spot in the playoffs, which, remarkably, they have missed out on only five times dating to 1993. The postseason, however, is where the Packers supremacy in the NFC over the past two decades starts to level out.
Despite leading in postseason appearances, games played and wins, the Packers are just seventh in the conference in win percentage at .536.
The New York Giants at .625 are first (16 games), followed by the St. Louis Rams at .600 (10 games), New Orleans Saints at .583 (12 games), Seattle Seahawks at .571 (21 games), Carolina Panthers at .563 (16 games) and Arizona Cardinals at .545 (11 games).
With five NFC Championship appearances, the Packers are tied with the Eagles. The Packers have won three of those games (1996, 1997, 2010) while losing to the Giants (2007) and Seahawks (2014), who are a perfect 3-0 in NFC Championship games since 1996.
But in Titletown, Super Bowl championships are the ultimate goal. After the glory in New Orleans came the sting in San Diego, a loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. The Packers would not make their next appearance in a Super Bowl until beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. The Giants, despite having 40 fewer regular-season wins than the Packers over the past 20 years, also have two Super Bowl wins. They won as a wild-card team in 2007 and then as a 9-7 NFC East Division winner in 2011.
The Packers, of course, beat the New England Patriots 20 years ago in the Super Bowl to cap off one of the all-around dominant seasons in franchise history. The loss for the Patriots did little to harm them from becoming the most dominant team in the entire league. Their resume since 1996 includes 225 regular-season wins, 25 playoff wins (.676 winning percentage), 11 conference championships, seven Super Bowl appearances and four Super Bowl wins.
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org