Experience Factor

Some of the starters are the same, but many of the players currently on the Green Bay Packers were in college and even high school when the Packers went to consecutive Super Bowls after the 1996 and 1997 seasons.<p>

Brett Favre, Antonio Freeman, William Henderson, Gilbert Brown, Tyrone Williams, Darren Sharper, LeRoy Butler, and Santana Dotson are the only holdovers who were starters on either the '96 or '97 teams, or both. Since then, only 15 players currently on Green Bay's roster who were part of the team in the mid-1990s are still with the Packers. The Packers have seen many from their championship team of '96 depart through free agency, replaced by more promising talent, or retire.

In fact, the Packers opened the playoffs last week against San Francisco with nine starters who had never played in an NFL postseason game.

When the Packers line up to face the St. Louis Rams this Sunday in St. Louis, many of the players will have some playoff experience under their belt, but not as much as when the Packers waltzed to the Big Dance in New Orleans and San Diego. While a lot of their younger players have big-game experience from playing in bowl games with major college teams, their talent still needs to be refined. That could be a drawback Sunday when the Packers try to upend the heavily-favored Rams, but will help down the road.

Beating San Francisco last Sunday was a step forward for Mike Sherman's relatively young team.

"Any type of experience is going to be a good experience," said Sherman about the playoffs. "They had a great experience in '96 and not so great in '97, but to get to that point, they had been to a number of playoff games, and I think that does help."

Under Mike Holmgren, the Packers played six playoff games before reaching the NFC Championship game on Jan. 14, 1996 against the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers lost that game, but went on to win Super Bowl XXXI the next year and advance to Super Bowl XXXII against Denver before losing.

Green Bay's veterans combined with superb performances by their younger players might be enough to upend the Rams, but St. Louis, which won the Super Bowl after the 1999 season, definitely has the edge when it comes to NFL experience, especially in the postseason.

"We've got some experienced guys," said Freeman. "When you start talking about talent, Keith Jackson, Reggie White, Sean Jones ... I don't think you can really compare. When you talk about each position, we've got that same makeup."

Green Bay is in the playoffs for the first time since 1998 while the Rams are making their third straight trip to the playoffs. The Rams definitely have a little more swagger than the Packers at this point. The odds are stacked against the Packers, but the Packers believe the Rams are beatable.

"I don't really think or care about what other people say about us or where we are or what they think we are going to do, that doesn't really matter," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "What really matters is what my team thinks. My team plans on going over there and playing a heck of a football game. They are really looking forward to the challenge. We have the up most respect for St. Louis, but at the same time they are looking forward to coming and playing a football game."

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