Commentary: Why not the Packers?

Christmas is the season of hope, and some bad fortune in Philadelphia and Friday's scintillating comeback at Minnesota have given Packers fans a healthy dose of hope for a happy new year and a happy start to February, as well.

These Packers are a lot like the school flirt, however. Just when you are ready to embrace them, they're off doing their own thing. For the flirt, it was to ditch me to find a guy who actually looked good. For the Packers, it's to lay enough rotten eggs at Lambeau Field to make ol' Vince turn his grave if only to have his nose pointing the other direction.

Even my wise mother, her eyesight ravaged by her heinous MS, told me she realized the Packers weren't going anywhere this season.

Anywhere, as any Packers fan will tell you, is Jacksonville for the Super Bowl.

A severe ankle injury to Eagles receiver Terrell Owens, however, has opened the door for the Packers and practically every other NFC team to stagger through. The NFC is so bad that a bunch of 5-9 teams entered last weekend's games in the playoff hunt.

Enough has been written and said about the NFC that I won't belabor the point. Plenty has been written and said about the Packers, and that's a point worth belaboring.

The Packers' defense can't stop anybody. The Packers' kick coverage teams can't stop anybody. The Packers force turnovers about as often as President Bush admits a mistake.

Yet here we are, in this hap, hap, happiest time of the year, with a glimmer of hope. The Packers have more flaws than a $10 diamond, but making a run to the Super Bowl remains a possibility given the flaws of the competition.

Top-seeded Philadelphia remains the team to beat with a defense that gives up everything but points, Donovan McNabb at quarterback and Brian Westbrook at running back. But without the superhuman Owens, the challenge of stopping their offense is a lot less daunting.

Second-seeded Atlanta may be the worst 10-3 team in league history. The Packers' defense can't stop the opponents' passing game but Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has the accuracy of a kindergartner's spitball shooter. If the Falcons install the single-wing offense, with Vick running left and Vick running right, a Packers defense that treats tackling as if it's optional would be in deep trouble. Meanwhile, in the juciest of subplots, deposed defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is running the defensive show in Atlanta.

The Packers are locked into the third seed, and the other three playoff spots are up for grabs. There isn't a team in the bunch you wouldn't pick the Packers to whoop up on Lambeau, but then again there's not a team in the bunch that would surprise if you they whooped up on the Packers instead.

If coach Mike Sherman has committed one unpardonable sin, it's that he has let the Lambeau Field mystique disappear like those Christmas cookies sitting on my counter. During the Mike Holmgren mini-Glory Years, the Packers won 25 straight at Lambeau. The famed Frozen Tundra was a house of horrors for the opposition, no matter the weather.

That's all changed the past few seasons under Sherman. The Packers finished 4-4 at home this season. Not even the brutal weather matters anymore, as the Detroit Domers and Jacksonville Floridians proved in back-to-back weeks earlier this month. The Packers have lost one Lambeau Field playoff game in franchise history, and that was under Sherman. Brett Favre has lost only two games with temperatures of 35 or below at kickoff, and those came under Sherman.

Huber writes for and is a columnist for The Green Bay News-Chronicle. Contact him via e-mail at

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