The Packers are no ordinary 2-7 club. In fact, one could say that Green Bay is the best 2-7 team in NFL history as evidenced by the 201 points they have scored this year as opposed to the 184 they have given up. The Packers have experienced a lot of close losses. They have also suffered some devastating injuries to the likes of Javon Walker, Ahman Green and other key players. The Packers have also shown a consistent high effort work ethic as the season has progressed. It's obvious the team still believes it can win based on the upset win over the Atlanta Falcons last week. Believing is one thing. Making it happen is another.
For the Packers to win the NFC North, the team would most likely have to run the table the rest of the way. It's possible that one more loss would not be fatal as an 8-8 team could win the NFC North. Let's look at the Packers remaining schedule:
Green Bay at Philadelphia: It's looking more and more like Donovan McNabb's season will be over. No T.O. as well. The Pack could sneak out of Philly with a win.
Green Bay at Chicago
The Packers haven't lost at Soldier Field since 1993. A Packer win here REALLY puts pressure on Da Bears.
Detroit at Green Bay: The Lions haven't won in Green Bay since 1991. It's also a December game at Lambeau. The Pack should win.
Green Bay at Baltimore: The Ravens appear to have quit on Brian Billick. This is also a Monday night game so expect Favre's face to be on the horse trailer.
Chicago at Green Bay: This game could be for the division title (you will see why later). Favre is 21-5 lifetime against Chicago.
Seattle at Green Bay: The Seahawks are running away with the NFC West. The game may not mean much to them, but it will mean everything to the Pack.
Now I know I am taking an optimistic approach here. But let's now look at the Bears schedule:
Carolina at Chicago: The Panthers may be the best team in the NFC. I like their chances with their defensive front seven going at QB Kyle Orton.
Chicago at Tampa Bay: The Bucs defense will suffocate Orton just like the Panthers will.
Green Bay at Chicago: See Packer comments above.
Chicago at Pittsburgh: The Bears beleaguered offense gets ANOTHER tough defense!
Atlanta at Chicago: Atlanta is always dangerous, even in cold weather. Remember Packer fans?
Chicago at Green Bay- See Packer comments above. Chicago at Minnesota: This game might be for a playoff berth in the loud Metrodome. The Vikings always play well at home.
The Bears have a very, very tough stretch in front of them. They could definitely lose 5 out of their last seven games. That would make them 8-8. If the Packers can sweep the Bears, they could still win the division even if they lose another game. Other factors would have to fall right for the Pack as well. They obviously can not lose another divisional game. The Vikings and Lions would also each have to lose at least three out of their last seven games. Looking at their schedules, that is very conceivable. Plus, each team still have to play the Packers one more time. At Lambeau.
The Packers simply have to play each game like it's a playoff game. They have to play like there is no tomorrow. They have to continue to believe in themselves and put out maximum effort. If they do that, they will be in every game. The task ahead is very difficult. But it's not an impossible dream. Remember, the Packers were in similar circumstances in both 2003 and 2004. They looked out of the divisional race both years and finished strong to win the crown each season.
So, do I really think the Packers will win the NFC North in 2005? Well, it's not probable, but I do give the Pack a shot. But it's not what I think that matters. It's what the Packers do on the gridiron each week from here on out.
Bob Fox is a longtime Packers fan and freelance writer from the Tampa, Fla., area.