The Packers have beat three teams with a combined record of 3-19. They have come close against the Saints and Rams and have, quite frankly, stunk versus the Bears and Eagles. All four of those teams put together are 20-9. It is fitting that the Packers are somewhere in the middle. That seems about right.
Green Bay still has nine games to go and by careful analysis of the remaining opponents, it is not out of bounds to conclude that they could end this season with a decent record. In addition to that, the playoffs, while a long shot, are not out of bounds. The Packers control their own destiny. Follow my logic here if you will.
Game Eight (at Buffalo): The Bills started 2-2 and made some folks think this was their year to contend, but three straight losses, including one to the Lions, have them crashing back to earth. Packer fans should not take them lightly though, three of their five losses were to the Patriots (twice) and the Bears. They have beaten the Vikings (quality win) and Dolphins and their other loss was to the Jets. They are an enigma at this moment, but the Pack has to beat them to be taken seriously.
Game Nine (at Minnesota): The Vikings are in contention this year. Their record is 4-2 (they play tonight against the Patriots on MNF). They have beaten the Panthers and Seahawks for two quality wins. They took it to the Redskins and Lions and lost to the Bears and Bills. They are winning ugly and are truly fortunate to be where they are. Yet, Coach Childress has apparently exorcized the demons that plagued them dating back to the Dennis Green era and they are playing smarter and harder and it will be tough for the Packers to win on the road. But they will have to win to challenge. Assuming the Vikes lose to New England, they will only be one game up on the Packers and this game could be the early difference. The Vikings basically play the same schedule as the Packers the rest of the year, with winnable games against the Niners, Dolphins, Cardinals and Lions. They have some tough games against the Bears, Jets and Rams. The two games versus the Packers could be the difference between second place and a possible Wild Card berth.
Game 10 (New England): I give the Packers no chance to win this one unless Tom Brady gets injured between now and then, though, Green Bay will still be an underdog.
Game 11 (at Seattle ): The Seahawks are a better team but are battling injuries. This game could come down to the Packers upsetting a wounded Seattle team. At best the Packers are a long shot on the road.
Game 12 (Jets): The Jets are everyone's sleeper team. They are 4-4 and have exceeded expectations. They have beaten the teams they should (Titans, Bills, Dolphins and Lions) and lost to Patriots, Colts, Jaguars and Browns. Only the Browns loss is a surprise. They are a glamour team being in New York, but based upon their record and performance so far this year; it is not a stretch to say the Packers should win this one at home.
Game 13 (At San Fran): The Niners are still not very good. They beat the Rams and Raiders. Their losses are to the Cardinals (ouch) Eagles, Chiefs, Chargers and Bears. They have a quality win over the Rams, but it is a shame to lose to the Cardinals. All the other games turned out as expected although they have been pounded a few times. This is one the Packer have to win and should win.
Game 14 (Detroit): There is no reason to think the Lions will come to Lambeau and upset the Packers. If they do, it would be embarrassing.
Game 15 (Minnesota): In what could be Brett Favre's last home game, the Packers will be battling the Vikings to finish the season as winners. They will need to rise to the occasion and pull this one out. A wild card spot could be in the mix.
Game 16 (at Chicago): Imagine this scenario. The Packers are 8-7 and the Bears are battling for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the Packers lose, they go home and Favre retires (possibly). If they cannot rise to the occasion based upon those circumstances, then they deserve to head home as losers.
The Seahawks and Rams are battling in the West and the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys are in contention out East. Down South, the Panthers, Falcons and Saints are fighting it out for supremacy. The Bears are running away with it in the North. The odds of making the playoffs with an 8-8 or 9-7 record are slim, but the Packers need to play and act like they have a chance. I said this last week, but it bears repeating, the Packers should win seven games - at least. Anything less than that would be a disappointment.
The schedule is favorable and they have made the best of the situation. The offense is jelling; Favre is managing the game and not committing turnovers. The running game came together against the Cardinals. The offensive line played well and the defense is making plays. The coaching staff is calling the game to the talent they have, not to the talent they wish they had.
I do not want to be a homer, but the Packers have exceeded expectations so far. Part of this is the opposition, but they have played within themselves this year. They are what they are and make no excuses about it. They are young and raw and need to get better at many positions, but that youth and inexperience is a good thing – they do not know what they do not know. If they beat the teams they should beat, this may turn out to be a good year. It definitely will be a better year than expected.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at email@example.com.