Playoffs? Hold off on the parade

PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay explains why it is way too early to think the Green Bay Packers are good enough for postseason.

The Green Bay Packers are riding a two-game winning streak, their longest such streak since the final two games of the 2004 regular season.

There's a chance the Packers can make it a hat trick when they travel to Buffalo (2-5) this weekend. A win gets the Packers to 4-4, and based on the NFC, they would have to be in the playoff talk because of the record.

But before Packers fans starting thinking postseason, think of this: The three teams the Packers have beaten have won a combined three games. They've beaten the stinkers of the NFL in Detroit, Miami and Arizona.

There's plenty of ways to look at this, but the bottom line is the Packers haven't proven anything yet. Until the Packers beat someone like New England, Minnesota, Chicago or Seattle, some teams left on the 2006 schedule, this team isn't a playoff-caliber outfit.

The Packers will have to prove at some point they can beat good teams, because the rest of the schedule has balance between good teams and bad. In Green Bay's first-half tests against playoff-caliber teams, they were smoked by Philadelphia and Chicago, and they lost to New Orleans and St. Louis, two games the Packers could've won.

There are signs the Packers can start beating good teams. Brett Favre is playing quarterback like Mike Sherman couldn't get him to play last season, when Favre threw more interceptions (29) than the Minnesota Vikings throw boat parties. Favre isn't making risky throws and enters Sunday with five interceptions, none in his last three outings.

Favre's reasoning: "When you fall behind to a certain point, you know you have to take some chances, and it's a little bit tougher to play within the system, at least for me it is. When we're in the game, leading, or with each play there's a chance we can win this game, I feel like I play the game differently.

"I don't want to say I play the game cautious, but maybe a little reluctant to take certain chances." He's playing within the offense and because of it the team is playing well since the bye.

The offensive line, after looking ugly early on, has come of life lately. Ahman Green has rushed for more than 100 yards in his last two games, while Vernand Morency topped 100 yards last week with Green. Meanwhile, cornerback Charles Woodson has interceptions in back-to-back games, and took one of the INTs to the end zone. Maybe he'll show his free-agent signing wasn't so bad, if he can stay healthy.

Also, Aaron Kampman is tied for the NFL lead in sacks with San Diego cheater Shawne Merriman, as each have 8 1/2 throwdowns. That makes up for Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who the Packers should put out an All Points Bulletin on as I haven't seen No. 94 all season. He's still on the team, right?

If the Packers keep playing at their recent level, maybe they can challenge .500. I'm not ready to proclaim playoffs, that's a reach.

Looking at the second half of the schedule, the Packers play Minnesota twice (split), New England (lose), the Jets (win), at Seattle (lose), at San Francisco (win), Detroit (win) and at Chicago (win or lose, based on if the Bears need the win for home-field advantage). That's 4-3, with the Bears game hanging in the balance.

Anyone who thought the Packers would finish 8-8 after the 0-2 start this season is a liar. They have rallied from a poor start, and some of the credit should go to McCarthy.

I'm not completely sold on McCarthy, as the season is just reaching the halfway point, but if the Packers beat Buffalo and enter the second half 4-4, maybe the Packers are showing 2007 could be a season of high expectations.

Anything more than 6 or 7 wins this season, is gravy. It would take the Packers out of the top 10 in the draft, meaning Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson will not wear green and gold next year, but with the way things are going, who cares?

The Packers have displayed improvement since coming off their bye, and now it's crucial they don't slip on a banana peel in Orchard Park, N.Y. If they do, everything they accomplished in the previous two weeks will mean nothing.


Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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