How good are the Packers?

The Green Bay Packers swing back into action Monday night against the Denver Broncos, the first of six games, including four on the road, that will give fans an indication of how good the Packers are, says's Dylan Tomlinson.

The first six games are done and it's safe to say the Green Bay Packers have surpassed the expectations of even the most optimistic fans.

The Packers haven't always looked pretty en route to their surprising 5-1 record, but truth be told, they're a lot closer to 6-0 than anyone is willing to admit.

Given their stellar start to the season, there is no doubt in my mind the Packers are headed for the playoffs.

But the next six games are going to give us an indication of whether the Packers will be able to do anything in the playoffs once they get there.

The Packers hardly had a cakewalk of a schedule to open the season. Four of their first six games came against teams that made the playoffs a year ago. The other two games came against a much-improved Washington Redskins team and the Minnesota Vikings, who are always dangerous when they're at home playing in that crappy dome.

But the schedule over the next six games is nothing short of brutal and the realistic Packers fan should be happy if they're able to play to a 3-3 split during those games.

Monday night they're at Denver and while the Broncos are nowhere close to as good as people thought they'd be at the beginning of the season, they're typically tough at home. It also will probably be the only time this season that a team covers Donald Driver in one-on-one coverage and won't pay dearly for it. Driver is a great player, one who seems to get better as he ages, but c'mon, Champ Bailey is headed for Canton and even if he's not 100 percent, he should be able to shut down Driver.

The schedule-makers didn't do the Packers any favors with their trip to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Arrowhead is one of the toughest places in the NFL to play under the best of circumstances, but the Packers have to go there as the second of back-to-back road games, and playing on the short week. The Chiefs may not exactly be one of the AFC's best teams, but they'll have a lot playing to their advantage next weekend.

The Packers then return home for a pair of games that they absolutely should and will win. Even with the emergence of Adrian Peterson, Green Bay should handle the Vikings and the following week they should make quick work of Vinny Testaverde and the Carolina Panthers.

Anyone who is already penciling in a win for the Packers over the Lions on Thanksgiving hasn't been paying attention to the past or the present. While both teams will be playing on the short week, the Lions will be at a colossal advantage as the home team. Heck, it was only four years ago when a playoff-bound Packers team went to Ford Field and was absolutely embarrassed by a bad Lions team. Detroit is nobody's doormat anymore and that's going to be a tough win for the Pack.

The last of this six-game stretch is easily the best of the bunch and as far as I'm concerned should be the most interesting matchup of the season for the Packers. For my money, the Dallas Cowboys are the best team in the NFC and the Packers are probably the second-best. But this game reeks of the 2004 trip to Philadelphia where the Packers, who were in the middle of a six-game winning streak, got absolutely spanked by an Eagles team that later went to the Super Bowl. I hardly think it would surprise too many people if the same happened on the Thursday night trip to Dallas.

Based on what has happened already this season, the Packers should make the playoffs. In six weeks, we'll know if they're actually Super Bowl contenders.

Dylan Tomlinson is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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