Keys to Packers' success's Doug Ritchay offers his take on why the Packers have gone from 8-8 to 11-2 with a chance to be the winningest team in Packers history.

The Green Bay Packers have a storied history, we all know that, but this year's team has a chance to do something no other team wearing green and gold has done - win 14 regular-season games.

Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr never won 14 games and so far Brett Favre hasn't, but if the Packers win out - beating St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit - the 2007 team will make team history.

Coach Mike McCarthy was asked about the possibility of 14 wins.

"It's something I haven't thought about it," he said. "Any time you say the first time in Packers history, that means a lot. I think those are the types of things, when the season is completed, that you look back on and appreciate. That would be an excellent accomplishment."

Go back to last December and this is when the Packers started their current run. In McCarthy's first season last year, the Packers opened 4-8 and there were whispers if McCarthy and his staff were right for Green Bay. But a late run last season flowed into this season and the Packers have been cruising.

What's more impressive about this is the Packers hardly changed in personnel from 2006 to 2007. The draft hasn't given the Packers any huge boost, outside of a quick start by third-round pick James Jones at wide receiver.

Also, free agency was a basic wash, with Frank Walker being the most notable addition.

So what's happened between 2006 and 2007?

Favre has improved dramatically. Last year, his passer rating was 72.7 and he threw 18 TD passes and 18 interceptions. This year, Favre's rating is 98.7 (his best since 1995) and he has 24 TDs and 11 interceptions.

Also, running back Ryan Grant, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Giants that was greeted with a yawn, has awaken a dormant running game. He has given the Packers a better running game than 2006. The once unknown back is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and has 744 yards. He has a chance to rush for 1,000 yards after not becoming the starter until mid-season.

Then the defense, which struggled through 12 games last year, has become solid. Is it the NFL's best? No. But with cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson, and pass rusher Aaron Kampman, this unit doesn't get exposed too often.

And, finally, the most underrated part is McCarthy. Last season, he was a first-year coach, learning what it's like to be a head coach in the NFL. No question he was learning on the run, being the first time he was leading an NFL team. Last year's experience has helped him this season. McCarthy has always believed in this team, and he better, he's the coach. But he was asked this week if this season is a matter of basically the same team from last year just learning how to win.

"I think it's like anything, when you don't accomplish something you have to learn how to accomplish it," McCarthy said. "So to answer your question, I would say yes. Any time you're not winning and you start winning there is a transformation that occurs."

The Packers are 15-2 in their last 17 games, which is remarkable when you consider from 2005 to December 2006, this team's record was 8-20. What is more remarkable is this team is likely the NFL's fourth-best team.

New England is on its way to a probable 16-0 season, while Dallas may go 15-1 and Indianapolis could match Green Bay's 14-2 mark. In a era where parity usually rules, the Packers are part of a dominant four-team posse which have separated themselves from the rest of the NFL.

Any time a team goes 14-2, you would expect it to win or at least reach the Super Bowl. But this year is different. This Packers team may not reach the Super Bowl.

Is it possible a super regular season will be forgotten if the Packers don't win the NFC title? It shouldn't be. Winning 14 games in any regular season is a great achievement, and this team has been one of the NFL's great stories this season. But we know this, when a team has this type of success, you can't help bit think of the Super Bowl. And who wants to count out a 14-win team? Not me.

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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