Apples to apples?

2007 measures up with 1997, but not 1996 Packers team, says PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay

The last two times the Green Bay Packers won 13 regular-season games, they went to the Super Bowl. That would be after the 1996 and 1997 seasons.

This year's team, which had a chance to set a franchise record with 14 regular-season wins, had to settle for 13. That's hardly anything to sniff at. If history tells us anything, the Packers should be headed for the Super Bowl during this postseason.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, I think it would be good to compare this year's team with the Super Bowl teams of the '90s.

This year's team scored 435 points and allowed 291, averaging 27.2 points per game, while giving up 18.2. The Packers' scoring margin was 144 points overall and they scored 49 touchdowns. In comparison, the 1997 team, which lost to Denver in Super Bowl XXXII, scored fewer points (422) and allowed fewer (282), but just barely. That year's team averaged 26.4 ppg and allowed 17.6 ppg, with a season-scoring margin of 140 points. Also, it scored 50 touchdowns.

The good news here is this year's team mirrors the 1997 team, which could mean a Super Bowl trip. The bad news, the 1997 team lost the Super Bowl.

The 1996 team, which is the best Packers team since the Lombardi years, scored 456 points, allowed 210, scored 56 touchdowns and had a scoring differential of 246 points. Each category the 1996 team was more impressive than this season's, although points scored wasn't a big difference. The 1996 team averaged 28.5 ppg and allowed 13.1 ppg.

What the numbers tell us is the 1996 team was superior to 1997 and 2007. Few would argue. Brett Favre was in his prime, winning MVPs and the team had a great mix of experience and up-and-coming youth. This season was projected by many after the Packers lost the NFC Championship Game the year before at Dallas.

Meanwhile, the 1997 team was expected to roll to another Super Bowl title, but the Packers couldn't stop Terrell Davis and lost, 31-24. The difference between 1996 and 1997? In 1997, the Packers were the hunted, while the year before they may have been the best team entering the season, but they weren't the defending Super Bowl champs.

Carrying the target of Super Bowl champs has a tendency to bring the best out of an opponent.

Also, in the Super Bowl, the Packers made some personnel decisions which haunted them, including keeping Darius Holland active. The lazy defensive tackle played poorly before leaving the game with an injury, and the defensive line played short the rest of the way.

As for 2007, the final chapter or chapters have not been written. Personnel-wise, the only player remaining from the Super Bowl seasons in the 90s is Favre, who is still one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. Still, he's not as good now as he was then.

And Favre's talent around him on both sides of the ball has never experienced playoff success, and in some cases, a playoff game. That doesn't mean the team can't win, it can. But the lack of experience is an unknown.

How about the coaching staff? Nothing against Mike McCarthy, he's been superb. Still, Mike Holmgren had more experience, including Super Bowl experience with San Francisco as an assistant. Also, his coaching staff was littered with future coaches, including Andy Reid. Coaching experience can sometimes play a role.

And one more thing is while the Packers were regarded as the best team during the 1996 and 1997 seasons they aren't in that spot this season. Undefeated New England is the team to beat, while Indianapolis and Dallas also won 13 games this year. This year's Packers team is one of four real good teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl, but when comparing 2007 to 1996, this team doesn't measure up. The Packers are not the team to beat entering the postseason, but what does that mean? Nothing, and maybe on Feb. 3 they'll add a final chapter to this season titles: "Super Bowl Champs."

It would be an unbelievable ending to an unbelievable season.

Doug Ritchay is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.


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