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Parallels to '96 good news for Pack

The Packers' two-game losing "streak" may have a silver lining after all. The last time the Packers got off to an 8-1 start, then hit a two-game road skid and faced a winnable five-game December schedule, there was a Lombardi Trophy at the end of the road.<p>

In '96 the Pack was 8-1, with that opening run including an overtime win at Lambeau and ending with a win over the Lions at home, just like this year.

A nasty road swing to Kansas City and Dallas set the Packers' back to 8-3 – also just like this year – and saw them briefly surrender their sole claim to home field advantage. Another similarity is a Dec. 1 matchup with the Bears, a team which in '96 was already out of the running but would have loved nothing more than to play spoiler for the rival Pack. Sound familiar?

Six years ago, an interception by Doug Evans in St. Louis turned the losing streak and the season around.

Another similairty: In 1996, the Packers had a double-digit sack leader in Reggie White, while this year, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila has already reached that milestone.

Injury also affected the offensive line in 1996, which Aaron Taylor missing part of the season after his second reconstructive knee surgery. Robert Brooks suffered a massive knee injury in mid-October and was lost for the year. The injury comparisons don't go far enough, however, to match this year's unbelievable string of bad luck.

Even in '96, the Packers had to wait until Dec. 8 to clinch the Central. They did so at home, with a win over the Denver Broncos. This year, it is likely that the Pack will celebrate the first-ever NFC North crown at Lambeau, as their next win will seal the deal.

In either of the last two weeks, a win would have clinched it. Have the Packers backed themselves into a corner in losing those two NFC clashes? Safety Darren Sharper says no.

"No, we don't think so," Sharper said. "We win these next five games, we put ourselves in excellent position. I don't know if these guys are going to win-out with the games they have remaining, so it wouldn't surprise me if we still go 13-3 or win each game from here on out, you might see teams have to come through Lambeau."

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