Coach Mike McCarthy preaches "real confidence."
"We've got a chance of winning the whole thing, I believe," said the cerebral and thoughtful Woodson, who's never been one to talk brashly. "Still got a long way to go. We're not there yet, but we have a chance. I know every team thinks that at this point of the season. Everybody feels like they have a chance, but I feel like we do."
That confidence is a byproduct of the Packers' first-half domination of three preseason games. At halftime of the three games, the Packers have outscored their foes 76-10. While Cleveland and Buffalo can easily be dismissed for being among the NFL's bottom-feeders, Arizona reached the Super Bowl last year.
While nobody went as far as Woodson in talking Super Bowl, there's a palpable feeling in the locker room that this team could be something special. The No. 1 offense hasn't punted and the No. 1 defense is producing turnovers like McDonald's produces hamburgers.
Sure, it's only the preseason, but ...
"Mike talks about ‘real confidence,' and I think the way we've communicated as a defense, I think the way the offense has been scoring points, I think the way fundamentally we're executing our defense, offense and special teams, yeah, there's definitely some real reason to be confident," linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "It could be very much indicative of a season that could be a special one."
Sure, it's only the preseason, and the ill-fated Ray Rhodes squad of 1999 went 4-0 in the preseason, but ...
"This is the best preseason I've ever played in my 11 years here," receiver Donald Driver said. "I'm excited about it. That tells you that we have a good team that's real confident with one another — offense, defense and special teams."
Sure, it's only the preseason, and the Detroit Lions went from 4-0 in the preseason to 0-16 in the regular season, but ...
"Film is film," running back Ryan Grant said. "You don't pinch yourself. There's always things you can clean up. You're never as good as you think. We feel confident. It's not a false confidence. There's definitely something behind it because we have executed. We feel like we're on track to start fast."
Sure, it's only the preseason, and the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks went a combined 6-2 in the preseason and 9-23 in the regular season last year, but ...
"We haven't even peaked yet," Finley said. "We've got many more plays to come and many more W's to come."
At the same time, that "real confidence" is tempered by the understanding that this is, indeed, only the preseason. The Indianapolis Colts are one of the NFL's model franchises. They've won a total of five preseason games over the last five years. Of last year's 12 playoff teams, only four had a winning preseason record.
"Yeah, I think we're all excited with what we've done so far," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "Obviously, we feel like it's for real, but it's up to us to prove it. Come out and take another good step this week, and then starting off with the Bears game, keep this thing going. Because if not, then it doesn't really mean too much if we come out and don't get these turnovers and hold a couple of teams scoreless in the first half. If we don't do that in the regular season, this doesn't mean anything."
McCarthy likes what he sees, from the play of Aaron Rodgers to the development of the offensive line to the coverage of the special teams to the ridiculous plus-10 turnover ratio. But it's his job to be cautious.
"This is the best that we have played in the preseason; I think that's obvious and I told them that today in the team meeting," McCarthy said. "But it's like anything: We're not interested in being preseason champions. We're getting ready to play for the regular season. We're entering into the fourth quarter of the preseason with this Tennessee week. We've just got to keep fighting to improve. We have set a standard of play, a lot of positive things that we can build on, but there is still things we need to work on. Our mental errors are still too high as a football team. I thought the pre-snap penalties the last two weeks have been very good. We're just going to stay after the key things and make sure we carry this over to the regular season."
That's easier said than done. Four teams in the NFC finished with a winning preseason record last year. Not one of them made the playoffs. Those facts, however, don't change the facts of what the Packers are doing in the preseason. That domination leaves even a wise old veteran like Woodson believing that sparkling chunk of rock isn't fool's gold.
"I don't think so," Woodson said when asked if he's ever been this excited in the preseason. "I remember being in Oakland and Randy Moss coming, and I was feeling pretty excited about that move. With Dom (Capers) coming in and this new scheme, I don't think I've ever been more excited, more ready to get the season under way than this year."
After a 6-10 season, the reasons for optimism are obvious.
"The indications," Kampman said, "are that we're going to play at a high level this season."
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