Submitted by Wayne Allyn Root on Friday, November 20, 2015 at 10:46 AM
Wayne Root: Will Green Bay's Demise Launch a Shocking NFC Winner?
The Green Bay Packers are suddenly staring a lost season right in the face. They enter this Sunday's game on the road against the Minnesota Vikings as the second place team in the NFC North. If they lose...that puts them in very tough shape to win the division. Aaron Rodgers was supposedly leading his team to a #1 seed and home field advantage through the NFC brackets just a few weeks ago. Are we now looking at a Wildcard team that has to sweep January road games?
WAYNE ALLYN ROOT isn't ready to go that far just yet. But, I'm not ruling out the possibility that Green Bay was just an illusion in the first half of the season.
*They had a fairly easy schedule
*Beating Seattle didn't mean what people thought it did at the time
*Aaron Rodgers has always been able to bully bad teams, but has a tendency to become mistake-prone against top opposition.
What's happened the past few weeks? Green Bay lost on the road to then-undefeated Denver...then lost on the road at still undefeated Carolina. Those two losses were par for the course in the minds of some Rodgers critics. But, last week's loss at home to Detroit as a double-digit favorite was a new animal. How could THAT happen?
A few reasons...
*Detroit was off a bye while Green Bay was exhausted
*Detroit's players were rejuvenated by some front office firings
*There's some behind-the-scenes turmoil in Green Bay that's yet to come into the spotlight
That last point is my read from player body language during the game. They sure didn't look like a group that still believed in each other. They were starting to look around for somebody to blame! Funny that NFL media is looking to blame Rodgers' celebrity girlfriend Olivia Munn. Give me a break! Was she getting the credit when they were undefeated? If NFL writers had to make a living as sports bettors, they'd be broke within a month.
I do think Green Bay has lost some confidence...and they probably weren't as great as everyone was thinking. Oddsmakers had them as the New England of the NFC when that may have been overly optimistic. This creates the possibility for a wild January in the NFC playoffs. And, it really does open the door for a shocking entry in the Super Bowl.
*CAROLINA was only supposed to be an 8-win team according to the Preseason Win Projections out here in Las Vegas. They're already a 9-win team nine games into the season! The Panthers aren't as good as their record. But, they do have a great defense and an experienced quarterback. That's going to matter in January.
*ARIZONA was also supposed to win around 8-9 games according to the marketplace this past summer. Though some respected names were picking them to upset Seattle and win the NFC West. We also have a solid defense and a veteran quarterback here. Should they link a win this week over Cincinnati to last week's road win in Seattle...we have a very serious Super Bowl contender in the desert.
*MINNESOTA was just a bit below the Panthers and Cardinals in projected victories. They're already at 7-2 right now as they try to top the market estimate of 7.5 victories. I'm less enthused about Teddy Bridgewater as a quarterback who's ready to win playoff games. But...this surely is a team well-built to win outdoors in January.
*THE NFC EAST CHAMPION will ultimately either be a team with a strong defense (Philadelphia) or a team with a veteran quarterback (NY Giants or Dallas). I don't expect Washington to thrive down the stretch and win the spot. I wouldn't put this entry in the same class as the three above because nobody has a quality veteran quarterback AND a top notch defense. But, we all know what the Giants are capable of doing when they peak at the right time.
For now...Seattle is off the radar because they've lost home games to Carolina and Arizona, and a road game to Green Bay. The swagger just isn't there. Where do the Packers fit? I don't want to delve too deeply into my answer because it would tip off a possible selection this Sunday in that Green Bay/Minnesota game. You'll be able to deduce what I think about their Super Bowl hopes from my pick! If you see a major release from me in that game Sunday...it answers the question.
If you're trying to handicap the game as a do-it-yourselfer, I'd suggest focusing on how the Minnesota defense will (or won't) pressure Rodgers as he tries to end the three-game losing streak. A frustrated Rodgers will lose. A resurgent Rodgers might not lose again this season.
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