Coming off their bye week, the Green Bay Packers own the longest active winning streak in the NFC, and are tied for the longest winning streak in the NFL. And they managed that with at least seven starters injured or out. All teams above the Packers in the NFC standings lost or tied, including the Chicago Bears, putting the Packers one game back.
The Packers remaining schedule includes 5 games against NFC North opponents, the NY Giants and the Tennessee Titans. The Chicago Bears, currently one game ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North, play at SF next Monday night, then play Minnesota twice, the Seattle Seahawks and then the Packers.
If the Bears lose in SF next Monday and the Packers take care of business at Detroit, the Packers will take the lead in the NFC North (by virtue of a tie breaking win over da Bears).
These facts and the following stats lead me to the conclusion: the path to the Super Bowl must go through Green Bay. Several stats jump out:
- The Packers played without at least seven starters during their win streak. And still won. Wide receivers Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and Greg Jennings (abdomen), fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) and running back Cedric Benson (sprained foot) were among the offensive starters who missed games during the Packers winning streak. Offensive lineman Brian Belaga is now out for the season as well. Nelson and Kuhn practiced this week.
- On the defense, safety Charles Woodson (broken collarbone), cornerback Sam Shields (ankle) and linebackers Nick Perry (knee), D.J. Smith (knee) and Desmond Bishop (hamstring) also were out. B.J. Raji also missed time, but came back for the game before the bye. Shields practiced this week. Clay Matthews hamstring injury is concerning, but the backup linebackers did well in his absence. Resting him an extra game would help toward the end of the season.
- Aaron Rodgers has threw 18 TD passes over a five game span during the streak, the most in franchise history by a Packers QB over a five-game span in a season. The previous high was 17 by Rodgers in 2011 (twice).
- Rodgers threw two touchdown passes in the Packers’ 24-15 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week eight, giving him 21 in eight games. Last season, he had 24 at the midway mark. No other quarterback in league history has had back-to-back seasons with 20-plus touchdown passes through the first eight games.
The Pack has a shot at the Super Bowl every season Rodgers plays.
No other team in the NFC is positioned as the Packers are. The Atlanta Falcons were defeated by the New Orleans Saints, and play the Saints one more time.
The Packers would most likely have to win out to have a chance at catching the Falcons (let’s throw one more curse at the replacement refs for the Seattle loss), but control their own fate as far as winning the NFC North and getting a higher seeding.
Based on their performance the last two years, we “hope” they do not get a bye week in the playoffs; the Packers (and other teams in the past) has proven it plays better without sitting out a bye (which usually includes resting starters during the last game of the season).
Go Pack Go!