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Packers hitting stride at right time, seeing potential for playoffs

December 11, 2009

After an up and down first half of the season and two consecutive losses to the division-leading Minnesota Vikings and last place NFC team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Packers sat at 4-4 and far from the playoff conversation. Four weeks and four wins later, the Packers sit at 8-4 and hold the sixth spot in the NFC playoffs.

The Packers are quietly putting together a successful season with the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints getting the most media attention, as they are still undefeated this late in the season. The 40-year-old Favre-led Minnesota Vikings are getting media attention as well, as they are 10-2 with the third-best record in the NFL.

Signs are pointing to the Packers being one of the more dangerous teams when the playoffs roll around. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is having a Pro Bowl season, and could even be considered in the MVP discussion. He has the fourth-best passer rating and ranks in the top five in passing yards, touchdowns, and interceptions given up among quarterbacks with at least 200 passing attempts. The Packers rushing offense ranks 13th of the 32 NFL teams, but running back Ryan Grant ranks 8th in rushing yards, 18th in touchdowns, and hasn’t fumbled the ball once this year. On the other side of the ball, the Packers rank first in total defense, giving up the least amount of yards and ranking eighth in points given up. Add that up with having the best turnover ratio (plus 18) gives the Packers and their defense a lot of credibility should they take one of the two wild-card spots in the playoffs.

Now, before we hand the Packers a wildcard spot, keep in mind there are four weeks left in the season and anything can happen. The Packers are a heavily-penalized team, and the nation saw it last Monday against the Baltimore Ravens. Also, the Packers only hold a one-game lead over the New York Giants and two games over the Atlanta Falcons. It is possible to lose two, three, or even all four and lose one of the wild-card spots.

However, the Packers have a manageable rest of the season as they go on the road the next two weeks to face the struggling Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Packers will host the Seattle Seahawks in week 16 and will go on the road to close out the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals. The way the Packers are peaking right now, a reasonable prediction is that they could win three of their last four games. This could result in a possible scenario for Packer and Viking fans to have the teams play each other for the third time this season in the playoffs. In 2004, the Packers swept the Vikings in the regular season and the Vikings got revenge in the wild-card round of the playoffs, knocking the Packers out of the playoffs. Could it be vice versa this year? It should be a fun and exciting last four weeks of the 2009 NFL season.

Derek Johnson is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.