Friday, December 16, 2011

The Friday Double Pump: How Should the Packers Play This?


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William Faulkner once wrote: "All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible." Though Faulkner undoubtedly had no interest in the NFL, the esteemed author's words properly describe the challenge of going undefeated over the course of a full season. Aside from the 1972 Miami Dolphins, splendid failure has pretty much been the norm for even the greatest teams of the Superbowl Era. In short, the harder they've tried, the harder they've fallen.

The NFL's most heartbreaking version of a splendid failure would be the New England Patriots, who fell just three points short of the impossible dream in 2007. And, of course, the NFL's version of an old fashioned failure (without anything splendid whatsoever to define it) would be the Indianapolis Colts' much maligned decision to rest their starters with a 14-0 record in 2009. They lost their 15th game of the season, and what did it get them? A loss in the Superbowl to the Saints.

Good for them.

Now that the Green Bay Packers (currently 13-0 and looking invincible) are perched on the precipice of oh-so-splendid, there is debate about which path they should take over the NFL's final three weeks. Should they go for it? Or should they rest their star players to avoid possible injury?

When you think about it, there really is no option, unless Green Bay wants to go the cowardly route of the '09 Colts. But the Packers are not the Colts. They are the Packers, who play amongst the ghost of Vince Lombardi, on the frozen tundra of Green Bay. The Packers are old-school, unsissified and virile. They are the Packers who believe in the mantra: Winning isn't everything -- it's the ONLY THING! And, because they are the Packers, only one thing will happen in the final three weeks of the NFL season: They will strap themselves in for a wild ride, and proceed to play with the same reckless abandon that made them an undefeated juggernaut in the first place.

So forget the debate, this is a no-brainer.

If the Packers are who we think they are, they'll go full speed ahead this week in Kansas City (no doubt crushing the feckless Chiefs in the process), then return home for week 16 secure in the knowledge that they are just four home wins away from playing a Super Bowl for all the marbles. And by all the marbles I truly mean ALL THE MARBLES. I'm talking bronze statues, ceaseless endorsements and praise, and gold-plated membership cards with the word "perfection" embossed across the front.

(And let's not forget the asterisk that will forever haunt Don Shula's gang: *16-game season.)

If the Packers are who we think they are they'll tempt fate. They'll let Aaron Rogers continue to drop back and shred opposing secondaries (and yes, take the occasional hit), and roll on towards football's holy grail.

Fear is the only thing that can stop the Packers now. They are clearly the best team, and if they spend these next few weeks trying to figure out ways to be even better rather than figuring out ways to not get injured, their chances for perfection will be that much better off.

The Packers have the talent and they have the momentum. The only thing that remains to be seen is if they have the nerve.

If Clay Matthews words are any indication, the Packers have the nerve too -- at least for now.

"Players want to play, and we're all competitors here,'' Matthews said this week. "We play each and every Sunday to win ballgames. Obviously we've got to be smart, but we like winning. I like winning. I think we're going to try to win some ballgames around here."

That, football fans, should be music to your ears. Apparently, the Packers are willing to die trying.

Even if they die, they will have won our undying respect for doing so.