Green Bay Packers heal up and cheer on: Wild Card Weekend
By Jamie Wright
Green Bay Packers fans witnessed as the Wild Card round of the 2014 playoffs kicked off today with the Carolina Panthers hosting and defeating the Arizona Cardinals.
If the Detroit Lions DO beat Dallas tomorrow night, they will be traveling to Seattle to play the Seahawks and the “12th Man” at CenturyLink Field.
While all eyes were on the Saturday night showdown between the Steelers and Ravens, the Green Bay Packers will have a vested interest in the outcome of this earlier bout.
Next Sunday, the #2 seeded Packers will take on the highest seed remaining from the Wild Card round – namely, the #3 Dallas Cowboys, or the Panthers [if the #6 Detroit Lions manage to walk into Dallas and pull out an unexpected win at Jerry World].
Can Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford lead his team over the Dallas Cowboys? Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports photograph
If the Detroit Lions DO beat Dallas tomorrow night, they will be traveling to Seattle to play the Seahawks and the “12th Man” at CenturyLink Field. The Panthers would then get a one-way ticket to Lambeau for the divisional round next week. There is no way that the Lions will be an opponent for the Packers, unless they meet in the Championship game.
The question is: which team has the best chance to beat the formidable Seattle Seahawks, at home? The only chance the Packers have of securing home field advantage through the remainder of the playoffs, would be to have a little help by the way of a Seattle stunner. Do the Packers NEED home field advantage to plunge deep into the playoffs? Normally, I would say no – however, I am inclined to rescind my original argument for a couple of reasons:
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12). Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Aaron Rodgers is far from 100 percent. A lingering calf injury has him hampered and his pocket mobility is going to suffer. The Packers offense has been mildly pedestrian on the road this year – falling to Seattle, Detroit, New Orleans and Buffalo. The Packers were able to battle with an injured Rodgers against Detroit at home, clinching the NFC North and a first round bye with that win; however, it was a HOME win and the Packers never fell behind to Detroit in that game, though there were moments of tension throughout. If Rodgers is not completely healthy and the playbook is going to be altered – the offense is going to need the mental toughness that comes from home field advantage. Rodgers will need the support of the fans and his coaches and teammates in his natural environment, to really get things going early, especially against an offensive juggernaut like Dallas.
Can the Packers go INTO Seattle and challenge the defending champs … in an unforgiving environment that has hampered the Packers since 2012? That is the question that many would prefer NOT to have to answer. If the Wild Card winner can send the Seahawks packing prematurely, the Packers won’t have to answer it. It’ll be Lambeau until the end, and their chances are greatly increased. If the Seahawks control their game and get the win in the divisional round (presuming the Packers also win), the playoffs continue through CenturyLink. With a less-than-100 percent Rodgers, the Seahawks will smell the blood in the water. It will be a mental and physical test for the Packers – a challenge that seems most daunting.
So where do the Packers and Packers Nation put their allegiance this Wild Card weekend?
It’s difficult to imagine cheering for the Detroit Lions – especially after the heated Suh debate of the past week (and the seasons past).
Ndamukong Suh. Raymond T. Rivard photograph
However, the truth lies in the fact that, of the 3 teams aforementioned, the Lions are the team best suited to match up with Seattle at home. If they can knock Dallas out of the playoffs tomorrow, that victory will be a two-fold success for the Packers: (1) it will have removed the only real threat to the Packers, in the Cowboys and (2) the Lions will have a fighting chance to knock out the Champs, at home.
It’s almost unfair to say it, and it will probably never happen again …
… but, maybe the suspension being overturned and the Lions’ getting healthy at the right time could be aligning the stars for the Packers to make a run at another Lombardi.
And I’ll cheer for that.