The Green Bay Packers are on the verge of doing something special. With three games remaining in the regular season, the Packers are on the verge of going 16-0, becoming only the third team in NFL history to go unbeaten in the regular season. Chasing perfection is always a dangerous goal, and I think it would be wise for head coach Mike McCarthy to remember what his team's ultimate goal is: to win the Super Bowl.
After a victory on Sunday, Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji spoke on behalf of McCarthy, saying that it is a goal of the team to finish the regular season 16-0. Everyone wants to be part of something special, and the prospects of joining only the '72 Dolphins as the only team to go unbeaten in an entire season are certainly enticing. But not at any cost. The Packers have just lost WR Greg Jennings for at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained knee. The Packers can ill afford to lose a player like Aaron Rodgers or Charles Woodson, especially if an injury were to occur during a meaningless game. The Packers can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win this weekend against Kansas City. If that happens, McCarthy will have to plan a strategy for resting players if need be, over the course of the final two weeks of the regular season.
Two years ago, I remember when Indianapolis Colts fans demonstrated their displeasure when Peyton Manning and company got rested with home field locked up, resulting in a blown opportunity for a perfect season. Colts head coach Jim Caldwell made the right move then, and Mike McCarthy can make the right move now. If the Packers win Sunday, he should begin resting players in order to allow themselves the best chance at attaining their ultimate goal: to win the Super Bowl.
All in the Family
Good players shouldn't be exempt from being yelled at by coaches. There was a giant stir created on Sunday when Tom Brady and New England patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien needed to be separated by head coach Bill Belichick after both were screaming at each other on the Pats sidelines during a win versus Washington. Fans worried that there may be rift caused in the Pats locker room over the sideline spat. I had absolutely no problem with it, because I understand why O'Brien was so upset. Brady's late interception into the end zone on Sunday, when the Pats were trying to ice the game, was inexcusable. In fact, it could have easily cost the Pats the game.
O'Brien was understandably upset, and he expressed his frustration with Brady. He's earned that right. Tom Brady is a future Hall of Fame QB, and he expressed his feelings with his coach. He's also earned that right. Football is an emotional game, played by emotional men, and led by emotional coaches. These types of things happen far more often than fans think. In fact, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often! All is well in the New England Patriots offensive meeting room. The Pats won the game, and that should be the most important thing for Patriots fans.
In Tebow They Trust
It's amazing how one individual can influence an entire team. Tim Tebow is not the most talented or polished QB in the NFL, and he certainly isn't putting up Hall of Fame numbers, but he has his team believing that somehow, someway, they are going to win each and every time they take the field on Sunday. After yet again starting slow, Tebow led yet another come-from-behind victory versus the Chicago Bears, and as a result, the Broncos have now won six games in a row.
What I find most interesting is the mental toughness that Tebow demonstrates each and every week. No matter how bad things begin, he never loses focus, and he never loses faith in himself. Tebow started Sunday's game 3-for-16. There are a lot of head coaches that would made a switch at that point. I've seen QBs benched for less! Yet John Fox allows Tebow to stay in the game because he knows it's never over when Tebow is in the game. There is a belief and a feeling in that Broncos locker room that "if we just hold in, and get this game into the fourth quarter, something good is going to happen, because we believe in Tim".
Tim Tebow hasn't failed very often in his life, so he has good reason to believe in his own abilities. Week in and week out, we see this unwavering confidence apply itself, manifesting itself into wins. In fairness, it hasn't all been just Tebow. The Broncos are the NFL's best rushing team on offence. They've shown the ability to play good defence, as you'd expect from a Fox-coached team. Demaryous Thomas is starting to come on at WR. Matt Prater kicked two 50+ yard field goals to win the game Sunday! The Broncos are playing well as a team, and that is the ultimate reason why they have won six straight and are in position to win the AFC West. But the transformation of this team began when Tebow got under centre eight games ago, and it's been Tebow's will and belief that has extended throughout the Broncos locker room. As a result, the Broncos now believe in themselves. Who wouldn't?
Still the Steelers
Everyone knows the Green Bay Packers are the best team in football right now. But who is second-best? There are many good division-leading teams, with similar records scouring the NFL, all with a common goal of hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy come season's end.
I think the Pittsburgh Steelers are the NFL's second-best team today, and it's because they are finally healthy. Sort of. When forecasting a team's chances in the post season, I think it is always wise to ask one question: does the team know how to win? Sounds rhetorical enough, considering that the reason they are in the post season is because they've been winning games. But the truly great teams "understand" how to win. They know the formula for success, and they apply that mantra every Sunday and especially in the "must win " games.
Bill Cowher taught the Steelers how to win. Run the football. Stop the run. No turnovers or penalties. Abra cadabra. Mike Tomlin has continued to preach the same philosophy, and the Steelers championship ways have continued. There are many players inside the Steelers locker room who have played in three Super Bowls. That's something that teams like the San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens cannot say. Now that the defence is healthy, they are once again the NFL's premier unit. The New England Patriots cannot boast that luxury.
Ben Roethlisberger is dinged up with a high ankle sprain, and is going to have to deal with some discomfort over the next several games (maybe all the way through Super Bowl Sunday). If the Steelers can avoid the dreaded injury bug that plagued them early this season, then we very well could be watching a repeat match up in the Super Bowl in Indianapolis this February. No complaints here.