I'm ready. Seriously.
Folks all through Packer Country and beyond have been declaring this past weekend's victory over the Vikings [aka Brett Favre] as the most satisfying victory in decades. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the win, but I didn't have the euphoria that many of my fellow Packer fans had.
For one, I cut off the emotion connected with Brett Favre a long time ago. The last of it dissipated when the Packers [aka Aaron Rodgers] beat the Vikings [aka Brett Favre] at Lambeau Field last month. Yep, Rodgers got his revenge, Brett looked all sad and droopy-eyed, and I got to see it first hand (in a game, mind you, that almost went the other way at the end if it weren't for a disconnected pass).
It was at that point I made the choice to disconnect Brett Favre from the Packers. Frankly, I obsessed over him as much as anyone over the course of his career, as perhaps one of his biggest fans and defenders. But his detractors, even before 2007, obsessed just as much as the Favre Lovers did. When FavreGate happened, it didn't matter your feelings, whether you sided with Favre or sided with the Packers [aka Mike McCarthy, Ted Thompson, and Aaron Rodgers]. You still obsessed over All Things Favre, which is why FSPN roared to give you what you wanted.
But, you see, I'm done with that. And when I turned on the television on Sunday, I didn't view it as the final battle between the Vikings [aka Brett Favre] and the Packers [aka Aaron Rodgers]. I viewed it as a division battle against a decimated opponent that the Packers had to put away and keep down. But, face it, they were a beaten dog out there. When you're on the brink of firing your coach, your talent on the field isn't playing anywhere near its potential. The Vikings are a sinking ship, and will be sunk for many years to come.
The Favre stuff? It's fun to work with. Today's Twitter trending topic of #favrebueller (and seriously, search it. It's hysterical) was a great diversion. But the time has come to stop talking about the Packers [aka Aaron Rodgers who is not Brett Favre] and start talking about the Packers. Just the Packers. The 2010 Green Bay Packers. You know, the ones we keep hoping to see make it into the playoffs, and presently hold just the sixth seed if the season ended today?
Packer fans are riding a high right now. Aaron Rodgers should be the NFL MVP, Mike McCarthy the NFL Coach of the Year, Clay Matthews the Defensive Player of the Year, Dom Capers the Comeback Coach of the Year, Tim Masthay the Punter of the Year, and the Tundra Line the Grammy winners for in the Instrumental Percussion Category.
And I want that high. I really do. But we have to move beyond the victories over the Teams The Packers Love To Beat (even though they are little more than NFL-E talent and stumblebums) and start viewing ourselves truly as NFL elite. And that starts on Sunday.
The Packers could very well be on the same path they were in 2009. They pulled themselves out of a deep funk with a surprise victory over a tough team (2009 Cowboys, 2010 Jets), then played well against a slough of mediocre teams over the latter half of the season. When it came time to take on playoff-talented teams who were prepared for what the Packers could do, they fell short. They battled, but couldn't do it against the better teams with solid quarterback play.
This year, the Packers are actually lucky...and I mean that, LUCKY...to have a tough schedule over the latter half of the season. Teams like the Patriots, the Giants, and the Falcons are the teams the Packers would be meeting in the playoffs, not the Lions, Cowboys, or Vikings. It is those teams, if we are to truly evaluate ourselves as a championship-caliber team, that we must show up and play well against.
My analogy: in the mid-1990's, the Packers paid little attention to the Bears or the Vikings. Why should they? They were important division battles, certainly, but in those Mike Holmgren-led days, the Packers weren't measuring themselves against the Vikings [aka Brad Johnson] or the Bears [aka Erik Kramer]. The measuring sticks were the 49ers [aka Steve Young], the Cowboys [aka Troy Aikman], and the Broncos [aka John Elway]. In order to consider yourself the best, you had to measure yourself against the best.
The Packers cannot continue to measure their successes against the likes of Wade Phillips and Brad Childress. And most of all, we cannot continue to measure our success against the misfortunes of Brett Favre. Easy wins and moral victories are for losers and also-rans, and the 2010 Packers have the markings of a team that could be, and should be, more than that.
So, I want to believe. I want to buy into the hype that was so cruelly stolen from us early in the regular season, when "Super Bowl or Die" quickly faded into the stark reality that the Packers couldn't beat mediocre teams in overtime.
But it starts this Sunday. The Jets may have been a fluke, a rusty team coming off a bye that looked past a Packer team that had hit rock bottom and surprised them. The Packers managed to win that game in spite of their offense not bothering to show up most of the game. Lately, our offensive revival on resuscitated itself against who?...the Cowboys and the Vikings.
The 8-2 Falcons bring a team that is hungry and, to be honest, running scared to hang on to a lead in a division that has teams breathing down their neck. This is a team that is going to methodically try and win the game with a ball-control running attack, perhaps the antithesis of the Packers' offense. Their quarterback, Matt Ryan, is starting to truly come into his own and has an 18-1 record in the Georgia Dome.
These are the kind of games that define you as a team, not running up the score on a sorry team that quits fighting after one interception. And, trust me, I want that feeling of truly believing that this team has as much chance as any when the second season starts; that the name "Packers" belong with names like Falcons, Jets, and Patriots....not with the Lions, Vikings, and Bears.
Sunday afternoon, the Packers are going to go into Georgia and play in a hostile environment against a team with everything to lose and the muscle to back it up. It is up to the Packers, not the Packers [aka Aaron Rodgers] or the Packers [aka Ted Thompson], to win this game.
Because it is the Packers that will be the ones to win a Super Bowl as a team, not individuals or symbols. And that mission begins on Sunday, and this fan is ready to believe that everything is possible.