Packers.com Editor Vic Ketchman says yes.
It was a rite of passage for the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots, on their way to undefeated seasons. The ’72 Dolphins and ’07 Patriots each had to beat the Giants in New York late in those seasons to finish the regular season undefeated and untied. Now, the Packers must do the same this Sunday, in the feature attraction of Week 13 in the NFL.
Is it fate or just coincidence that the schedule falls this way for the Packers? Was it fate or just coincidence that the 10-0 Packers had to win in Detroit on Thanksgiving, where the 10-0 1962 Packers suffered on Thanksgiving the only loss of their season?
In other words, are the 2011 Packers a team of destiny? Hmmm.
I believe we’re gonna find out this Sunday in the Meadowlands. This, I believe, will be the Packers’ stiffest challenge in their quest for an undefeated season. Why do I believe that?
Let’s start with the fact that it’s a road game in what will clearly be a “hostile” environment. New Yorkers love to crash a party and they’ll be in full throat on Sunday to make the Packers’ pursuit of perfection as difficult as possible.
New Meadowlands Stadium can be as daunting a place to play as the stadium it replaced. The December winds will blow the ball around and not always in the direction the ball was intended to travel.
Reason No. 2 is a 45-17 shellacking the Giants suffered at Lambeau Field on the day after Christmas last year. It killed the Giants’ playoff hopes. It was a bitter pill to swallow and the lopsided score likely made this year’s game one the Giants “circled” when their schedule was announced.
Folks, there’s no ignoring it: Payback will be the Giants’ motive.
Reason No. 3 is the one that really counts: The Giants’ division title hopes, maybe even their playoff hopes, again, will be on the line.
The Packers are gonna get the best the Giants have to give, and I think that’ll represent the stiffest challenge the Packers will face in their remaining five games. That’s not to say that any of the remaining five are push-overs. The Packers’ closing schedule is formidable and if you’re thinking the Chiefs will be a soft touch in Kansas City, perish the thought; by then, the Chiefs will likely have Kyle Orton under center for his second go-round against the Packers this season.
Yeah, they’re all tough, but this one will be the toughest for the three reasons I mentioned above, and for one more reason, too: It’s in New York, where the media hype for this game will be intense.
The Packers will be facing a good team with its back to the wall, in a big game on the biggest of stages. Show me a tougher game on the schedule than this one, Mike.
Packers.com Staff Writer Mike Spofford says no.
I’m not willing to concede that the Giants game is the toughest remaining on the schedule. Tough, yes. The toughest, no, because the stakes might only rise for the Packers and their opponents later in December.
I do believe Sunday’s game will be a difficult one, regardless of New York’s outcome tonight against New Orleans. If the Giants get a big win on the road, they’ll be everyone’s pick to overtake the Cowboys in the NFC East. If they lose their third game in a row, they’ll be taking the field against the Packers desperate to save their season.
It’s going to be a big game. But it would be a major misstep to believe any of the Packers’ four remaining games will be easier. This isn’t coachspeak here. This is reality.
Oakland has won three straight and, as many expected, quarterback Carson Palmer is settling in with his new team and piloting a playoff-caliber squad. The Raiders have impressive run-pass balance on offense, and they might get injured running back Darren McFadden back for the visit to Lambeau Field. Backup Michael Bush has filled in just fine, but McFadden’s return would give them a boost, and another weapon.
The trip to Kansas City will be no barbecue-style picnic, either. Playing in prime time their last two games, the Chiefs showed they’re nobody’s pushover on defense. Against New England on a Monday night, the Chiefs held the Patriots to just 10 points in the first half before running out of steam. Then this past Sunday night, they held the Steelers scoreless in the second half and came up just a couple of plays short in a 13-9 loss. Their offense is struggling, but newly acquired quarterback Kyle Orton might get the unit back on track soon. Playing for Denver, Orton threw for 273 yards against the Packers in Week 4.
Then, of course, the Packers’ last two games are against division opponents Chicago and Detroit. The Packers have both at home, but both could be fighting for their playoff lives.
Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie won’t look as erratic as he did in his first start this past week, with a few more games under his belt. Remember, aside from one ill-advised pass to B.J. Raji, Hanie played rather admirably against the Packers last January, so he’ll be confident against Green Bay’s defense. And who knows? Maybe Chicago will be talking about getting Jay Cutler back from that broken thumb by then, especially if the Bears’ playoff fate is at stake.
The Lions might have their season on the line, as well. If Detroit is playing for its first playoff berth since 1999, expect Lions Coach Jim Schwartz to empty the playbook, if that’s what it takes. Also, as long as defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh isn’t suspended for the rest of the season for his Thanksgiving ejection, he’ll be out to prove something on Jan. 1. The Lions will rally around that, particularly if the Packers remain unbeaten and Detroit gets another chance to ruin a rival’s perfect season.
So, I’m not buying that the Giants game this week will serve as a more crucial step on this journey than any other. If the Packers are 12-0 come Sunday night, resist the temptation to put it on cruise control. Stay buckled up, because the ride will be just beginning.
What do you think?