Packers and perfection: Could happen
Sssshhh! It's too early to say it out loud. Except that undefeated record looms large.
Somebody nudge the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Somebody write a new rap song for Mercury Morris, or ask Don Shula if he has a bottle of fresh champagne on ice.
Based on the way the Green Bay Packers are playing, maybe the Dolphins should be concerned.
Yes, it's early in the NFL calendar to be thinking about whether the Packers -- the only unbeaten team remaining in the NFL this season -- can challenge the '72 Dolphins' unbeaten mark.
But ... Green Bay is 6-0 for the first time since 1965, and with each passing week, Aaron Rodgers makes a stronger case for NFL MVP. And so far, there's barely been a mention of the possibility that the Packers might not lose.
This is a sports culture that's obsessed with records, right? And last I checked, going undefeated in pro football is one of the most glamorous marks that can be achieved. The reason the '72 Dolphins routinely mount embarrassing, public campaigns against any team threatening their record is because it keeps them relevant. If another team ever achieves what those Dolphins did, there would be no reason for Morris to act like this, as he did in 2007 when the Patriots came close.
But the more I study the Packers, the more they seem like the perfect team to supplant Miami.
It's difficult to think of a year in which a defending Super Bowl champion entered the season with less fanfare than the Packers did this fall.
For them, that's ideal, honestly. Of course, plenty of people use superlatives to describe what Green Bay has done this season, but the Packers are so drama-free and methodical that they've become close to an afterthought.
They aren't faltering like the Eagles. They don't have a polarizing quarterback like Tony Romo or Tim Tebow. Their coach doesn't wear Hall of Fame jackets to a press conference like Rex Ryan. They aren't a feel-good story like the Detroit Lions.
THE ROAD TO PERFECTION
They've got a long way to go, but the undefeated Packers will likely be favorites in every game left on their regular-season schedule.
Sunday, Oct. 23: at Minnesota
Sunday, Nov. 6: at San Diego
Monday, Nov. 14: Minnesota
Sunday, Nov. 20: Tampa Bay
Thursday, Nov. 24: at Detroit
Sunday, Dec. 4: at NY Giants
Sunday, Dec. 11: Oakland
Sunday, Dec. 18: at Kansas City
Sunday, Dec. 25: Chicago
Sunday, Jan. 1: Detroit
And there's no reason to believe that Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy won't continue to execute his postgame handshakes with other coaches without incident.
I'm not alleging a conspiracy or bias against the Packers. And by no means are they playing perfect football. Their defense has some leaks. Clay Matthews, arguably their best defensive player, has exactly one sack this season. Sure, they dominated winless St. Louis on Sunday, 24-3, but the offense didn't score a point in the second half. Jermichael Finley, their big-play tight end who missed last year with a knee injury, hasn't scored since Week 3.
But that's the remarkable part of their bid for an undefeated season. The Packers have won 12 consecutive games dating to last season; and this season, they have yet to play a game that was as all-around good as the one they played against Atlanta in the NFC divisional round -- a 48-21 rout on the road -- last January.
Green Bay is better than every team that remains on its schedule, starting with hapless Minnesota (1-5) on Sunday. Arguably, the most difficult game the Packers have left is against the Lions on Thanksgiving, which might be the game that decides who wins the NFC North and gets the top seed in the NFC playoffs.
Other than that, who legitimately stands in Green Bay's way?
You might bring up their trip to San Diego on Nov. 6, after the Minnesota game. Yes, the Chargers have somehow managed to avoid their customary slow start, but Philip Rivers and their offense are looking disjointed because Antonio Gates so far hasn't been a consistent contributor.
Maybe you think the Raiders, one of the most improved teams in the NFL, will be a stumbling block for Green Bay on Dec. 11.
But Jason Campbell's collarbone doesn't think so.
Before the previously unbeaten Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, a lot of people believed New England didn't have a weakness. But even before New York won 17-14, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the Patriots to put up gaudy offensive numbers because their opponents clearly were taking losing to them personally.
Beating Green Bay right now would be a big deal, too. But the Packers haven't created the animosity the Patriots did following Spygate. They haven't given anyone much of a reason to disapprove of them. Rodgers is a likable, bright, young star. McCarthy doesn't appear to be interested in clamoring for attention, or proving to anyone that he's a football wunderkind. Greg Jennings, their top wideout, apparently hasn't yet read that section in the wide receiver handbook that says he's supposed to behave like a diva.
The point is, there's a lot to like about these Packers.
When other teams have mounted a challenge to the Dolphins' record (say, the 2009 Indianapolis Colts), Morris has been known to say something along these lines: Don't bother me when they're just on my block. Call me when they get to my front door.
I hope he likes unexpected house guests.
Jemele Hill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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