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Packers could be in Super Bowl right now

January 12, 2012
By STEVE BROWNLEE - Journal Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

Though we're in the middle of the playoffs, I have two items not directly related to this weekend's games to get off my chest.

First, if the NFL was run like college football, then Green Bay and New England would be seeded directly into the Super Bowl. Detroit and Denver would've been put into the pro equivalent of the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl, probably to be played in El Paso, Texas.

Getting an automatic berth into the Super Bowl sounds pretty sweet if you're a Packer fan, eh? But if this had been last year, Green Bay would've never been given a chance to run the table and become world champions.

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Let's just say I'm wholeheartedly in favor of a college football playoff.

Onto my next topic, the pros' overtime rule. I think starting last year, but only in the playoffs, if a team kicks a field goal on the first possession, it isn't sudden-death anymore. Instead, the opposition gets the ball once, with a chance to win (with a TD), tie (field goal) or lose (no points).

This didn't apply in last Sunday's Broncos-Steelers game, since Denver quarterback Tim Tebow completed a 20-yard pass over the middle to the not-nearly-as-famous Demaryius Thomas, who juked, deked and stiff-armed his way a total of 80 yards to the end zone.

Game over. No Steelers possession. Yes, I'll admit to some sour grapes, as I thought Pittsburgh was a near-lock to win this game.

But imagine if this scenario happened in a Super Bowl.

To keep our favorite teams out of this, let's say the Los Angeles Jaguars, playing Super Bowl LVI in 2022 at home, get burned for a TD on the first possession by Washington running back Jack Strahan, son of famous former New York Giant Michael Strahan?

People might storm the field in a riot, yelling "We was robbed!" And the firestorm that followed would prompt the NFL to agree, without actually admitting to it.

They'd finally go to a college-like rule, where each team gets the ball at midfield with one minute on the clock. The next time there's an OT in the playoffs, in a first-round game in 2024, Jeremiah Stenerud, grandson of Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud, kicks a 73-yard field goal to win it. But at least both teams would've had their chance.

Enough of my dreaming. Let's look at the cold, stark reality of this week's games, with game times and TV coverage:

New Orleans at San Francisco, 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Fox - Yes, the Saints are a juggernaut on a nine-game winning streak, the latest over Detroit last weekend.

But eight of those victories have been in domes - six home games, plus in Atlanta and Minnesota. The only outdoor game? At Tennessee, a narrow 22-17 New Orleans win when Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck was knocked out of the game.

I'm not enamored with any of the defenses the Saints played in this streak, including the Lions (twice), who don't really cover well in the secondary, not to mention Atlanta (also twice), Carolina, Minnesota, Tampa Bay and the Giants when they were swooning.

San Fran is a whole other country, as they say in Texas, with one rushing TD allowed all year, meaning they can load up on the pass rush or coverage, whichever they prefer.

The Saints are supposed to be vulnerable if you get a lead AND can run the ball, which Detroit also couldn't do. So I'll take the 49ers, 23-19.

Denver at New England, 8 p.m. Saturday, CBS - Who cracked the Tebow code first? Actually, Detroit did, in just his second game.

But it was the Patriots who stopped the Broncos' six-game winning streak less than a month ago. And now New England has former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels back in their fold during the past two weeks, having his brain picked clean by Bill Belichick.

Pittsburgh showed how NOT to play the Broncos, and I imagine the New England brain trust learned that lesson well. It's just a matter of whether they can employ the plan with their sieve-like defense. Patriots, 27-24.

Houston at Baltimore, 1 p.m. Sunday, CBS - Defense wins in the playoffs. Baltimore has just about the best defense around. Houston, meanwhile, probably has third-string T.J. Yates at QB with fourth-string Jake Delhomme backing him up. I rest my case. Ravens, 20-9.

N.Y. Giants at Green Bay, 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Fox - I'd say the 38-35 squeaker Green Bay won over New York in early December is just the wake-up call the Packers need.

Remember, in that game it was a lot easier for New York to have laser-like focus playing the 11-0 Packers than it was for Green Bay playing the 6-5 Giants.

Now it's one and done.

My only hesitation is that the Giants are playing much better than they were barely a month ago, so anything short of a best effort by Green Bay could make this a Broncos-Steelers-style upset. Packers, 31-24.

Playoff record last week - 2-2, 50 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.



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