5

January

Who Do We Want? Ranking The Green Bay Packers’ Potential Playoff Opponents

As the wise philosopher Homer Simpson once declared, “The waiting game sucks! Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!”

That’s the dilemma facing the Green Bay Packers this week as they wait out their first round bye and for their opponent in the divisional round to be determined.  While it’s doubtful the Packers are playing children’s board games in the locker room (well, maybe), we fans can play the wishing game and debate for hours on end who we want to see the Packers play in their first home playoff game since the 2007-2008 season.

(Be sure to cast your vote in the Poll at the end of this post)

The Packers can face one of three teams: the New York Giants, the Detroit Lions or the Atlanta Falcons.  Should Detroit upset the New Orleans Saints the Lions come to Lambeau.  Should the Saints hold on, the winner of Falcons/Giants would get the defending champions next.

So who would be the best matchup for the Packers? Honestly, an argument could be made for all three.  The Packers played (and beat) all three during the regular season, and defeated the Lions twice.  So familiarity with the opponent will be an advantage regardless.

I’ve decided to rank the three from the best matchup to the worst.  This is by no means a rock solid list.  I tossed all sorts of different variations in my head but I finally settled on the order below.

1.       Atlanta Falcons They’re number one for a couple reasons.  First, they are a dome team.  So are the Lions, yes, but at least Detroit’s climate is very similar to Green Bay’s.  Atlanta’s meanwhile, despite the occasional snow storm, is a much warmer climate. Even though they play indoors, they still don’t commute to work and live in this weather like the Packers, Lions and Giants do.

 A second reason is that for whatever reason, the Packers seem to have the Falcons’ number.  After beating the Packers at home during the 2010 regular season, the Falcons got spanked by the same team in the divisional round last year.  This year, again at the Georgia Dome, the Packers beat Atlanta again 25-14 after the Falcons blew a 14-3 lead.

Of course, Atlanta will be out for revenge in this game looking to do the Packers what the Packers did to them one year ago at the same spot in the playoffs.  Still Matt Ryan and company haven’t had the same explosive punch as in past years and the Falcons defense would not stand a chance against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ explosive attack.

2.       New York Giants Yes, the Giants nearly derailed the Packers undefeated season in New York.  It took an epic final drive from Rodgers to win the game.  The defense was gashed all over the place and the offense had to keep pace.

However, after their loss to the Giants in the NFC Championship four years ago, the Packers will not let the Giants beat them at home in the playoffs ever again.  Many of the players on the team no remember how bitter of a pill that game was to swallow and the Lambeau crowd would be fired up for the Giants.  Revenge is a dish best served cold, as the saying goes.

The Giants do have one of the best pass rushes in the league.  They would keep Rodgers on the run for a good portion of the game.  Thanks to Rodgers’ mobility and deficiencies in the Giants secondary, this would offset the advantage the Giants pass rush seems to create.

Eli Manning seemingly has cured the woes that plagued him last year, but he is still as hot/cold as any quarterback in the NFL.  A few frustrating plays early by the Packers ball-hawking secondary could get into Manning’s head and make the rest of the defense’s job that much easier.

3. Detroit Lions While the Packers have played them twice and beat them twice, the Lions coming back to Lambeau a third time concerns me on multiple levels.

First, the Lions will have just beaten the Saints in the Superdome, a Herculean task if there ever was one in the NFL.   For a young team with a hot rod of an offense, the amount of confidence this would instill in a team that has never lacked swagger would make them an incredibly tough opponent.

Throw in the way they lost to the Packers in Week 17 (to the Packers backup quarterback nonetheless) and some questionable calls that did not go their way and the Lions will be up for this game.  They have lost 20 straight games at Lambeau Field, but there is never a better time to end a streak like that.

It’s also very tough to beat an opponent three times in a season, but it can be done.  It would require the defense to step up and make plays it didn’t in the regular season finale.  While it’s true they didn’t have Charles Woodson or Clay Matthews, the rest of the defense as eaten alive as Matthew Stafford threw for a ludicrous 520 yards.

I don’t see the Lions winning in New Orleans but as Rodgers himself said last season, “Once you’re in, anything can happen. And I do mean anything.”

There you have it.  There’s no doubt there are multiple other rankings out there and they are just as legitimate as mine.  As I said earlier, I could make this same list in so many different orders.

It won’t matter much longer anyways.  By Sunday night, we will know who the Packers will face in their first game of their march to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI.

Playoff time is here. Buckle up.

 

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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26 Responses to “Who Do We Want? Ranking The Green Bay Packers’ Potential Playoff Opponents”

  1. Steve Cheez says:

    Actually, there is a mathematical maximum of five other ways you could make this list…

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  2. Dan says:

    I agree ATL would be the more favorable match up. I’m torn on Det and NYG. You make good points regarding the Lions, but they could not shop our O and CM/CW returning will help on D.

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    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      I went back and forth on NYG and DET quite a bit. I just don’t like the idea of a PO’d Lions team coming back to Lambeau, even with A-Rod, Woodson and Matthews back in the lineup. If they don’t beat themselves, the Lions can keep pace with the Packers.

      As for the Giants, yes they took the Packers to the brink, but this is at Lambeau. Sometimes home field advantage can make all the difference.

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  3. Dan "FireMMNow" Blakley FireMMNow says:

    I would rather play the lions than the Giants. The giants have more weapons from top to bottom on offense and a better over all pass rush. The Giants best pass rushers are on the edge and that is the weakness of the O-line at this point. Lions and Giants are both scary, but I think the pressure of the playoffs will only make the lions more undisciplined if they fall behind. and Matt Flynn/Jordy totally mind f-ed them last sunday.

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    • Kris Burke Kris Burke says:

      All the more reason for the Lions to be even more motivated to beat the Packers. They got beat by a backup QB and had a couple questionable calls not go their way.

      I still think New Orleans kicks the stuffing out of them though.

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  4. wim says:

    With our D I am a nervous wreck about facing anyone. But right now the single best D player in the NFC, maybe the league, is Pierre-Paul. I’d rather face Suh and Avril and as unreliable as Manning can be I would fear him more than Stafford. And right now Victor Cruz is every bit as scary as Megatron, and Hakim Nicks is way better than Burleson.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Mojo says:

    I’d prefer playing the Lions. I believe our O-line out played their over-rated D-line both times. We double team Megatron and take him out of the game. The Lions have a poor running game, horrible secondary and their QB is prone to mistakes.

    I thought the Pack pretty well controlled the Lions in the first meeting this year, which was at their place. And the Lions were very psyched-up to play that game. The second game we beat them with backups.

    We beat a motivated Bears team three times last year and we can do the same to the Kittens this year.

    And for those of you who think the Lions are the punk-kid upstarts, keep this in mind; at the beginning of this year the Lions had the second highest average age of any team in the NFC.

    http://gnb.scout.com/2/1107084.html

    http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/43768/2011-nfl-age-ranks-calling-all-graybeards

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  6. psico says:

    I can’t say I actually fear anyone that may come to Lambeau. However, with the Giants DL playing well they may be the most challenging right now. The Lions will likely lose at NO, and Atlanta does not strike any fear into me at all. There is a chance that ATL goes in and knocks off the Giants, but not much of one. I like our chances against anyone right now because of rest and a OL that is back together. If we can keep putting up the points and the defense can get a few stops or turnovers we should be fine.

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  7. Art Rosen says:

    I would rather the Packers play anyone other than New Orleans. If that means we have to play the Lions because they beat New Orleans, so be it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

    The Giants are on a run, and both their Super Bowl and the Packers last year should be an indication of how dangerous that can be. I’ll be pulling for Atlanta this weekend, as much as it pains me to say so.

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  9. Bearmeat Bearmeat says:

    The Saints are the only team that can outright beat GB. The other four teams we could play in the playoffs could only win if ARod uncharacteristically screws up in the playoffs.

    Not scared of any of them.

    I’m just hoping someone takes out the Saints before we do – cause that game would be a coinflip…

    If we get to the SB – I think we’ll win…

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  10. Oppy says:

    Picking which opponents we want to play for the post season??

    Bah.

    Where are the bragging rights for winning the Superbowl if we’re hoping for the least challenging opponent?

    Let the chips fall where they may, I don’t mind the Packers having to earn a championship, and if we draw a tough match-up and can’t advance, they don’t deserve the title.

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    • Steve Cheez says:

      I remember being very bummed in ’96 when we didn’t get a chance to play the Cowgirls.

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  11. Steve says:

    All I have to say is, be careful of what you wish for. All of these teams can be beat but all of them also have the potential to beat us. I agree with Oppy, just tell us who we are playing and then let the team get it done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. BL says:

    Couldn’t agree more Oppy. You want to be SB Champs, you should be the best team. In this league “who is hot” changes overnight. People say the Giants are on a roll. They beat the Cowboys and the Jets since losing to the Redskins (not exactly an overly impressive run if you ask me). The Pack was on fire and then lost to KC. NO is a great team and playing well but they also lost to some bad teams. Its less about hot and cold and more about confidence and showing up each week. Pack have the players, experience and home field. If they play to their capablities, then they should have a good run and lets see where everything falls.

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  13. Dan says:

    The chips will fall where they may and the Pack will have to defeat who’s ever in front of them to become champs. That being said, of course any of these teams could beat us mostly due to our spotty D. But i see nothing wrong with preferring a specific opponent over another. It gives something to root for when watching the first round games this weekend.

    The Giants posse problems as do the Lions, but I feel GB will find a way to beat these teams at home, as with ATL or SF. The greatest threat IMO is the Saints because I just don’t see our D stopping them much with a limited pass rush, cold weather or not. Brees and his weapons are dangerous to began with, but with no pass rush in his face and the shotty coverages we are capable of, Brees will be unstoppable. They have the ability of pulling off a victory.

    Therefore, I now prefer playing Detroit first because that would mean NO being eliminated.

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    • Oppy says:

      If we’re getting into the “who has the best chance of beating the Packers” thing, it has to be stated that NO’s level of play often takes a considerable dip when playing away from home, and there are questions about Brees operating in unfavorable conditions. That’s not to say he can’t do it, just that he hasn’t necessarily proven he can play at a high level in gusty, sub-freezing conditions.

      One thing you can say about the Lions? Matthew Stafford has proven he can play at Lambeau in winter. The Giants? Eli Manning and Co. put it on the Packers in 2007 on a hella-cold, windy day..Etc, and so forth..

      To be honest, if you’ve proven it or not, really doesn’t matter, it’s about how your team plays on gameday. That’s part of the reason I could care less who the Packers play and try not to get into these types of forecasts- It’s the NFL, upsets happen. It’s the post season, one and done.. Upsets happen. A team like KC shouldn’t beat a team like the Packers. I’m pretty sure if we drop KC into the teams we have to pick from playing, we’d unanimously select them as the team to play.. And yet, they beat the Packers that day.

      I sort of WANT to play NO, just because half the country thinks they are the team to beat. Bring em on. If the Packers win, it will silence the doubters, and may make some Brees-for-MVP people reflect on just how good Rodgers and the Packers really are.. If they don’t, we don’t deserve to go to the Superbowl anyways, because we didn’t beat the competition.

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  14. Dan says:

    Remember, Brees is by far the best QB of our 5 possible NFC opponents. He’s MVP quality and playoff experienced. The guy set more records this season including most passing yards in a season. Our D set a record, most yards every givin up by a D in NFL HISTORY! Does this sound like the team we would rather play then the lions or giants? Or SF or ATL?

    I know yards are not the main stat to look at, but, the saints offence will turn them into points on our D. It would be a fun game to watch as we have the best O in the NFL. But I would love to see another SB title, so why not root against a team, to be eliminated, that represents the biggest obstacle?

    Of course we can not control who we play and the Pack will give thier best against any team they play. But what the hey, ill be rooting against the saints, because games are more fun to watch when I have something to root for.

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  15. Chad Lundberg says:

    I’d put the Giants right up there with the Saints and Niners, NOT BECAUSE they’re a team I think are actually as good as the Saints or Niners but because they’re a team where I smell pure bullcrap happening.

    We beat them handily in 2010, and we beat them this year, so all indications are that we’ll beat them again. But I’ve seen Eli Manning pull something right out of his rear and something that incredibly infuriates me follows.

    The odds are so stacked against them that to me, it just disappointment written all over it. Basically what I’m saying is that my gut is telling me that they’re like the ideal team to pull off an upset.

    Also, what they did to us in 2007 doesn’t help either. Not only would the Packers have a chance at winning the Super Bowl but Brett might have retired and never joined the Vikings.

    I AM A FALCONS FAN THIS WEEK!!!!!!!!

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  16. Steve Cheez says:

    As nice as it is to be good enough to get the bye, I’m sure going to miss seeing us play this week.
    Oh well, I still have the DVD of last year’s Super Bowl, plus a whole bunch of games on Short Cuts and NFL Replay that I can enjoy. That, and putting together Mrs. Steve Cheez’s new lingerie chest…

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  17. arodg's mustache says:

    read many posts here for years… first time posting myself.

    The pack need to pracice hard and not worry about who they get. That said. Im hoping for this scenario to play our. Saints beat lions and go to SF where SF’s D and the fact the sanits dont play great on grass help SF beat the saints. Falcons beat Giants ( Oddly enough coughlin has NEVER won a home playoff game as coach of the giants) and come to Lambeau ready to avenge there last two losses to no avail in a physical and hard fought game. Setting up a SF GB title game for the ages( ie. final score 70-3 GB)
    This scenario takes care of our top two worries, who in my mind are the Loins and the Saints.

    This would be great but I think hoping for one team or another to win is talk for losers and teams that are not confident in their ability to beat any team any sunday (or saturday as the case may be). How many of us remember the feeling of elation when the giants knocked off the boyz in 07? we had a title game at lambeau with BF and our ticket was basically punched to the SB. How did that work out for us? all this “rank the opponents talk” is for us fans and the bloggers. lets hope the pack dont care who they play and they hammer all thier opponents.

    *** secretly hoping for a defensive awakening like the 2nd half of the Atlanta game this year ***

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      First of all, thanks for your readership and your first comment. Hope you keep participating in the discussion.

      As for your last point, of course all of this “who do we want” talk is strictly for the fans and bloggers. Players just get ready to play whoever the next team is. If players were secretly wishing for the team they felt would be easiest, I would have to call that a “polluted mindset”

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  18. Dan says:

    Al, you beat me to this point, I agree 100% that the players are confident in thier ability to beat any team they play, this discussion is all fan based fun. The players just want to play football, compete and win. Maybe some of the coaches would rather play curtain teams over others, from a match up stand point, but I don’t think the players are losing any sleep over it, and they shouldn’t.

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  19. Shavager says:

    Don’t kid yourselves Packers fans–the Saints are going into the playoffs as the HOTTEST team–eight straight wins and averaging 35.8 points per game. Over that same stretch Packers were 7-1 and averaged 35.6 points per game. Two best teams are Saints and Packers, head to head the Saints have the better run game at this point and a defense with better stats except INT’s. Saints give up LESS yards in the run game, LESS yards in the passing game, LESS points per game and get more SACKS than Packers. Packers only better Saints in the turnovers. THIS will be the game that decides the SB winner–it’s likely the winner between Packers and Saints will move on and win SB 46.

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  20. Dan says:

    Well its half time of the Lions/Saints game..Lions up 14-10…interesting game so far

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