Sheehan: Leaders of the Pack

Sports Columnist
Thursday, November 17, 2011

We are over a 100 games into the NFL season, and I’m convinced it’s the strangest one I’ve ever seen. On the one hand, you have the Philadelphia Eagles, who are pre-season favorites and loaded with talent. Despite having one of the best running backs, one of the most feared quarterbacks and what should be one of the strongest secondaries in football, they find themselves one loss away from being effectively eliminated from the playoffs. On the other hand, a Cincinnati Bengals team that seemed poised for an epic implosion finds itself rubbing elbows with the AFC’s elite and are likely to battle the New York Jets for the final wild card spot into the playoffs.


But the big storyline is the play of the Green Bay Packers and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Wisconsin’s own green and yellow juggernaut seems poised to record only the third undefeated regular season in NFL history, and Rodgers is on pace to shatter every major single-season passing record. I’ve scoffed all year at the pundits and analysts who have been crowing about the Packers going undefeated, but with the team still having a perfect record with only seven weeks left, it’s time to actually put a counter on this thing. I’ll assess the dangers of the Packers’ road ahead as they look to go 16-0.


Week 11: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs nipped the New Orleans Saints earlier this year, which would seem to bode well for Tampa’s chances, as it was the Saints who came the closest to defeating the Pack of any team so far. But the Buccaneers have a relatively untalented offense and the Packers are at their weakest when high-octane, talented attacks exploit their suddenly mediocre defense. The Bucs can play solid defense, but Rodgers is too good to lose this game at home.

Danger Rating: As dangerous as making a sandwich.


Week 12: Detroit Lions

This will be the one of the toughest tests for the Packers, but they are probably well aware of that. I’m willing to bet this game is circled on the team calendar. Ford Field is a tough place for visitors to win, and a passing attack that features Calvin Johnson is a scary one. But if there is one thing the Packers have proven, it is that they play very well in domes and are no strangers to hostile crowd noise. This will be a close game, but given that the Packers will be gearing up for it, I think they should win.

Danger Rating: Choking on a hot dog in a restaurant.


Week 13: New York Giants

As my own Patriots found out a week and a half ago, the Giants are not the team you want to face if you rely heavily on winning offensive shootouts. Depending on which version of Eli Manning shows up — the options are demigod or confused child — this game has plenty of potential to be a big letdown for the Packers. It’s going to come down to what the Packers’ defense can get done in terms of turnovers. After the trench warfare of the Lions game, this is going to be a tough one.

Danger Rating: Standing in a group of armed women and declaring that Ryan Gosling isn’t a good actor.


Week 14: Oakland Raiders

Can the Raiders win a game on the road against the Packers? Possibly. They’ve hung with some pretty good teams this year and even beaten a couple of them. It’s tough to write off a potential division champ, especially if Darren McFadden is healthy by then. But the odds of that happening are pretty slim. Don’t forget, Green Bay is a lot colder in December than Oakland is.

Danger Rating: A stalker who leaves poetry in your mailbox.


Week 15: Kansas City Chiefs

Hahahaha! … Oh wait, you’re serious. Awkward.

Danger Rating: A box of soft kittens under a rainbow.


Week 16: Chicago Bears

The Bears are a tough team, but much like Tampa Bay, they just don’t match up well against the Packers. Even though this is a home game, it’s extremely likely that the Pack will be resting starters, unless they are going for the undefeated season. The Bears will be looking for a playoff spot, and that’s going to make this a difficult game.

Danger Rating: Actually playing football with a bear.


Week 17: Detroit Lions

This will be it. The Packers have likely clinched the division by now, and the Lions will probably also be trying to nab a wild card spot. Again, it comes down to whether or not the Packers are going to have their starters take the field. If they do play their starters, this will still be a really tough game and the Lions are going to fight tooth-and-nail to stay in the playoff picture.

Danger Rating: Putting out matches with gasoline.



Sam Sheehan ’12 is sorry about the poetry he left in your mailbox. Sorry, Mr. Gosling. Talk sports with him at or follow him on

Twitter @SamSheehan.