(Photos courtesy of the Green Bay Packers)
By Rick Gosselin
Talk of Fame Network
The NFL is once again waiting on the Green Bay Packers.
We’ve wrapped up our six-part dynasty series on the Talk of Fame Network with analysis and debate of the NFL’s six teams of the decade: the 1950s Cleveland Browns, 1960s Green Bay Packers, 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, 1980s San Francisco 49ers, 1990s Cowboys and 2000s New England Patriots.
The Browns won three championships in the 1950s, and the Packers won five in the 1960s. The 1970s Steelers and 1980s 49ers won four titles apiece, and the 1990s Cowboys and 2000s Patriots each won three.
The emerging powers were easy to identify during those eras. The Browns, Packers, Steelers and Cowboys all won two championships by the midway point of their decades, and the Patriots won all three of theirs by then. Only the Steelers were sitting on one championship after five seasons had been played in the 1970s.
As the 2014 season winds down, we haven’t identified that team yet for the 2010 decade. Eight different franchises have played in the four Super Bowls to date with the 2010 Packers, 2011 Giants, 2012 Ravens and 2013 Seahawks all hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
No one team has been dominant. But peering into my crystal ball, the Packers loom as the team with the best chance of seizing the decade and thus becoming the first double-decade dynasty.
The Big Three in the NFL this season are Broncos, Packers and Patriots. All are 9-3. The Patriots have already smoked the Broncos, 43-21, and the Packers have toppled the Patriots, 26-21. That establishes Green Bay as the team to beat this post-season.
Arizona and Philadelphia join Green Bay at 9-3 in the NFC, but both the Cardinals and Eagles are down to their backup quarterbacks. And therein lies the difference between the Packers and everyone else in the NFL.
The Packers have the best quarterback in the game in Aaron Rodgers. And he’s going to be around for a while.
The Broncos are hitching their hopes for team of the decade acclaim on Peyton Manning. But he’s 38. The Patriots are hitching their hopes for team of the decade honors on Tom Brady. He’s 37. Neither will be around by 2019 when the calendar flips on the decade.
Rodgers will be. He’s only 31 and signed a contract extension last year that will keep him in Green Bay through the 2019 season.
The Packers also have one of the best coaches in the game in Mike MacCarthy, who turned 51 in November and himself has been rewarded this season with a multi-year contract extension. He’s one of only seven NFL head coaches wearing a Super Bowl ring.
The Packers also have one of the best general managers in the game in Ted Thompson, who has built one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. Green Bay has the 12th youngest team in the NFL this season and the eighth youngest starting lineup.
So this team isn’t going away any time soon.
The Packers win with their offense — other than Rodgers, not a single starter on that side of the ball is over the age of 30. And you have to beat the Packers because they aren’t going to beat themselves. Not with Rodgers taking the snaps. He has thrown a league-low three interceptions, and Green Bay has committed the fewest turnovers in the NFL (8).
On defense, there is age at only two spots: Strongside linebacker Julius Peppers is 34 and shutdown corner Tramon Williams is 31.
Statistically, the Green Bay defense rank 25th in the NFL in yards allowed. But the Packers are much higher in the stats that matter, ranking 15th in points allowed (267), 14th in sacks (28) and fourth in takeaways (23).
If I had to bet on a team this season, it would be the Packers. If I had to bet on a team this decade, it would be the Packers. Young teams are easy to like — especially the young, talented ones with a franchise quarterback.