Listen, I don't try to live my life as a contrarian. That's not true -- I kind of do. I spend a lot of time in public houses and taverns, and I have a two-hour commute that allows me to hear a lot of the sports world's most popular opinions. Sometimes, I think it's best to take a look at the other side.
In this space, I articulate positions that are the opposite of what most people think -- unpopular opinions, if you will -- and explain why, well, my unpopular opinions are right and everyone else is wrong. Here is my take on a team that too many people have given up on.
And I'm not talking about the Hollywood tropes in horror movies where the bad guy is never really dead. Although that clearly applies here. I can remember a time when former Bears safety Chris Conte did the exact opposite of Neve Campbell in "Scream" as he let Packers WR (and notorious Bears killer) Randall Cobb get away and waltz into the Soldier Field end zone (on fourth down, mind you) for the game-winning score in what should have been a Chicago victory that secured the NFC North title in Marc Trestman's first season as coach. I mean, seriously, if that wasn't a horror movie, I don't know what is. You had the innocent man who was wrongly accused of a crime -- Lovie Smith, who was fired the season prior for leading the Bears to a 10-6 record. And then he was replaced by Trestman, who seemed like a nice guy and all. But eventually, we pulled off the mask Scooby-Doo style at the end to find out that it was really Mike Holmgren in disguise. That last part might not have happened (even though my mind says it did).
So forgive me. I'm not about to join the parade of men and women I admire who have said the Packers are done. Love you all, but I'm not there yet.
I'm even arguing with you, math. Your statistical models say the Packers have a six percent chance of making the playoffs. Yeah, OK. What was your statistical model telling you when Rodgers heaved that desperation toss against the Lions on "Thursday Night Football" in 2015? WHAT WAS IT TELLING YOU? So take that, math.
-- The Packers have gained 229 yards and eight first downs in their last two second halves combined.
-- The Packers are the only team in the NFL other than the 49ers without a road win this year. In fact, Aaron Rodgers has lost eight consecutive road games. Eight! That's the longest streak by a Packers quarterback since David Whitehurst lost nine straight from 1978-1981. I've followed the NFL for just about my whole life. I've never heard of David Whitehurst until today.
I see what you're trying to say, statistics. But nah.
And even my eyes want to get into the act. They're telling me that this Packers team clearly doesn't look as good as those of the past. And that Rodgers is missing too many wide-open throws, holding onto the ball way too long and not checking down enough. Or that Mike McCarthy and Rodgers look like an old married couple sitting in a diner, not making eye contact as they silently eat their eggs benedict. The only thing steamier than the coffee is their bitter resentment toward each other. Nope, not having it.
So, you can take your facts, your numbers, your visual evidence and stick it. I'm not buying it. I'm buying this:
Does Rodgers have the look of every bad guy in a 1980s movie who was a jerk to John Cusack and tried to keep him from his dream girl? He certainly does. But he has a point. Everything he laid out there on the table seems absolutely plausible. Even when he talked (expletive) on the Bears. Part of me wants to get really upset about it, but then the other part of my brain says, "Prove him wrong." I really want that feel-good ending we Bears fans have been searching for since Green Bay knocked Jay Cutler out of the NFC Championship Game. And remember, that (expletive) Packers team was left for dead, too, after a couple late-season losses seemed to hurt their chances. Spoiler alert: They beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl that season.
And speaking of the Steelers ...
We've all had a lot of fun saying the Patriots get a golden road to the AFC Championship Game every year. And there is some truth to that.
But why do the Steelers get a pass in this conversation? The AFC North has had what amounts to a woeful expansion team since 1999, a team that as recently as A YEAR AGO won one game in two seasons. ONE. And then you have the Bengals' Marvin Lewis as one of the longest-tenured coaches currently in the NFL (he of the 0-7 playoff record). And once he's gone, maybe you'll get Hue Jackson (who led the Browns to a 3-36-1 record as HC) as his replacement. And then there are the Ravens. Steelers fans have snickered at the notion that Joe Flacco is elite, so I'll have to take them at their word. That's clearly not a competitive division, and if the Steelers are playing down to the level of their competition, that's their own issue, not the fault of the Patriots.
And then there's the pesky fact that the Patriots are always ready to raise their level when it comes to the playoffs, which is even more of a feat if you go by the notion that iron sharpens iron. If the Pats are playing mere mortals leading up to the playoffs, maybe it's more impressive that they are able to get to a championship-caliber level of success.