I read an online comment yesterday and it kind of caught my eye: the writer was responding to an article on NFL.com asking the question, “Who is the best team in the NFC after the Packers?” Putting aside the implications for the Packers from an article like that, a bunch of sportswriters gave it their all, putting Philly, New Orleans, New York and San Francisco up as their likely candidates. But the person commenting (who I inferred was not a Packer fan due to the context of his remarks) made the most salient point: The reasons the Packers are so scary formidable right now is that they are 7-0 and are only playing in third gear. Think about that—how good would the Packers be if they could kick in that higher gear? Aaron Rodgers said in an interview this week that one of his goals this year was to make the gap between good games and bad games larger. I would say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, Aaron! But what if the offensive line was just a tad more solid at pass protecting? How many more completed passes does that mean? What if James Starks or Ryan Grant got into a groove? How many opponent opportunities does a great running game eliminate? What if Dom Capers truly has been holding back his best stuff for the second half of the season? How many turnovers and sacks is that worth? What if our “bend but don’t break” attitude on pass coverage becomes “we’re not bending anymore, chum”? How many drives does that stymie?
You can ask yourself, “how can you get any better than 7-0?” The answer is a simple one: you can’t. But if you improve in just one of the above phases of the game, you make it that much harder for your opponents to spoil that record. The Packer’s goal is not a 16-0 season. It’s not that elusive “perfect” season. No, the Green Bay Packers have only one goal: beat the next opponent and then climb over their still-warm corpse to get to the next challenger. Shifting into that highest gear will allow them to do that.