Green Bay Packers have reason for optimism for rest of this season

Steve Brownlee

OK, so everyone is conceding the NFC North to the Detroit Lions and even talking of the Motor City Puddy-Tats as legitimate Super Bowl contenders.

Sorry, but as a lifelong Lions fan — sometimes warmer, sometimes cooler — this makes me quite nervous. I just don’t believe it, or at least, I find it hard to believe.

”Blah, blah, blah,” I’m sure you’re saying if you’re a Green Bay Packers fan, going on to add, “Enough already!”

So let me look a bit more into land of Cheeseheads today.

At 2-3, the Packers wouldn’t be a playoff team if the season ended today. But who would want to watch the playoffs if the regular season was only five or six games long?

Actually, right now Green Bay is only a half-game out of the final wild-card spot, though there’s a quartet of 3-3 teams — Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans and the L.A. Rams — vying for that single position.

So things are nowhere close to being lost.

I’ve told a few Packers fans since it became apparent that Jordan Love would be the starting quarterback that, first, I don’t know if he’ll pan out as a legit starter or as a star in the NFL — or just be a bust. That’s wa-a-a-a-ay above my pay grade and you wouldn’t believe me even if I made that pronouncement.

If he is going to be either of the good two of those choices, this year would probably be his worst year. Makes sense, as he’s basically a rookie as far as playing time. Sure, he’s been around three years, but that’s three years he’s hardly played, which could have dulled his QB tools.

But even with that downer, there’s still hope for the playoffs, which at this point is probably the most realistic goal for this team. If you can get in, who knows how far this Packers team can go?

But you have to get in first.

Looking at the schedule … hmm, ripe for the picking, eh? I would say all but one or two games are winnable, heck, Green Bay could be called the favorite in 10 of their final 12 encounters.

This week is at Denver, then home games against Minnesota and the L.A. Rams. When you’re 2-3, every opponent is a potential misstep — just ask previously undefeated San Fran and Philly about this past weekend.

I think the Rams and the following game, at Pittsburgh, are the toughest two on the near-horizon right now.

Following those two games are the L.A. Chargers, and four days after that, at Detroit on Thanksgiving.

That Lions’ game and the contest 10 days later at home against Kansas City seem like the two toughest games remaining. But as you well know, anything is possible against a division foe, and heck, the Lions already beat KC at the start of the season.

Down the home stretch, there’s games at the New York Giants, home vs. Tampa Bay, at Carolina and at Minnesota, and the wrapup at home vs. Chicago.

Heck, if the Pack is even just 3-4 over their next seven games, there’s a chance to run the table at 5-0 and end up 10-7.

Don’t be surprised, though, if Tampa and Minnesota are also fighting for the playoffs, so those two games might not be as easy as they sound.

Still, though, there’s hope. Love needs to get back to what worked early in the season and the defense needs to be accomplished if not excellent.

Keep Aaron Jones and Christian Watson upright, and I won’t even worry about the O-line as Love is young and can scramble when need be.

There’s one caveat to all this — you’re hearing this from a guy who can barely pick 60 percent of his games right every week.

Oh well, now that I’ve busted your green-and-gold Packer balloon, let me see how I can butcher this week’s picks:


Today, 8:15 p.m.

Jacksonville at New Orleans — I have to hedge my bet as Jacksonville QB Trevor Lawrence is questionable and backup C.J. Beathard has a 2-10 career record as a starter. Even if Lawrence goes, he might not be 100 percent, and even if he is, New Orleans lost a close one last week, is at home, and the Jags won last week. Bad for the reverse momentum when it comes to Jacksonville. Saints, 26-20.


Sunday, 1 p.m.

Detroit at Baltimore — Gosh darn, I just got done building up my Lions and I’m really nervous on this one. But I’m going to trust Dan Campbell to get his team up, and I’m hearing the overseas hangover is real. Guess where the Ravens beat Tennessee last week? At 9:30 in the morning in London.

They say Detroit can’t stop a running QB, but that was last year’s defense when it couldn’t stop a nose from running either. Lions, 27-24.


Las Vegas at Chicago — OK, gotta make this easy when I can. The arguably worst-in-the-league Bears almost certainly won’t have their QB, Justin Fields. ‘Nuff said. Raiders, 33-23.


Cleveland at Indianapolis — Both teams may be missing their starting QB, with it sounding like Cleveland more likely to get Dashaun Watson back. With their lockdown defense, I have to go with the Browns, 21-13.


Buffalo at New England — Another easy one, so if New England pulls off the upset — which it certainly would be if the Patriots win — hats off to Bill Belichick. Bills, 27-10.


Washington at New York Giants — I know I should take the Giants as they came within a yard of winning on Sunday night vs. Buffalo, but didn’t, while Washington took down Atlanta by eight points. But even with the reasonable assumption that Tyrod Taylor is an upgrade at QB for the Giants, I gotta pick the Commanders, 19-15.


Atlanta at Tampa Bay — Here’s the reverse “mo,” just applying it to Baker Mayfield. If nothing else, losing urinates him off (apply the correct word for “urinates”) and they were humbled by the Lions. Buccaneers, 24-20.

Sunday, 4 p.m.


Pittsburgh at Los Angeles Rams — Sounds like both these teams are fairly healthy, but Pittsburgh is coming off the bye. That’s as good as any reason to take the Steelers, 24-18.


Arizona at Seattle — I see Arizona as a punching bag, so if their opponent has reason to be angry and take it out on someone, it’ll be the Cardinals. Seattle lost a close one at Cincy, so it’s the Seahawks, 33-27.


Green Bay at Denver — Even though they’re a mile high, the Broncos are a 5,280-foot disaster movie from the ’70s. Especially coming off the bye, Packers, 35-24.


Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City — KC hasn’t looked like world beaters, but they might after hosting these division rivals. Chiefs, 39-24.


Sunday, 8:20 p.m.

Miami at Philadelphia — What is this, about the 27th intriguing matchup this weekend? It truly could be the irresistible force (the Dolphins’ offense) meeting the immovable object (Eagles’ defense). Except Philly’s “D” has been movable at times this season. Then again, Miami’s offense certainly looked resistible a couple weeks ago against Buffalo’s good defense.

Though I’m seeing Philly’s secondary is banged up — not good timing against an Miami offense that scored 70 points just a few weeks ago — I like them in a prime-time game. They seem like the type of team that would better rise to the occasion. Eagles, 34-31.


Monday, 8:15 p.m.

San Francisco at Minnesota — If the 49ers aren’t annoyed after their first loss of the season, then I’m not the Armchair QB (please don’t start the petitions). Doesn’t guarantee a San Fran win, but they should at least be ready. 49ers, 34-24.


Last week — 11-4, 73 percent. Season — 57-36, 61 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 552. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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