Column: Green Bay Packers look poised to run the tableRICK LUBBERS: Thanks to the unbeaten Packers, members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins are starting to sweat.
By: Rick Lubbers, Duluth News Tribune
Members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins are starting to sweat.
That squad achieved NFL immortality by putting together the only perfect season of the Super Bowl era — going undefeated during the regular season, winning two playoff games and then the Super Bowl.
And they don’t want to share that honor with another team. So, each year when the last undefeated NFL team finally puts an L in the loss column, a few of the ’72 Dolphins share a toast and celebrate their perfect yesteryear and everyone else’s imperfection.
But with each victory this season, the Green Bay Packers inch closer to joining that select NFL fraternity. That champagne the ’72 Dolphins have put on ice isn’t so cold anymore, and it’s only going to keep getting warmer.
Sure, other teams have flirted with perfection in recent years. During their heyday, the Indianapolis Colts seemed to start every season 14-0 before falling down the stretch. The New England Patriots came the closest in 2007, bringing an 18-0 mark into the Super Bowl with the New York Giants, but losing 17-14.
But the Packers will make history by the end of Super Bowl XLVI in February. They will complete a perfect season, boast a 19-0 record and force the ’72 Dolphins to spit out their champagne. (Save your stamps and hate mail, Vikings fans. This isn’t wishful thinking. Just calling it as I see it.) Green Bay has several things in its favor as the season winds down and the postseason looms: a quarterback who stands alone among the NFL’s elite gunslingers, an offense that operates with deadly speed and precision, a defense playing with a chip on its shoulder and one that’s sick of hearing about how many yards and points it gives up, and, maybe most importantly, a schedule that sets the Packers up nicely to continue their perfect run.
The Packers (13-0) play their final road game of the season at Kansas City (5-8) on Sunday. The Chiefs, who just fired their head coach, Todd Haley, on Monday, shouldn’t present anything more than a slight speed bump on the way to another Lombardi Trophy. And if you can name the Chiefs’ current starting quarterback, running back — or any other starter for that matter — you’re either living in Kansas City or related to one of the players.
After dispatching the Chiefs, the Packers return home to entertain the Chicago Bears (7-6) and Detroit Lions (8-5) for the holidays. With division foes coming to town, the Packers won’t let up on the accelerator (and they may still be playing for home field, too) and would love to play a part in determining the Wild Card finalists.
The Bears always seem to play the Packers tough, but without all-purpose running back Matt Forte and with QB Jay Cutler ailing, they won’t have enough firepower to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and crew. As for the Lions, they haven’t won at Lambeau Field since 1991, and with all of the flags that are sure to be flying in that game, that streak will continue for at least another year.
And once the playoffs start, the Packers will have home-field advantage and won’t have to go on the road as they did last season en route to the Super Bowl. The NFC has a few strong teams, but the best playoff contenders only have half the pieces needed to solve the Packer puzzle. New Orleans (10-3) and San Francisco (10-3) would make a strong opponent if you could combine the Saints offense with the 49ers’defense, but those teams won’t have solid enough rosters by themselves to compete at Lambeau in frigid January.
The Falcons (8-5)? See last year’s playoff game between Atlanta and Green Bay.
The Giants (7-6) gave the Packers a good road scare recently, but they’re fighting just to make the field and wouldn’t be able to duplicate that effort at Lambeau Field anyway.
Which leaves the Super Bowl and the best of the AFC. The Baltimore Ravens, with their staunch defense and strong running game behind yardage-gobbler Ray Rice, seem a likely candidate to be the Packers opponent in Indy.
That matchup would give the Packers their toughest pairing this season, but with Aaron Rodgers putting up historic passing numbers (4,000-plus yards passing and 39 TD passes with three games to go!) and a ball-hawking defense that seems to make big plays whenever needed, the Ravens will become just an historic footnote following Green Bay’s repeat Super Bowl victory.
Yes, the ’72 Dolphins should be nervous. Their 17-0 season is about to be eclipsed by the 2011 Packers and a 19-0 mark.
By the time the Super Bowl is over, if the ’72 Dolphins want to drink champagne that isn’t warm and flat, they’ll have to visit the Packers locker room.
Contact News Tribune sports editor Rick Lubbers at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 723-5317. His NFL predictions are for entertainment purposes only.