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Tiebreakers meaningless; Packers need better record

What will it take for Green Bay to win the NFC North?


Toua from Houston, TX

With a tie yesterday, what's the best case for the Packers going into December?

When I went to bed last night, it hit me: "Vic, you idiot, the tiebreakers don't matter anymore because there isn't gonna be a tie, unless the Lions and/or the Bears each tie a game, and that's highly unlikely." That's what yesterday's tie with the Vikings did. It erased the tiebreakers from importance. The challenge facing the Packers now is real easy to understand: They must finish with a better record than the Lions and the Bears for the Packers to win the NFC North. It doesn't matter who the Packers beat, they have to finish with a better record than the Lions and the Bears because it's almost a certainly they won't finish with the same record as the Lions and the Bears. So, Thursday's game in Detroit isn't as much a must win as I thought it was, because it has no tiebreaker importance.

Jason from Summerville, SC

So, if the Packers win out the remaining games of the season and the Lions and the Bears both win all of their games except the games against the Packers, do we win the North?

Yes, because 10-5-1 is better than 10-6. Bob from Manahawkin, NJ

I guess Matt Flynn was the answer all the time. Why this organization was so stubborn about him when we desperately needed a backup is beyond my grasp. While this team realistically isn't going anywhere, I'm left to wonder what if he had started the Giants game and was around for the Philly game?

We're all left to wonder. Why don't we let this play out? In time, I think we'll have the answers we seek to put our minds to rest.

Mike from North Haven, CT

Vic, what a gutsy move by McCarthy to pull Tolzien, who was playing relatively well (until that game), and put in Matt Flynn. For all the people who trash McCarthy for his decision making, that move could have just saved our season.

That's the other side of the argument. Chuck Noll wouldn't have made that switch. He was a pick and stick guy, and that turned out pretty well for him in his career. Mike McCarthy is a disciplined coach, but he is not rigid. He made a dramatic change at the most important position on the team, and it saved the Packers from near-certain defeat.


Lions WR Calvin Johnson

Andy from Chaska, MN

Even if Rodgers comes back this Thursday, how is this Packers secondary going to cover Calvin Johnson?

It'll probably begin with at least two guys giving it a try. Tramon Williams has had success against Johnson; Williams knows Johnson as well or better than any cornerback in the league. Hey, I'm trying to stay hopeful. I get your point. Without Sam Shields, the Packers secondary is really struggling. Will Shields be able to play on Thursday? That's the big question on defense heading into this game.

Nathan from Sand Creek, WI

Vic, you like drama. I think the plot just thickened.

Yeah, but in a different way. If I knew the Lions would lose their final four games of the season, I could write that this Thursday's game isn't a must win. The Packers could actually lose in Detroit and Chicago and still win the division. I wouldn't put much stock in that happening, but it's possible. Neither head-to-head nor division record means anything now. The Lions have the Packers, at Eagles, Ravens, Giants and at Vikings left on their schedule. The Bears have at Vikings, Cowboys, at Browns, at Eagles and Packers left on their schedule. I can see the Lions losing in Philadelphia and the Bears losing to the Cowboys and the Eagles. If it happens that way, the Packers could clinch the NFC North by winning their next four games.

Mike from West Bend, WI

This organization was arrogant in its approach to the backup QB position. The we-can-get-by … attitude might have sunk a very promising season. A better QB could've pulled a win or two out of there. Thompson says we still do things the Ron Wolf way. I'd like someone to point out the value and track record Wolf placed on backup QBs during his tenure. This season is becoming one of a huge wasted opportunity.

It's food for thought. You never want to become so rigid in your approach that you ignore alternative means. I'm not sure who this "backup" is, other than Matt Flynn, but the Packers clearly invested in Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman without reward. Is that the criticism? They are to be blamed for committing to Harrell and Coleman? Commitment to the development of talent is this franchise's trademark. There's no crystal ball that tells you to commit to this guy but not that guy. Commitment must be roster-wide. Be that as it may, I acknowledge that the quarterback position is different from every other position on your roster, and it has to be managed with much greater attention to detail and urgency. This is food for philosophical conversation in the offseason.


QB Matt Flynn

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, do you see why most Packers fans wanted to see Flynn signed and starting now?

I guess the fans know best.

Eric from Fort Worth, TX

I guess we shook the backup QB tree and someone fell out, hmmm?

And they know more than the editor of the team website, too.

Ben from Chicago, IL

Vic, does picking at the top of the draft consistently lead to any cap consequences down the line?

Not with the new CBA, which makes draft choices much more affordable than they were previously. High picks are still costly, but they can't hold your cap hostage as they had when, say, Matt Stafford was the first overall pick. Back then, yes, picking at the top of the draft consistently would almost certainly lead to cap consequences down the line.

David from Madison, WI

Vic, I love how you described our wholesome tradition. What were the wholesome traditions in Pittsburgh and Jacksonville?

The Steelers had a great playoff tradition during my days covering the team. When they hosted a playoff game, they would announce a public sale of tickets for the game that season-ticket holders had not purchased. It might be a thousand or so tickets. The day before the sale began, fans would begin lining up at the ticket window. By the time I left Three Rivers Stadium in the afternoon, the line was beginning to wrap around the inner circle of the stadium, which was protected by ramps from above. The fans came with blankets and sleeping bags, etc. When I went to the stadium the next day, the inner circle would be littered with pizza boxes, as it became a tradition for the Steelers to have hundreds of boxes of pizza delivered to the fans during the night. Jacksonville is a young franchise still developing traditions, but it developed one in its inaugural season that I wish it had maintained. The Jaguars played their hearts out in year one. They lost close games and I can remember the fans giving the team a standing ovation as it left the field following a loss. Expectations are a killer.

Rick from Appleton, WI

Vic, now that the attempt to portray yourself as one of the boys at a Wisconsin deer hunting camp has been exposed for the two-bit, pathetic ploy we all know it is, what do you have to say for yourself other than "I tried"?

I'm winsome. I want football to be fun. Last week's inbox was a pathetic place. The column needed to have some fun. I tried.

Bob from Marietta, GA

Vic, I'm so angry right now I'm spitting nails! I am a life-long Packers fan and stockholder living in the Atlanta area. My wife surprised me and my son with tickets for the Packers-Falcons game scheduled originally for the evening of Dec. 8. She made all the flight and hotel arrangements for us and we adjusted our work schedules. Now we see that the league has bumped up the game to noon. All of our arrangements are out the window; we might not be able to make the trip now. There's absolutely no excuse for jerking fans around like this!

I agree.

Brett from Atlanta, GA

Vic, with the new overtime rules allowing the other team an opportunity to possess the ball after a field goal, do you think any thought was put into going for it on the 3-yard line on fourth down and finishing the game right there? Obviously, there's no guarantee you score, but a TD wins and doesn't allow the Vikings a chance. If we don't score, we have them backed up and maybe that changes the play calling for them coming out of their own end zone.

First of all, I hate the new overtime rules. Why do the Vikings deserve a chance to score after the Packers score? The Vikings blew a 16-point lead. In my mind, if true sudden death was good enough for Johnny Unitas, it's good enough for everybody else. I like the way you're thinking. It's bold, probably too bold for most coaches' tastes because the fan criticism would be so intense if the strategy failed that it could cost the coach his job, but if you've got a defense worthy of that kind of gamble, I think it's worthy of consideration, especially on a cold day when your opponent is facing a stiff wind. The Packers defense didn't engender that kind of boldness on Sunday. The Vikings were gashing the Packers with the run.

Matt from Columbia, SC

Why in the world did they go for two points? Does anyone realize we would have won if we had kicked the extra point?

Every coach in the league would've gone for two. Not having gone for two would've resulted in criticism so intense that it, too, could cost a coach his job. I have to believe 99.99 percent of all fans would've gone for two. I have to believe 100 percent of all the ex-jockos on NFL Network would've gone for two. Mike Mayock would've gone for two. The drunk in the upper deck would've gone for two. My dogs would've gone for two. Yet, as it turned out, it would've been better to go for one. What's the point of all this? The point is that we overrate strategy. Just win, baby. It doesn't matter how you do it, just do it. When you win, everything you say and do is right. When you lose, you are without excuse.

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