ESCANABA - Can the Green Bay Packers be called a super team?
That will be determined in the upcoming playoff run, but for a good stretch of this season it appeared super was a fitting term.
After winning Super Bowl XLV in February, the Packers ran off 13 straight victories to open this season. Most of the time they displayed a super offense directed by Aaron Rodgers, who should be the no-brainer choice as league MVP despite a banner season by Drew Brees.
Dennis Grall, sports editor
Rodgers ran an explosive offense, hitting a bevy of top-shelf receivers, and also has good running ability.
His expertise was even more impressive because the running game is just barely visible and injuries to tackles Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton and guard Josh Sitton left the offensive line in disarray much of the way.
Maybe we're spoiled, but Rodgers has been little more than ordinary the last couple of weeks, with some passes sailing high, falling short or just a tad ahead of cutting receivers.
Some of that can be traced to a heavier pass rush through the depleted line and tinkering by defenses to disrupt his reads.
He was back in the groove Sunday as the Packers belted the injury-ravaged Bears 35-21.
A strong third quarter helped the Packers complete the first four-game sweep of the same team in one calendar year.
The offense, despite getting little production out of injury-plagued but promising James Starks and inconsistent Ryan Grant, does not appear as prolific as that directed by dome-charged Drew Brees in New Orleans but it should be good for the playoffs.
The woeful defense, however, could deprive the Packers of a Super Bowl repeat. My gosh, even the offensively challenged Bears sliced and diced that defense.
That defense has allowed more yards (6,010) than the Packers have gained (5,932), a mind-boggling statistic for a team that takes a league-best 14-1 mark into Sunday's finale against resurgent and dangerous Detroit.
Is the loss of safey Nick Collins the reason the defense has dropped off so fast from last year's dominating pack? Or is the lack of production by the big cows in the front line the problem?
Other than the league-best 25 interceptions, it would be hard to believe this defense could even get water to freeze at minus 10 degrees, a temperature we could feel in a playoff game in Lambeau Field.
Charles Woodson has been brilliant, other than some unusual brain-fart moments (numerous penalties and taking a kickoff from the end zone in San Diego when the Packers were massed 40 yards forward for a possible onside kick). Clay Matthews has also been sharp at linebacker, other than the lack of QB sacks, and Desmond Bishop has been the best tackler. But they can't seem to stop anyone, until the advance gets near the end zone.
It is hard to believe they can keep dodging those kind of bullets when the quality of throwers increases in the playoffs.
The defense is designed to stop the run first, yet the beleaguered Bears had no problem running through the injury-plagued front line Sunday.
The Pack has homefield advantage through the playoffs, but is it really an advantage when the temperature hits zero or below? The hands and feet freeze for every player, which reduces any separation between the teams.
Yes, the Packers won the brutal Ice Bowl in 1967. But the Packers lost to the Giants in Ice Bowl II in 2007, even though they were the better team. And don't forget they went 4-0 on the road in last year's playoff run.
A very good team, no doubt. But is it a super team? Let's hope so.