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Good News Bears: Packers Have Tough Road For Success

Wait, what's that you say? The NFC Conference game isn't until January 23rd? I see.

There's no doubt that Bears fans have felt the Chicago Bears have been disrespected this season. It's also no secret that the Green Bay Packers have gotten a lot of love for being a six seed.

This week's print edition of Sports Illustrated (Cover Date: January 10th, 2010) is their NFL Playoff Preview, and it features Peter King's (@SI_PeterKing) playoff picks, which include the Packers meeting the Patriots at Dallas in February.

Why the love for this Packers team? Why so much faith in a 6 seed team? King doesn't really justify, at all, his position in the article, other than saying he thinks the Packers will survive a tough road in the NFC. But will they? Let's take a look at what Green Bay has done, and would have to accomplish to make this a reality.

The Packers roadplay this season has been, what you could call, less than stellar. As you'll find by visiting Pro Football Reference, here's a quick summary of the 2010 season:

Home: 7-1 - Loss to Dolphins in OT
Away: 3-5 - Losses to Bears, Redskins (OT), Falcons, Lions, Patriots 

As can be seen, that's 4 road losses to conference teams... teams that are often ranked below them in the various power rankings that you'll see floating around. Any one of those wins would have put them into contention for their division, especially the win against the Bears, but they just couldn't get the breaks in any of them.

Now here's a quick look at the path the Packers are looking at, just to get to the NFC conference game.

Wild Card Round: in Philly vs. Eagles

In Week 1, The Packers narrowly beat the Eagles at Lambeau, 27-20, after having a 27-10 lead going into the fourth quarter. The big difference in that first game? Michael Vick didn't start. He came in for Kevin Kolb after an injury, and proceeded to throw for 175 yards and 1 touchdown, and rush for over 100 yards against the Packers defense. Rodgers, meanwhile, threw for 188 yards and 2 TDs in the full game.

The Key difference this time: The Packers have over 25% of the roster from Week 1 on IR, on the road, against one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league. 

Divisional Round: in Atlanta vs. Falcons
Should the Packers escape the grasp of the Eagles' talons, they have to fly into the home of the dirty birds, the Atlanta Falcons. In Week 12, The Falcons did what they did so well, squeak by with a last second field goal. Aaron Rodgers was able to bring the game to a tie with less than a minute in the fourth quarter, but then the Falcons did it themselves. They returned the kick 40 yards and benefited from a facemask play that put them at the Packers' 49. Ryan then completed four straight passes to put them in field goal range.

This game highlighted that other glooming flaw of the Packers: their inability to run the ball. Aaron Rodgers actually outrushed Brandon Jackson in this game, nearly doubling his yardage in the same number of attempts.

Rodgers ran 12 times for 51 yards, and 1 TD. Jackson ran 10 times for 26 yards. Rodgers had 344 yards in the game, amassing about 134 of them in the final quarter, as the Packers had to go for broke. Atlanta has proven to be a tough place to play this year. They've only taken one home loss, and that was to the Saints in Week 16, when the Falcons had already ensured that they were in the playoffs, and with what accounts for a "gimme" game in Week 17.

The likelihood that the Packers would slip by both teams to get to the NFC Championship seems to be, by realistic expectations, slim. Few teams have ever won three playoff road games in a row, and don't expect that to change soon. The Packers won't make it past the divisional round.