We all know the stakes of this next Packers game, right?
The Green Bay Packers travel to Santa Clara as 7.5 underdogs to face the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship this Sunday. The amount of storylines for this game is staggering. Just to name a few:
The Packers got wrecked in their last matchup against the 9ers in November.
Brother vs Brother: Matt and Mike LaFleur square off for a chance at the Super Bowl.
Student vs Master: Matt LaFleur andKyle Shanahan square off for a chance at the Super Bowl.
Influenza vs Clean Butts (I may have made this one up).
Aaron Rodgers is from California.
The Packers are bad in California this year.
The NFC West tends to murder the Packers in the playoffs.
The Vikings are better than the Packers because math said so (this was a real take).
The Packers are still fraudulent despite being in the NFC Championship.
With all of these headlines, plus, you know, being one tough matchup away from a Super Bowl appearance, one might think the pressure is high. But the vibe around the locker room doesn’t feel that way.
Davante Adams alluded to this by pointing out the favored 49ers have a lot to prove “Nothing to lose, but a lot to lose. The pressure’s on them.” Adams also mentioned feeling really good about the gameplan going into this battle.
His quarterback feels the same way. “They’re definitely favorited by what, 7.5? Is that right? They’re obviously expected to hold court and win. People know and they’re talking about how we played the last time so I think if they look at pressure, the pressure is in a certain place and we should be nice and loose,” Aaron Rodgers said on Wednesday afternoon.
The team knows, but hasn’t focused on, how frequently they’ve been discounted by the national audience. Analytics twitter particularly has been a punching bag this week. Rodgers’ abilities, the skill position players, the defense, the quality of Green Bay’s 14 wins, and Matt LaFleur’s skills as a coach have all been under a microscope and been found wanting by pundits.
Yet this team keeps winning.
Facing a team that destroyed them weeks ago in a state they’ve struggled in all year is a daunting task, but the rest of the season doesn’t matter. It’s not like the 49ers haven’t lost this season either. This game is this game.
Kyle Shanahan, leader of the favored team, agrees. “Don’t be that stupid. That’s not real. This is about Sunday’s game. … There’s so many stories like that. And this is the NFL, so no team, the game before never matters like that.”
Being an underdog is nothing to this team. They’ve experienced an underdog championship run before. “Man, to get my first one, we went to everybody’s house,” Tramon Williams reminds us. The 2010 season Super Bowl Champion Packers faced every game on the road, and that seemed to turn out fine.
Maybe Green Bay loses this weekend. The 49ers are a really good team, with talented players, strong leadership, and the game in their house. They obviously want to win, too. But it’s like anything: all that matters is how these two teams stack up on Sunday. And I feel pretty good about this Packer team.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.