I re-watched each of the Packers' last four trips to the NFC title game, going back to 2008:
After the 2007 season the Packers (#2 seed) hosted Eli Manning and the Giants (#5 seed). The winner would face the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl. It was cold.
That should have been an advantage for the Packers, but Big Blue was no warm-weather team. It was a back-and-forth game that came down to special teams. Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes missed two field goals in regulation, giving Green Bay another chance in OT.
The Packers won the toss. Brett Favre went to work, in what would be his last game for Green Bay.
He threw an interception.
Now it was up to the Packers' D to keep young Eli Manning and the Giants out of the end zone. Plaxico Burress (whom I share a birthday with) had a monster night, but he was no hero.
You know the rest. They went on to defeat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, something I'm not sure the ol' Gunslinger could have done. Could you imagine if Brady and Belichick had seven rings? ::shudder::
Back to the Pack...their first trip to the NFC Championship game with Aaron Rodgers under center was in 2011, after the 2010 season. Green Bay (#6 seed) traveled to Soldier Field to face the #2 seeded Bears. The winner would face the Steelers in the Super Bowl.
This was another cold game against a cold-weather opponent.
Rodgers scored the game's first touchdown on a bootleg. He did not throw a touchdown pass in this game. Neither did Bears starter Jay Cutler, who left the game in the third quarter.
Did Cutler quit on his team? Possibly. But his team didn't quit. Third-stringer Caleb Hanie led the Bears to two scores, but he threw a costly pick-six to B.J. Raji that proved to be the difference.
Chicago's D was no joke. But could you imagine Jay Cutler in a Super Bowl? No. Just...no.
After the 2014 season, Green Bay had another NFC title trip to make, this time to Seattle. The Packers and Seahawks were both 12-4 but the defending champion Seahawks won the tiebreaker and the #1 seed. The winner would face the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
This game was not cold. It was 51F with a light, misting rain at kickoff.
Seattle's defense was legendary. The Legion Of Boom wasted no time frustrating Rodgers. Richard Sherman beat Davante Adams (in his rookie year) and snatched an interception on the Packers' first possession. [They're sure to see plenty of each other tonight.]
Green Bay returned the favor, as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix picked off Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson.
The Packers advanced the ball to about the half-yard line. Head coach Mike McCarthy settled for a field goal. The Seahawks turned the ball over again. Again Green Bay had the ball at the Seattle one-yard line. And again McCarthy settled for a field goal.
This is the face of a man who left eight potential points on the board. Hold that thought.
Wilson and the Seahawks' offense couldn't get anything going. The young QB threw three picks in the first half, and the Packers led 16-0.
Seattle scored on a fake punt, and Marshawn Lynch activated Beast Mode, but Wilson was still shaky [unlike last week when a more polished Russ exploded in the second half.] His fourth interception with five minutes to go in the game put the Seahawks' win probablility at less than 1%.
Yeah, that's pretty much how I felt. Thanks for leaving those eight points on the board, Mike. Hope you share that wisdom with your new team.
The Seahawks returned to the Super Bowl. The one where Wilson threw an interception at the goal line instead of feeding Lynch for the winning score. Yeah, that one. Ugh.
Two years later Rodgers and the Packers returned to the NFC title game, as the #4 seed. They traveled to the Georgia Dome to face the Falcons (#2 seed.) The winner would face the Patriots in the Super Bowl. No weather.
This game was ass. I couldn't even bring myself to hate-watch it this weekend. I asked my wife to buy bratwurst for the game, and I was going to eat one for every Packers touchdown. The Pack didn't score in the first half. I ate three brats and they were the best part of the night.
Matt Ryan embarrassed the Packers for 392 years and four TDs. Atlanta would go on to the Super Bowl, where they would be responsible for the greatest choke job in history. Ha! Now you know how it feels! ...is what I would have said if they didn't lose to the damn Patriots.
So..have you figured out why I'm certain the Pack will prevail tonight? Is it the weather in Santa Clara? The playoff seeding? The number four? Nah, it's because the winner will not play the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
See you in Miami, Patrick.
Then again...last week I watched the Houston Texans come out swinging against Kansas City. When Houston went up 21-0 in the first quarter I went up to my computer.
DeShaun Watson is putting on a show, I thought to myself. They've got a clear path to the Super Bowl. Tennessee isn't going to stop them. Watson's rookie cards will soar. I'd better get one now. Like, right now.
I snatched this up with a Buy It Now, paid for it, and went for a walk with my daughter. It was an unseasonably warm weekend and I didn't need to watch this game. I knew what was going to happen. The Chiefs would straighten out and score a couple TDs but Houston would hang on and win.
This is why I don't gamble. If I'd placed a bet with a sports book I'd have lost my money. Instead I walk away with something of value - a nice DeShaun Watson card that still has some investment potential. I would have loved to pick up a Patrick Mahomes RC but his Prizms are way out of my budget.
Who are you cheering for on this Championship Sunday?
Thanks for reading, and GO PACK GO!!