Drew Brees

Brees and the Saints are the class of the NFL.

Wildly inconsistent. That’s one way you could describe the 2009 Green Bay Packers.

Here are some others – undisciplined, young, lacking in leadership, lacking in poise, a talented but incomplete team, frustrating, not ready to take it to the next level, immature… I could go on, but please, feel free to add your own.

The bottom line is this. Of the teams the Packers have beaten this year, only the Chicago Bears currently have a winning record – in fact, they share the Packers’ 4-3 mark and you could use a lot of the descriptions I used above to describe the Bears, as well.

The point is, this Packers team is good enough to beat the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and St. Louis Rams of the NFL. Those teams have a combined three wins. They’re also good enough to beat a mirror image of inconsistency at Lambeau Field, which is what they did against the Bears. They are NOT good enough to compete with the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL – that is, the elite teams in the league.

The Packers simply are not an elite team. They were given a chance to prove it on Sunday and not only did they fail to seize that moment, you could say they failed miserably.

I won’t replay the Packers sins again because they are a recurring theme. If you’d like to go over those, you can take a look at our game recap.

So the question is, where does this Packers team fit into the grand NFL scheme, right now?

The answer, I think, is somewhere near the middle. I expect the Packers to compete for a wild card berth, although it will be an uphill battle – the Atlanta Falcons and the second and third place teams in the NFC East will have something to say about who gets those spots.

The problem, and it’s looking more and more daunting, is this Packers team clearly isn’t yet ready to pull off a signature win. I’m talking about a win over an elite – or even a good – team. The type of win that requires poise, discipline and maturity.

This team can still come together and prove me wrong, but they haven’t shown signs of doing so, thus far. Of the Packers’ final nine games, four of them are against teams currently playing at a higher level. Another pits them against the Bears in Chicago, making a 9-7 or 8-8 season a distinct possibility.

So, here’s a look at the NFL landscape.

The elite

I’m classifying elite teams as those who could win the Super Bowl right now:

1. New Orleans Saints – a threat to score in all three facets of the game.
2. Indianapolis Colts – suspect on defense, but Manning’s play has made up for shortcomings.
3. Minnesota Vikings – could be 8-0, clearly the class of the NFC North.

———–

Solid

These teams have slipped up once or twice, but are good, playoff-caliber teams and could make a run:

4. Denver Broncos – probably not as good as their record indicates, but their defense is awesome.
5. New England Patriots – not as strong as they used to be, but still the best in the AFC East.
6. Cincinnati Bengals – win over the Packers was no fluke – defense is improved, offense is back.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers – hard to put the champs below the Bengals, but the Bengals beat them.
8. Philadelphia Eagles – we’re calling the Raiders loss a fluke. A lot of talent here.

———–

Who knows

These teams undeniably have talent, but you never know what you’re going to get from them:

9. Dallas Cowboys – loads of star power, but have only beaten the teams they’re supposed to.
10. Houston Texans – getting hot, win at Cincinnati proves they can play with just about anyone.
11. Atlanta Falcons – a tough early schedule, Atlanta is better than their record.
12. Baltimore Ravens – all losses were close, Denver win proves they can compete at highest level.
13. Arizona Cardinals – the epitome of this group: can beat anyone, can lose to anyone.

———–

On the outside looking in

These teams can’t compete with the elite of the league. They have major holes, but some talent and will pick up wins:

14. New York Giants – started 5-0, now 5-3, were destroyed by New Orleans.
15. Green Bay Packers – haunted by the ghost of Brett Favre.
16. Chicago Bears – similar problems as the Packers: poor offensive line, no leadership or poise.
17. San Diego Chargers – biggest win is over Miami, but Philip Rivers gives them a shot.

———–

A little less than mediocre

These teams have more holes and probably won’t end up doing much of anything in the long run. However, one or two could get hot and make a run.

18. Miami Dolphins – running game is outstanding, not crazy about the rest of the product.
19. New York Jets – beat the Patriots, defense is great, but it’s tough going with a rookie QB.
20. San Francisco 49ers – defense is stout, but wins have been hard to come by since September.

———–

Bad

These teams are just bad. There’s no getting around it.

21. Carolina Panthers – NFC Championship game last season, shit the bed most of this season.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars – if only Maurice Jones-Drew could play every position on the team.
23. Buffalo Bills – defense is injury-riddled, offense is just terrible.
24. Seattle Seahawks – they have talent on offense, but it’s translated to only two wins.

———–

Atrocious

These teams don’t belong in the NFL.

25. Washington Redskins – a pretty good defense is being wasted on this side-show franchise.
26. Oakland Raiders – JaMarcus Russell is the worst starting quarterback I’ve seen in 20 years.
27. Tennessee Titans – the best of the one-win teams because of Jeff Fisher and Chris Johnson.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – there is some talent on offense, believe it or not.
29. Detroit Lions – with Stafford and Johnson they compete, without they lose to the Rams.
30. St. Louis Rams – I know you beat Detroit, but I can’t see you winning again this season.
31. Cleveland Browns – I’m tempted to rank them last, how they won one I still can’t explain.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – zero wins says it all.

———–

The bad news is there are currently seven NFC teams better than the Green Bay Packers – and a few of those may be debatable. Only six teams in each conference make the playoffs. So let’s break it down real quick.

Assume Minnesota, New Orleans and Arizona will win their divisions. Philadelphia, Dallas and New York will battle it out for the NFC East. I give the nod to Philadelphia. This means the following teams will be competing for the two wild card slots: Dallas, New York, Atlanta, Green Bay and Chicago. At this point in the season, I like Atlanta for one of those spots.

The Dallas Cowboys visit Lambeau Field on Nov. 15 and Green Bay visits Chicago on Dec. 13. How the Packers fare in those two games just might decide their fate.

Here’s the good news in all this: the Packers play the Buccaneers on Sunday. This should guarantee them at least one win in the coming weeks.

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