NFL: Can the Green Bay Packers go 16-0?

The Sport Review's Iarla Duignan takes a look at the main talking points from a hectic week of NFL action

By Iarla Duignan

Can the Green Bay Packers go 16-0?

The Packers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-26 on Sunday to become the 14th team in NFL history to stay perfect through 10 games. Only the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots went on to finish the regular season without any losses. Can the Packers become the third?

History shows the rarity in which it happens and although the Packers have looked unbeatable this season, it will be difficult to remain unbeaten.

Firstly, the schedule is against them. Of their six games left, five are against teams with a winning record and three are against division rivals, they face the Detroit Lions twice and the Chicago Bears.

Secondly, rest. Recent experience has devalued the importance of being unbeaten in the regular season. The Packers are the defending Superbowl champions, despite sneaking in to the playoffs in the last game of the season with a 10-6 record.

In the 2007 season, the Patriots finished 16-0, but crucially lost the Superbowl. It will not be surprising to see most of the Packers’ starters sit the last couple of games when the number one seed is wrapped up.

If they are to go unbeaten, the two games against the Detroit Lions stand out on the calendar, first of which is one of the Thanksgiving Day showpieces later today.

We are likely to see a fired up Lions as they fight to stay in playoff contention. They also have a high powered offense that could live with their rivals, as proven this weekend when they put up 49 points against the Carolina Panthers.

If the Packers manage to win on Thanksgiving, it may come down to the last game of the season at home to Detroit. It will probably be a must win game for the Lions against the Packers’ reserves.

A 15-1 or 14-2 record remains the most likely outcome.

Value of second string Quarterbacks

The Sunday and Monday night showpiece games once again showed the importance of having a good back-up quarterback with Vince Young and Tyler Palko finishing with different results.

Palko started for the first time in the league on Monday night and despite playing ok, he couldn’t cause any damage where it mattered in the 34-3 loss to the New England Patriots.

Philadelphia had prepared for an injury to their star quarterback Michael Vick by signing Vince Young in the offseason. The six-year veteran showed the experience necessary to lead his side to a 17-10 victory over division rivals and leaders New York Giants.

His performance was not perfect, he threw three interceptions, but he made plays when his side needed it and he was the benefactor of his teams great defensive performance to seal victory.

It is possibly the most important position in any sport and most teams’ success hinge on the health of their signal caller.

The Indianapolis Colts have faltered to a 0-10 record this season with back-up Curtis Painter in. First choice Peyton Manning is out for the season with a neck injury and is missing his first games since coming into the league in 1998.

Having no backup hasn’t been a problem for the Colts before because of the future hall-of-famer’s impeccable injury record but their lack of an alternative has resulted in them being the worst team in the league.

Next week we are going to see two teams in playoff contention turn to their backup quarter-backs to keep them in the race. Quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Jay Cutler have been ruled out for the season and left 7-3 sides Houston Texans and the Chicago Bears in precarious positions.

The Texans turn to Matt Leinart, who has been a bust so far in the League after being drafted 10th overall in 2006. Caleb Hanie will start for the Bears after Cutler broke his thumb on Sunday. The fourth year player has thrown 14 passes in his career.

Both sides’ seasons hinge on whether they had a good backup plan.

Is Rob Gronkowski the best tight end in the league?

As the passing game continues to develop in the NFL, teams are coveting a top calibre tight end more than ever. It has become this seasons ‘sexy’ position.

Line-backers are too slow to cover them and defensive backs are too small to tackle them. Teams have fallen in love with the combination of size and athleticism that players like Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis and company have to offer.

No team uses their tight ends as well as the New England Patriots as their combination of Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been destroying defences.

Gronkowski is playing as well as any tight end in the league after his two touchdowns Monday night along with eight catches for 101 yards. He has scored 20 touchdowns in his first 26 games as a pro, more than any other tight end in the same timeframe in history.

For whatever reason, his name isn’t mentioned as much as others when talking about the best tight end in the league. Its time it started.

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