Packers beating 49ers in Week 1 would be great, but not necessary
Aaron Rodgers. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - On September 8th, the Green Bay Packers have a score to settle with a Super Bowl favorite.
They will step on Candlestick Park's field and wage war with the team that knocked them out of the 2012 playoffs in a most embarassing way.
Revenge for the Packers is a dish they would love served with a glass of northern California wine and Wisconsin cheese.
The belief that the Green Bay Packers need to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the season's first game is completely understandable, and yes, a win over the team regarded as the NFL's best entering 2013 would send a fantastic message.
But it's not necessary for the Packers' eventual long-term plans of winning Super Bowl XLVIII.
Why? Because the Packers team we see on September 8th will probably NOT be the same squad that might face the 49ers again in January.
Need evidence? Just look at the Packers and how they won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season.
The team that took the field to start the 2010 campaign was definitely not the squad that ended it in North Texas with a Super Bowl title.
It was a fully-stocked, not injury-depleted roster that was still trying to find its way, a team lacking discipline in many areas and short in the skill set to finish close games.
One example: the loss to the archrival and eventual NFC North champion Chicago Bears in week 3.
In fact, six times the Packers lost games by four points or less.
Such mistakes were a reflection of a very young team similar to what we see with these 2013 Packers, as Aaron Rodgers is the one long-tenured veteran with a major leadership role.
Such leadership needs developing throughout the year, just like the 2010 Packers did.
In 2010, that "same squad" went to the same stadium, Soldier Field, in January for the NFC Championship Game, but it was far from the same team.
By that point, it had learned how to win close games it lost previously, beating the Bears in the season finale to get to the playoffs, then edging the Philadelphia Eagles in the wildcard round.
The team learned to adjust to injuries and how to not make the same mistakes which doomed them game after game in the early season.
It also improved by leaps and bounds defensively and in the running game.
In the Packers' last nine regular season games, they gave up eight points fewer per game than in the first seven contests of 2010.
The Packers only gained 100-plus yards twice in the first half of the 2010 campaign. They doubled that total in the second stanza.
It's no secret that those parts of the Packers' games became critical parts of their run to a title.
That's the similar path the young 2013 Packers defense and running game will have to follow - major growth as the season goes along.
By the 2010 NFC Title Game, those elements were in their prime, and they were the main reason the Packers defeated Chicago, 21-14 to go to Super Bowl XLV.
Did Green Bay need to beat Chicago in Week 3 of 2010? Nope.
They got it done when it counted the most, in the playoffs.
In fact, the numbers over the last 10 years also prove that the Packers don't have to defeat San Francisco in September to beat them in January.
Since 2003, in conference championship games which were rematches from the regular season, the eventual Super Bowl champion is 6-4 - a good percentage, but not a large enough margin to show that a regular season win over a conference nemesis is required.
I'm not saying at all that a victory over San Francisco won't help Green Bay's cause. Of course it will, not just psychologically, but in the chase for home field advantage in the playoffs.
But a loss won't doom the Packers' season on their possible path to New York in February.