Some random thoughts about the next 6 Games, all through some purple-tinted lenses:
1. Silver linings in the schedule. We got 10 "practice" games to get our house in order before taking on the Bears and Pack, where entry to the playoffs will be granted or denied. We needed them. And now look it at from a preparation perspective:
A. We get plenty of rest to heal and 2 weeks to prepare for the Bears at Soldier Field, who will take us on with i) their team probably on a downward 2-loss spiral, their QB with a concussion, their Offense mired in controversy with an Offensive Coordinator who inspires confidence in NO ONE (sigh), and ii) a VERY short week to prepare for the Vikes (and the possible return of Harvin and the emergence of Wright and a reborn Christian) after having played on Monday Night in San Francisco the week before. Hard to ask for more help from the NFL in plotting our trip to Soldier field in 2012.
B. We then go to Lambeau to face the Pack, hopefully full to the brim with team confidence after a KEY win at Soldier Field, and look what we get: a Packers team coming off a tough 2-week road trip at Detroit and the NYG, both of which need to beat the Pack at home to turn their seasons around (the Lions on the brink of elimination and the Giants in danger of letting the 'Boys back into position to nudge them out of the playoffs). And if the Pack manages to beat the Giants in national stage primetime on Sunday night in NY, one might not be surprised by a slight emotional "let down" the next week back at their comfortable home at noon the next week.
C. Then we get the Bears at home. At the 'Dome. If by some miracle we are riding a 3-game win streak over Division opponents at that point, I see Harvin and AP trouncing the Bears that week and the Vikes in the driver seat to win the Division with a 5-0 record against their rivals. WOW. Schedule looks pretty favorable, if you think about it, as far as setting up our games with Bears and Pack.
D. We then get a road game at the comfortable Dome in St Louis in December against a team that may very well be effectively eliminated from the playoffs at that point. We then go to Houston with no chance of bad weather to play a team that may have already clinched its Division and MIGHT have already clinched the top seed in the AFC playoffs.
E. Then we get Rodgers at home, with a chance to win the Division and a playoff spot.
All in all, this schedule doesn't look all that unfavorable through purple-tinted shades. (By the way, let's hope the Saints and Falcons kick the Bucs out of playoff contention and the Hawks overtake the Niners -- it helps our Wildcard chances, right?)
2. Pass Defense. For the past decade or so, our D's weakest link has been pass defense, and all phases of that defense to boot (except pass rush). But this year, the D has looked real good against the pass and especially against a well known and established passing offense: Detroit twice (2 wins). This year, by contrast topruior years, the D has appeared extremely vulnerable to good runners: TB's Martin (loss), Seattle's Lynch (loss), Skins' Morris (loss). But the situation dos not seem hopeless this year. With the right prep and mindset, the D seems capable of shutting down even the best runners not named Peterson (Gore, C Johnson). Plus, neither the Pack nor the Bears are sporting a first class running game this year. And we might get Houston with Foster resting on the bench (who knows?). If we can hold Rodgers down the way Seattle did (and the way we did to Stafford), there is reason to be optimistic.
3. Ponder. He showed something very important yesterday: Unlike Sanchez or Cutler or Vick or Cassell or Newton or Rivers, Ponder showed the inner fortitude to perform HIS BEST when under the most outside pressure and greatest risk of losing his starting job (and potential irreparable damage to his career prospects). Apparently, he does not need to be coddled , or "nurtured" at all. Instead, it appears he needs to be kicked in the butt by outside pressure, and be paired with a better gameplan from Musgrave and better execution from the O-line (duh, big surprise!!) . That bodes very well for the long term future of this team. (And, at the risk of annoying Mr. Gates and CCNorseman, it shows to me that perhaps Frazier does not need to be so worried about Ponder's "psyche" when deciding whether to put in Webb in the 3rd or 4th quarter during those games when Ponder is clearly out of it and playing with his head up his butt. But, i digress....) As the pressure builds for the big games with the Bears and Pack, perhaps we can expect Ponder to perform like he did yesterday (and like he did against the Niners, when the early season "on the brink" pressure gave rise to Winfield's wakeup call to the team). If Ponder plays better when the pot is huge, then there is a VERY bright future for this team -- so bright I think we need to wear shades. Purple-tinted shades.