Once the Packers-Cowboys game ended Sunday at Lambeau Field, my thoughts drifted toward Wisconsin and my Midwest relatives.
A big chunk of my wife’s family lives near Amery, Wisc., and I wondered how confident they felt about their team invading (or hobbling toward) the Seahawks’ home turf this weekend.
About the only thing as impressive as Kam Chancellor’s sledgehammer blows and Russell Wilson’s clutch 3rd-down tosses against the Panthers was Aaron Rodgers’ stellar performance battling Dallas with a gimpy leg. The Green Bay quarterback earned a passer rating nearly as remarkable as Wilson’s – 125.4 versus 149.2.
I went online today to learn what the vibe was like in Wisconsin for my friends and family.
Cousin Chelle said, “We love our Packers and are certain they can take the Seahawks on any given Sunday. Packer Pride goes a long way. It will be a nail-biter, but I believe we can and will be the champions!”
My friend Mike, who lives in Bothell but grew up in Stevens Point, Wisc., said he’s been in touch with Wisconsin friends and family, including a cousin who managed the owner’s box at Lambeau Field for 25 years.
“They all don’t want to tangle with the Seahawks,” Mike said. “After the game on Saturday, my brother texted me that he thought the Seahawks were unbeatable.”
My son’s friend and college roommate, Robb, now lives in Madison. He brought up Golden Tate’s game-winning catch from September 2012, which gave the Seahawks a 14-12 win over the Packers. I naively had thought the animosity over that debacle disappeared with Tate when he left Seattle to join the Lions.
“I would say that Wisconsinites’ views of the Seahawks are at an all-time low,” Robb said. “Russell Wilson is still beloved for his brief and successful tenure with the Badgers, but that's not enough to make up for the still-stinging 2012 Hail Mary officiating controversy, or the Packers' embarrassing 2014 debut against the Seahawks.”
Cousin Gary lives just across the state line in Minnesota. Perhaps he's a Vikings fan.
"It depends a lot on which side of the state line you live," Gary said. "If you're in Wisconsin, the Packer fans always seem to believe they are unbeatable, no matter what kind of team they really have. And with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, they may be right.
"If you're on the Minnesota side of the line, we're almost all cheering for the Seahawks, if for no other reason, just to shut the Packer fans up," he said.
Readers of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel are conflicted. As of 6:15 p.m. Monday, a reader poll asking who will win Sunday’s game was split exactly 50/50 among 5,866 responses.
Unlike past years, the Seahawks have earned respect from their opponents’ beat reporters. Gary D’Amato of the Journal Sentinel wrote today, “It can be argued that there is no bigger challenge in the NFL right now than to go into the belly of the beast that is CenturyLink Field in Seattle and beat the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.”
Packers guard T.J. Lang told D’Amato, “We know it's going to be loud. I mean, it sucks, but we've played there before and we know what to expect."
Fan comments on the newspaper website also ran the gamut. “I actually think Seattle played a bunch of stiffs the last month of the season,” wrote one.
Another chimed in, “Not trying to be contrarian at all, but this matchup is the worst possible for the Pack. I think we’re betting with our hearts here instead of our head.”
We’ll find out Sunday.