I have been struggling with a dilemma for a couple weeks now. Not sure which way to side with, so I turn to the only people who can help me, Ol’ Bag of Donuts nation. That’s right I am turning to our readers, the smartest football people I know. A nation of geniuses that display their brilliance every Sunday by wearing green and gold.
So my dilemma is this: Are “trap games” for real?
For most of my football viewing life, which is essentially my whole life, I have always thought that there was serious validity in trap games. The games that are right in front of a key, big game where the favored team falls flat to an inferior opponent. Coaches always preach to never look ahead, but anyone who has ever played team sports knows that is nearly impossible. You always look ahead, it’s human nature.
However, over the recent years with parity in the NFL (and especially this season), I have been lukewarm on the issue of trap games. It comes back to the over-used cliche of “on any given Sunday…” Yeah, yeah, I get that, but you can’t also can’t deny it. Look at the San Diego-Oakland game last week. San Diego has a big matchup looming in two weeks against Kansas City that very well could be for first place in the AFC West, assuming they take care of Oakland. The Raiders win essentially a “trap game,” but are they that much worse than the Chargers that they couldn’t beat them if San Diego wasn’t looking ahead? Absolutely not. In fact Oakland beat San Diego in Week Five when the Chargers had a tilt against the Rams looming in Week Six, which was not considered a trap game.
Or take a few narrow victories last week with Chicago versus Detroit and Kansas City versus Denver. Both Chicago and Kansas City have monster games this week and barely got by weaker opponents. Trap games? Maybe, until you remember Detroit should have beaten Chicago in Week 1 if not for Calvin Johnson’s non-touchdown and Kansas City got blown out by Denver in Week 10. So, are these close wins that much of a surprise based on previous results? And since they won close, is it because of a trap game? Hard to say, but doubtful.
So what does all this nonsense lead to? Do you believe in trap games and if so, is Sunday’s game made of the trap variety? Everyone says the Lions are better than their record, but at 2-10 you still suck no matter how you spin it. So are the Packers looking ahead to the big Sunday night tilt against New England in two weeks? Of course they are and it is easier to get up for bigger games. But don’t just assume they are ignoring the Lions, the same team who came back on them in Lambeau back in October. And believe me, the team is just as afraid of Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh as any other players they have faced off against this year. It is hard to get trapped with those players coming at you.
The Packers also have shrugged off the notion of trap games fairly well the last two seasons. This year the team has arguably already played two so-called trap games and are 1-1 in them. In Week Six, the team lost to Miami 23-20 leading up to the Minnesota game. However, that loss probably had more to do the fact Aaron Rodgers was coming off a concussion, Clay Matthews didn’t play and it the the team’s first game without Jermichael Finley. And Miami is not that bad of a team to begin with. Then just recently the Week 12 game at Atlanta, the Packers took on the free-falling Vikings in essentially another trap game. That game turned out pretty well for the Packers, didn’t it? (Note: I didn’t include the Buffalo game as a trap game before Chicago since it was so early in the season.)
Dating back to last year, the team was 3-1 in trap games : the two games before Minnesota and the weeks before Dallas and Baltimore. So aren’t trap games suppose to end badly for the overlooking team? I guess the Packers have been pretty immune to this theory lately.
I am sure there will be plenty of people who will argue and with hard statistics to be back up that trap games do exist. That is great and I am sure it won’t be hard to change mind, but right now I am slowly starting to believe that these games are myths. Every team has their rough patches, loses games they should win and vice versa. It is just the nature of the NFL and its parity, not because the team is looking ahead. So if the Packers come out a little slow on Sunday the reason probably is that guys like Johnson and Suh are just that good, not being overlooked.
So in 2010 are trap games still for real?