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This year's Packers are uglier but just as capable of winning it all

It's a tempting comparison to make, but the 2015 Packers look nothing like the 2010 team that won the Super Bowl.

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The 2010 Packers were feel-good Super Bowl winners. They entered the season off a strong run to close 2009 before falling in a Wild Card shootout loss to the Cardinals. That made them darlings. Aaron Rodgers was rounding into superstar form, and the defense lost no one of significance from a unit that held opponents to 14 points or fewer in six of its final eight regular season games.

The Packers' profile was much better than that of a typical No. 6 seed in 2010. They were the 10th-best scoring offense and second-best scoring defense, which gave them plenty of motivation to avenge their close losses -- all six by four points or fewer. They were an underdog that had no business being an underdog, the fourth-best team in the NFL by DVOA entering the playoffs. Their run was incredible, but it wasn't as jaw-dropping as, say, the Giants' after the 2007 season (14th in DVOA) when they upset the undefeated Patriots. Those six-seed Packers were elite (or close enough) throughout the year.

So despite an impressive-looking win over Washington on Sunday, the answer is no: There is no reason to expect the 2015 Packers to make a run like the 2010 team did just because the surface elements are similar. Yes it's true that they're both coming out of the Wild Card, and that Rodgers is the quarterback. This season's team is flawed in ways the 2010 squad wasn't, with a limping offense (15th in points scored) and an inconsistent defense (12th in points allowed) that has already suffered significant losses to teams that do have elite resumes (19 points to the Broncos, eight points to the Panthers and 30 points to the Cardinals).

People are comparing the two teams this week. Don't listen to them. The 2015 Packers are a different animal. If the Packers are going to make a Super Bowl run, they'll need to be opportunistic, hoarding every point, turnover or anything otherwise representing an opportunity. The 2010 Packers were wolves in the brush. The 2015 Packers will need to be hyenas.

The Packers need the lead

How they get the lead with sporadic rushing success and a patchwork receiving corps is a question, but Rodgers can be a panacea.* The Packers need the lead because their defense is a liability when it has to worry about the run and the pass.

The game against Washington illustrated this well. Four of the Packers' six sacks during came in the fourth quarter, shortly after they went up by two scores. Washington had had some offensive success, albeit intermittently, because it was able to maintain the threat of a running game with a few big gains. Washington, a bad rushing team, averaged 4.7 yards per carry because of chunk plays like Chris Thompson's 25-yarder in the second quarter and Alfred Morris' 19-yarder in the third. Those two players only had four combined carries in the second half, however, in part because the Packers put pressure on Washington to throw and score quickly.

The Packers' defense thrives when it can focus on the pass. All but six (86 percent) of the Packers' 43 regular season sacks came in their 10 wins. In all 10 of those games the offense protected the defense, facing a deficit of two or more scores just once, during the Hail Mary win over the Lions. It's very difficult to come back against the Packers. A lead usually means their offense is clicking and the defense can sit back and unleash talented pass rushers like Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers.

Conversely, teams that got ahead of the Packers tended to stay ahead. The only team to truly flip the table on the Packers was the Bears, who weathered small 7-0 and 10-7 deficits to win 17-13 in November. The Cardinals led 31-0 at one point. The Panthers led 37-14 before taking their foot off the gas, and the Broncos led 17-0. Teams in the lead can run the ball, and the clock, on a defense that ranks 21st in rushing yards per game, tied for 26th in yards per carry and 19th by DVOA. When the Packers lead, it prevents offenses from pecking away at their biggest weakness.

*Rodgers needs to be transcendent

The Packers' offense has disappeared for long stretches, too. Eddie Lacy seems to apparate in and out of games at will. An inconsistent running game isn't a new issue for the Packers, however. More concerning is how few times Rodgers has willed the Packers to victory.

He has fallen short this season by his standards, but especially in the fourth quarter of close games. When the Packers are within seven points of their opponent in the fourth, Rodgers is completing just 52.7 percent of his passes at 6.8 yards per attempt for four touchdowns and two interceptions. That's well worse than his overall numbers for this season, and his effectiveness in the same situation over the rest of his career.

The onus shouldn't fall on one man to win games. Nonetheless, the Packers are more reliant on their quarterback than any team remaining in the playoffs. And when the Packers needed Rodgers most this season, he wasn't a difference maker. He is credited with two fourth-quarter comeback or game-winning drives: A 34-yard field goal drive against the Seahawks and the Hail Mary against the Lions. He had three more opportunities but couldn't convert in losses to the Lions (first meeting), Bears and Vikings.

The Packers can embrace ugly

Winning a Super Bowl distorts things. Expectations weren't necessarily higher in 2015 than they were in 2010, but the 2010 Packers had the benefit of not having a recent title as an anchor. They won it all, so everyone began to wonder how many titles the Packers could win in the Rodgers era, and the ringless seasons since have felt like disappointments. Especially this season, when the Packers failed to win a division title for the first time since 2010.

Rodgers reflects that pressure, from telling fans to "R-E-L-A-X" to postgame against Washington when he was asked about expectations and he acknowledged that he had heard the chatter that Kirk Cousins might outplay him.

"No, I mean we don’t really care about any expectations, whether they’re talking picking Kirk over myself or talking about how everybody expected us to lose this game," Rodgers said. "We don’t care about those opinions out there. We care about sticking together and counting on each other and picking each other up and playing for each other."

The Packers are off to Arizona to rematch with a Cardinals team that spiritually feels a lot like the 2010 Packers -- a balanced, tight-knit team that, even if it doesn't win a title, is ready to usher in a new era of annual success. The Cardinals are one of the feel-good teams of the playoffs (the Chiefs and Panthers the others). They have every advantage on paper for this coming Saturday, a fact that Rodgers is no doubt aware of, along with his teammates.

The Packers' best recourse is to attack, to rabidly claw at the Cardinals with the quarterback who has been so brilliant throughout his career and a defense designed to sow chaos rather than smother.

They need to embrace what they are, a scruffy, pissed-off/pissed-on team that still has enormous potential despite what numbers say. No, this isn't the 2010 Packers. It's something much, much uglier and potentially just as fun.