For more than a decade, the New England Patriots have been considered the NFL's golden standard for prolonged success.
Since 2000, their five Super Bowl appearances are more than any team in the NFL. Their three Super Bowl championships also lead the league. Since finishing 5-11 in coach Bill Belichick's first season, the Patriots have posted a winning record every year. They've reached double-digit wins in 11 straight seasons, and could make it 12 straight with a victory Sunday at Lambeau Field.
If anyone knows what NFL success looks like, it's Belichick. Which, in context, added substantial credibility to Belichick's praise of the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday morning.
"The Packer tradition and the history is up there probably ahead of every other team in the National Football League, certainly in terms of titles and Hall of Fame players and all of that," Belichick said. "So history, they're the oldest franchise in the NFL and the smallest market. So what the Green Bay Packers stand for and what they've built and what that community and their relationship with the team (has built) is unique and incredible. Nobody has more respect for it than I do."
It's been a while, but Belichick used to share a division with Green Bay. He was with the Detroit Lions as an assistant special teams coach in 1976, and a wide receivers coach in 1977. The Packers and Lions split their four games in those two seasons.
On paper, the Patriots are one of the few teams that can compete with the Packers' historical resume. Green Bay has won four Super Bowl titles (one more than New England) and appeared in five Super Bowls (two fewer than New England).
So when the Packers and Patriots meet at 3:25 p.m. Sunday inside Lambeau Field, their status as two of the best teams in the NFL this season won't be the anything that makes for a compelling matchup. Belichick said this game – not the history behind it – will be the only thing on my mind.
"That's not really what this game's about," Belichick said. "This game's about two teams, very competitive teams that are going to match up Sunday afternoon, and hopefully we can play a very competitive game against them. It's been a problem for the other teams that have come in there and tried to play them. The game's been pretty much over by the second quarter. So hopefully we can play them more competitively than that."
-email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood