By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 18, 2016 at 5:56 PM Photography: Jim Biever/

I suppose it only makes sense that the Packers' season, one that seemed to be equal parts optimistic celebration and pessimistic suffering, would end on an emotional swing so whiplash-inducingly fast that most Packer fans woke up Sunday needing a neck brace. That was, after all, the Packers' season in a nutshell: happy highs, brutal lows, all-time franchise classics perched right next to toxic dumpster fires – sometimes even in the same game.

We certainly got our money’s worth this season – even if we wish the ending could’ve gotten a rewrite – so why not look back at the best and (unfortunately) worst of what it had to offer. Here are the five best and worst moments from the 2015-16 Green Bay Packers – starting with the painful stuff first.

The worst

5. The first loss to Arizona

It’s hard not to pick the final game of the regular season – a lifeless defeat against the Minnesota Vikings to lose the NFC North and, for the first time since 1968, get swept at home by our divisional rivals – for this list. But by that point, many of us seemed resigned to a mediocre team with little-to-no playoff hopes.

The Arizona Cardinals loss the week before, however? We didn’t expect a win, but coming off three straight wins, we did expect hopefully something. Maybe some spark of the team we thought we had at the start of the season? Nope. Instead, the Packers got punted into the atmosphere, losing by 30 in a game that didn’t even seem that close. The season still had three more games to come, but after that result, we were prepared for the end.

4. Fitzgerald’s 75-yard overtime catch-and-run

Couldn’t the Cardinals have at least given us some time to enjoy our late-game miracle? That’s what hurts the most about Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald's playoff-overtime jaunt: We were still riding a high from watching the Packers pull off one of the most impossible, desperate plays in all of sports – for the second time in one season no less! – and then … this. A 75-yard dash by the Cardinals’ best player, somehow wide open and then rendered untackleable. It wasn’t the final blow (that would come two plays later), but it might as well have been. We should’ve turned our TVs off after regulation. 

3. Losing Jordy Nelson

It sucks to know one of the most critical, painful moments of the Packers' season didn’t even technically happen during the season. But that’s how it fell in 2015-16.

We knew losing Jordy Nelson for the year was going to be a tough blow, but there was no way of knowing how crushing it would end up for the team’s championship hopes. The offense, even during the wins, never quite looked right. The receiving corps revealed itself to be an aging role player, a talented but limited slot receiver, a sophomore-year guy clearly not ready to take a leap and a rookie who spent most of the year injured (the less said about the tight ends, the better). As much as Rodgers has earned our benefit of the doubt for an off year, something wasn’t right with our usually precise star. And Ted Thompson did little to nothing to fix what was clearly broken.

One receiver’s injury shouldn’t ruin an entire year (it’d be interesting to compare the Packers to the Panthers, who also lost their stud wide receiver before the season – with an even worse crew of WRs behind him – but were seemingly unfazed). But for the Packers this year, it did.

2. Losing to the Lions

After recovering from the Packers' 18-16 November loss to the Lions, I declared the game to be the nadir of the season. There was no way it could seemingly get worse.

It was the team’s third loss in a row, and at least the other two were against playoff teams. The Lions, on the other hand, were garbage, firing coaches left and right and leaving a man named Jim Bob Cooter in charge of the offense. JIM BOB COOTER!

It was an ugly game – somehow the final time Rodgers would throw for more than 300 yards – that the Lions kept trying to hand back to the Packers no matter how hard the latter consistently declined. At least in some bad games, you’re comforted by knowing the best team won. Well, that wasn’t the case that Sunday, because there was no best team. Whoever the best team was, they weren’t at Ford Field that day. They were all bad, all the time, with Mason Crosby’s self-blocked field goal as the perfect sad, pathetic, dying-quail metaphor.

But hey, the good news is that it surely couldn’t get worse.

1. The Bears Thanksgiving game

It got worse.

How does this even happen? How do you lose to your hated rival, the Bears, at home … on Thanksgiving … on Brett Favre night … with Bart Starr in the house? Coming off the win over Minnesota the previous week, there was a collective feeling that things were maybe turning back around. But that collective optimism got launched into the burning, uncaring heart of the sun after Thanksgiving night, after a game that featured all of the miserable non-Jim Bob Cooter-related aspects of the Lions defeat – an all-around sloppy, not to mention pretty-boring game, losing to a rival, missing opportunities galore – but cranked up to 11.

For the rest of the season, even through the wins, this game hung over our heads. It was the reason many of us lost hope. Larry Fitzgerald’s 5-yard TD catch may have been the final blow, but autopsies will note this game as the fatal strike to Packer nation.

The best 

5. Winning the Wild Card

They say the playoffs are a whole new season, and against Washington, for a moment, you could almost think that might be the case for the Packers. Or at least for a half.

The first half against Kirk Cousins and the rest of Washington may have looked like more of the depressing same, but soon the Packers turned it up – mainly on defense and in the hot-and-cold running game. They ended up handily beating a very hot Washington team that came into the playoffs as the polar opposite to the Packers. For all the guff about the Packers’ late regular-season struggles, for that early Sunday evening, you could almost hope, almost convince yourself the Packers could pull a New York Giants. Yeah, they were playing the Cardinals the next week … but it couldn’t go worse than the first time.

4. Randall’s game-saving tip against the Chargers

Remember when the Packers started the season 6-0? Man, those were the days. And it could’ve been 5-1 if it wasn’t for the late-game heroics of rookie cornerback Damarious Randall.

Late in the contest, the Chargers were, well, charging, down to a fourth-and-goal on the Green Bay 3-yard line with 15 seconds left. Philip Rivers dropped back for about his 473rd pass of the game and had receiving running back extraordinaire Danny Woodhead curling into the near corner of the end zone. And he was open … until Randall quickly broke for the pass and managed to deflect it away at just the final moment, sealing the sixth win of the season and an undefeated record going into the bye.

It was a great, victorious moment – one mostly forgotten thanks to the deluge of disappointment that would follow.

3. Beating the Seahawks

Few things are more satisfying than watching the Seattle Seahawks lose. I don’t care if he was a former Badger: Russell Wilson’s turned into a mindless brandbot who thinks God prefers him. Pete Carroll is a convicted NCAA cheater, a 9/11 truther and seemingly a nightmare to put up with on the sideline. And luck – or referee idiocy – just always seems to lean their way. The only thing that would’ve been more satisfying this past weekend than a Packers win would’ve been a Seahawks loss. At least one of the two happened.

Anyway, this season has felt so long that I had almost forgotten how awesome it was way back in Week 2 when the Packers finally beat their new NFC rivals. Nothing could banish the horrific memories of their last two meetings – 2012’s Fail Mary game, then last season’s nightmarish NFC Championship – but for the first time since 2009, the Packers grounded the Seahawks, knocking them to 0-2 on the season. We also got one of Aaron Rodgers’ finest trolling efforts, afterward saying, "I think God was a Packers fan tonight."

2. The Hail Mary I

The almighty glimmer of excitement and hope in the second half of an increasingly lost season. A close and unpolished win over a flailing Lions team shouldn’t have meant this much to a team with Super Bowl aspirations … but my God, what a triumphant and incredibly ecstatic moment not just in this Packers season, but in NFL history.

Every part of this play is beautiful in its improbability, from Rodgers’ cloud-scraping throw to the fact that the pass was caught by the typically cloddish Richard Rodgers to the truly joyous celebrations to the, eh, generous facemask call that allowed it all to happen in the first place. Considering the pretty-miserable 60 minutes that came before, the play served mostly as gold wrapping on a turd. But what wonderfully shiny gold wrapping it was.

1. The Hail Mary II

Hail Mary plays aren’t supposed to work – and they sure as hell aren’t supposed to work twice in one season. But amazingly, that’s what happened Sunday.

Really, that whole final drive was a pile-up of mistakes and miracles. Three awful downs led to Rodgers’ first mighty heave to Jeff Janis, finding the incredibly wide-open receiver to salvage a fourth-and-20. In most games, that would be a memorable play in its own right, but the history books quickly forgot it after Rodgers’ second mighty heave to Janis, a gorgeous torqueing chuck that Janis not only managed to track down and bring in, but also then prevent from hitting the ground as Arizona attempted to swat it out of his loose grasp.

Part of me thinks Hail Mary I deserves this spot, because this does lose a little oomph for being the second miraculous regulation-ending game-saver. (Is it possible to have Hail Mary fatigue?) But if you combine the massive stage of the playoffs with their opponents’ level of competition and the collective Packer Nation mindset of "There’s no way we could pull this off again … could we?", it’s hard not to pick this as the best moment of the year. If only the game could’ve ended there. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.