By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Dec 23, 2007 at 5:19 AM

Even the most diehard, green-and-gold-bleeding, stock-holding Cheeseheads couldn't have seen this coming.

The fact that the Green Bay Packers are 12-2 is nothing short of amazing, even in a conference not overflowing with powerhouse teams. Nobody of right mind could have predicted the year that Brett Favre is enjoying.

The Packers were 8-8 last year and 4-12 a year before. Favre was a liability (sorry, folks, paint the picture any way you want to, but he was a big reason for the team's downfall) as he tried to single-handedly win games.

Who was Mike McCarthy? Plenty of people flooded stories here at with Talkbacks calling team management crazy for hiring a guy with zero head-coaching experience to run the franchise. Here was a guy that spent one year as Favre's quarterbacks coach and held coordinator positions with two pretty sorry teams in New Orleans and San Francisco.

Yet, McCarthy was able to corral Favre; he found a way for the veteran to play within the system and himself. Favre was able to buy into what the coach was preaching and the two of them are enjoying success unseen in Green Bay since the days of Favre and Mike Holmgren.

When was the last time a team came out of nowhere to contend for a championship the way the Green Bay Packers have this season?

On "The World's Greatest Sports Talk Show", host Steve "The Homer" True said that the only thing he could think of that was nearly as surprising as the 2007 Packers was the 1993 Wisconsin Badgers. It's a pretty good analogy, but even then, the 1992 Badgers posted their second consecutive 5-6 season and were expected to be a player in the Big Ten. Nobody expected Wisconsin to be headed to Pasadena, but still ... the Badgers were supposed to be good.

Little was expected of the Brewers in 1987. They opened the season 13-0 and took fans on a wild, roller coaster season before finishing 91-71 and seven games behind the Tigers in the AL East. Five years later, rookie manager Phil Garner turned the Brewers into a speed machine and somehow kept the team in the playoff race until the last weekend of the season.

In terms of surprises, the only team that comes close is the 2000 Wisconsin basketball team. Anybody who thought that team, led by Dick Bennett and made up of some of the state's most unheralded players, would make it to the Final Four would have been laughed out of Madison.

That team was hardly impressive in the regular season. The Badgers finished the regular season with a 16-12 record. They went 2-1 in the Big Ten Tournament and managed to get seeded eighth in the NCAA Tournament's West Region. Beating Fresno State in the opener was a bit of a surprise, but toppling top-seeded Arizona to advance to the Sweet 16 was a knockout.

So, imagine how shocking it was when Wisconsin knocked off Stromile Swift's LSU squad and Purdue in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, respectively, to advance to the Final Four since the first time since 1941. Anybody who was among the thousands who showed up at Camp Randall Stadium after the Purdue victory can tell you about the sheer, unadulterated and childlike joy and surprise that came along with that team's success.

In the end, maybe that's the real beauty of this season. Nobody knows if the Packers will actually make it to the Super Bowl, and chances are that they would be nothing more than night crawlers to the Patriots' salmon in the Big Game, anyway.

But, for a team that was given practically no shot at success, a coach who had done little to suggest genius and a quarterback whose better days appeared to be long behind him, this should go down as one of the state's all-time feel-good stories.