The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV despite a rash of injuries to key players, including tight end Jermichael Finley and running back Ryan Grant.
This year, they're healthier and have playoff experience, meaning they should cruise through the playoffs even easier than they did last year, right?
Well, that may not be the case. If the Packers can make it to Super Bowl XLVI, they should be able to beat any AFC team they might encounter.
The New York Giants have Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul leading a ferocious pass rush. Teams with good pass rushes have given the Packers trouble this season.
Green Bay can't run the ball, so if they don't have time to pass, they are in trouble.
The Packers will need to play their best football of the season if they want to advance to the NFC Championship game, let alone the Super Bowl. Beating the New York Giants won't be an easy task.
On the other side of the NFC playoff bracket, if the San Francisco 49ers can make it to the NFC Championship game, that would be a huge advantage for the Packers. But first, the 49ers have to try to slow down Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints' high-powered offense this weekend.
If the Saints get on the board early, the Niners don't have a good enough offense to play catch-up with them.
So, assuming the Saints get by the 49ers this weekend, the Packers will be in trouble. The Saints have a statistically better defense than Green Bay and an equally potent offense.
The only advantage the Packers would have in a potential matchup with the Saints is that of the home-field variety. The Packers are somewhat used to playing in the cold conditions at Lambeau Field. The Saints, meanwhile, are strictly a dome team.
Getting Brees out into the elements on a cold winter afternoon might be enough to get the Packers a victory.
But, if the Packers are going to win their second straight Super Bowl, they are going to have to work even harder than they did to win last year.
Both the Giants and the Saints provide huge obstacles on the road to Green Bay's title defense.
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