5 Reasons Green Bay Packers Will Dominate NFC North in 2012
It's simpler than a discount double-check.
But the Packers' first step is to handle an improved NFC North. The young Detroit Lions are rounding into their prime. The Chicago Bears have added Brandon Marshall. Even the Minnesota Vikings have established some depth and will surely add more talent in next week's NFL draft.
The Cheeseheads are coming off a franchise-record 15-1 season, but the stench is still clearing from the squad's disastrous performance in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs against the eventual champion New York Giants.
Green Bay is still king of the hill, however, and it will be until someone knocks it off. Here are five reasons why no team in the NFC North will do that any time soon.
5. Receiving Corps
The Bears can talk about Brandon Marshall all they want. The Packers still have arguably the best receiving corps in the NFL, and by resigning tight end Jermichael Finley, the team returns every one of Rodgers' multiple weapons.
Jordy Nelson had a breakout season in 2011 with 1,263 yards, and he was the only Green Bay receiver to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark. Greg Jennings is still Rodgers' favorite target, Finley is a beast and James Jones has breakaway speed that makes him dangerous on any given play (if only he could hold onto the ball). The only concern is the aging Donald Driver, but even he had a solid season last year.
This unit will be just as strong as it was last season, and it will continue to cause matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. No lead against Green Bay is safe with this group on the field.
4. Improved Offensive Line
When the Packers won the Super Bowl, their offensive line was one the team's main concerns in the 2010-11 season. Fortunately, the group came together just enough to help Green Bay win the title.
It helps when you have a quick decision-maker in Rodgers. Nonetheless, the Packers' offensive line should be better in 2012 than it has been in the past two years.
The addition of center Jeff Saturday brings unmatched leadership and experience. His presence will be felt immediately, and the offense will hopefully see improvements in the running game. Former first-round pick Derek Sherrod returns from a leg injury, and young prospect Marshall Newhouse has more experience heading into 2012.
3. Improved Linebacker Play
The Packers' defense ranked last in the NFL in yards allowed per game in 2011. The offense was good enough to carry the team to a 15-1 record, but Green Bay cannot bank on such a performance again.
The linebackers anchor the Packers' 3-4 defense, and the group as a whole must improve for Green Bay to hold onto the NFC North title. And that is no guarantee.
Desmond Bishop led the team in tackles last year, and Clay Matthews is a monster pass-rusher. That much we know. But Erik Walden was a huge disappointment opposite of Matthews, and Green Bay may look to upgrade that department in the draft.
With Chicago and Detroit improving their offenses, the Packers must keep up by getting better on defense, and it starts with the guys in the middle.
Depth is the reason why the Green Bay Packers were Super Bowl champs two seasons ago. Give general manager Ted Thompson one week to address this issue at the NFL draft, and the Packers will certainly have plenty of much-needed pieces to fill holes across the roster.
One of the major question marks heading into 2012 is the health of free safety Nick Collins, who suffered a serious neck injury last season. Cornerback is also a big need for Green Bay with Charles Woodson aging, so look for the Packers to address the secondary next weekend.
While other teams look to add potential starters and playmakers in the draft, Green Bay is looking to fill holes just in case of injuries. The Packers are pretty well set across the board, especially on offense, and a good draft by one the best GMs in the game will add more depth to the team.
Depth is a key to success in the NFL with the wide range of injuries, and no team is better at preparing backups than the Packers.
1. Aaron Rodgers
At the end of the day, the best reason to believe that Green Bay will dominate the NFC North is Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have the best quarterback in the division, and sometimes that is all that matters in the NFL.
The reigning MVP had one of the best seasons of all time in 2011, setting the record for QB rating in a single season (122.5). He tossed for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns.
And worst of all for Packers opponents: There is no sign that Rodgers is slowing down heading in 2012.
Rodgers is in his prime, and he has a variety of weapons to pick and choose from on every play. Green Bay has a special offense with Rodgers under center, and an improved offensive line will only make the QB better.