Few would disagree that the Green Bay Packers will be one of the better teams in the NFL. With a high-powered offense and a reloaded defense, the Packers should challenge for a Super Bowl berth again in 2012.
Of course, that depends on the play of a few key players. Here is a look at the six players most responsible for the success or failure for Green Bay in 2012.
This is the year that Jermichael Finley needs to play like the man that everyone believes he can turn into.
There can be no more dropped balls or lack of effort. This has to be a do-or-die year for Finley. The Green Bay Packers have plenty of young talent waiting in the wings, and if Finley can't put it together this year, he may become a lost cause to the coaching staff.
The reason that Finley is so responsible for the Packers' success this year is because of the way he forces a defense to change its strategy. When he is on top of his game, Green Bay becomes unstoppable on offense.
If Finley doesn't play up to his potential, he becomes a liability on offense, allowing teams to focus more pressure on Aaron Rodgers. And the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants showed us exactly what can happen when Rodgers' is consistently pressured.
The secondary of the Green Bay Packers played rather poorly in 2011, despite Charles Woodson having an excellent season. As the true leader of that unit, Woodson is responsible for whether they succeed or fail.
What Woodson has going in his favor is that the Packers are loaded with talent in the secondary. Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett look like two of the better young defensive backs in the league. With Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian all providing depth, this unit has the overall talent to be quite special this year.
As long as Woodson can keep the unit in sync, the Achilles heel of the Packers' 2011 season should be fixed, meaning instant success.
This is quite a bit of pressure to put on a rookie, but Nick Perry is going to be extremely important to the Green Bay Packers during the 2012 season.
Green Bay absolutely needs to get production from its first-round draft pick in order to be successful this year. He'll need to be able to bring consistent pressure off the edge for the Packers to get back their biggest weapon on defense, Clay Matthews.
With Perry and Matthews both producing at outside linebacker, the Packers will get back to the dominant defense that propelled them to the Super Bowl during the 2010-11 season.
This may seem like a high position for a running back in a pass-first, second and third offense, but the run game is actually pretty crucial for the Green Bay Packers.
For example, when Green Bay is up by seven points with four minutes to go, James Starks is going to need to be able to effectively run the ball. You could really put Starks, Alex Green or Brandon Saine at this spot, but since Starks is currently the front-runner to be starting in 2012, he gets the spot here.
While Starks certainly isn't the focal point of the offense, Green Bay needs to be able to efficiently move the ball on the ground. If he can't do that, the Packers could have difficulty closing out games and holding onto leads.
Simply put, if Marshall Newhouse doesn't perform well, the Green Bay Packers are going to be hurting. To be more specific, Aaron Rodgers is going to be hurting.
And when Rodgers is hurting, bad things happen to the Packers. Newhouse did a fantastic job of filling in for Chad Clifton during the 2011 season, but now he has the huge task of completely replacing one of the better offensive tackles in the history of Green Bay.
That is a lot of pressure to put on a young player, and considering that Newhouse goes up against players like Jared Allen and Julius Peppers, it certainly won't be an easy year for him. However, he needs to perform well and give Rodgers time in order for Green Bay to be successful this year.
Was there really any suspense as to who is the most important player for the Green Bay Packers this year?
Rodgers is coming off a 2011 season that saw him win the MVP Award and lead his team to a 15-1 record. Oh yeah, and he also set an NFL record with a 122.5 quarterback rating.
The entire fate of the 2012 season rests on the shoulders of Rodgers. And you know what, that is exactly how he'd want it. This has become his team and his franchise, and he doesn't want to give that away to anyone.
There might not be a more important player to a team in the entire league than Rodgers, and few players will be as responsible for the success or failure for their team's 2012 season than he will be.