As much as I delighted watching Aaron Rodgers pick apart every defense he faced last season, it's going to be very difficult for him to replicate that same success.
Not saying he won’t perform like the best quarterback in the NFL or be in contention for another MVP award, I just don’t think he'll be able to match his 45-touchdown, 4,600-yard season. He topped that statistically incredible year by also carrying a very defensively challenged (ranked 32nd) squad to an impressive 15-1 record before a disappointing all-around team performance against the Giants in the playoffs that ended their season.
The Packers had no pass rush and only accounted for 29 sacks in 2011 after getting to the quarterback 47 times (second in the NFL) during their Super Bowl run in 2010. But history says that if the Packers are going to get back to the 'ship, they are going to need to rely on that same defense, one that will have some young blood in it this season.
In each of Green Bay's four Super Bowl seasons, they hung their hats on a stingy defense, ranking in the top five in points allowed per game (Pro-football-reference.com). They were first in 1966 and 1996, third in 1967 and second in 2010. This is a trend they will likely need to emulate if they want to get back down glory road again.
But it's easier said than done, especially given how the Packers have been trying to incorporate new faces this offseason on the defensive side of the ball. The Packers are currently starting two rookies (CB Casey Hayward, OLB Nick Perry), one second-year man (MLB D.J. Smith) and two third-year players (DE C.J. Wilson, S Morgan Burnett).
The question still remains if this slightly tweaked defense can get back to a top championship-level squad, but if they can go from fifth to 32nd overall in the span of one year, then surely you would think that Dom Capers could undo the damage and get them back in the top half. At least, you would think.
So yes, Aaron Rodgers is going to be amazing again. And yes, the Packers are probably going to have a nice looking win/loss record at the end of the season, but whether there's going to be an end of the year parade at Lambeau Field again is likely going to depend on which defense shows up for the Pack this year.
Is it going to be the team that bends but doesn't break? (That didn't work out for them last year.) Or is it going to be the stingy defense that stops the run, blitzes when you least expect it and picks you off when you try to beat them deep? Those of course are polar opposites, but I’m sure Packer fans everywhere would accept something in between.
Let’s watch Rodgers be great this year, and hopefully a defense, which was once one of the best in the in the NFL, can reemerge from hibernation and give No. 12 some reinforcements.