If the Green Bay Packers want to get to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans and win it, they will need to do a number of things over the course of the regular season and in the playoffs. The talent is there, but it is a youthful talent, as the Packers are once again one of the youngest teams in the NFL.
The Packers are 6th in the NFL in terms of youth. Exactly the same age they were in 2009 and 2011 and just a hair younger than the team that won Super Bowl XLV.
Both the 2009 and 2011 teams made the playoffs, but the Achilles' heel of the Packers was exposed in the playoffs. The 2010 team was much more balanced, at least in the postseason. That is what it will take for the Packers to win their 14th NFL championship and 5th Super Bowl.
Here is the blueprint for success for the Packers...
Aaron Rodgers just seems to get better every year.
In 2008, which was Rodgers first year as a starter, he had a QB rating of 93.8. Since then, Rodgers has never had a QB rating below 100, which culminated in his QB rating of 122.5 last year, which was the best all-time mark in NFL history.
Rodgers has won the Super Bowl MVP and the NFL MVP award the last two seasons. His overall record as a starter is 41-21 in the regular season and 4-2 in the postseason.
Rodgers' stats are remarkable as well. Over the last four seasons, Rodgers has thrown 131 TD passes compared to just 37 interceptions for 17,037 yards. Rodgers is also the all-time NFL leader in QB rating with a 104.1 career mark.
Rodgers is just as good in the postseason, where he has thrown 15 TD passes compared to just 4 picks for 1,781 yards and a QB rating 105.5, which also is the NFL's all-time record.
Rodgers doesn't just do it with his arm either. The nimble QB has rushed for 1,136 yards over the past four seasons and has scored 16 rushing TDs in the regular season. In the postseason, Rodgers has rushed for 133 more yards and has three rushing TDs.
Bottom line, Rodgers is very careful about turning the ball over, and he has led a Green Bay offense which has always been in the top 10 in the NFL. Last season, Rodgers led a Packers' offense which was ranked 3rd in the NFL.
The amazing thing is Rodgers is not yet 29 years old and is once again a front runner to win the NFL MVP once again this upcoming season. Don't be surprised if he does that, plus wins another Super Bowl MVP as well.
In 2008 and 2009, the Green Bay Packers had a RB in Ryan Grant, who was able to rush for over 1,200 yards twice. Grant is now gone, but the Packers now have a RB in Cedric Benson, who has rushed for over 1,000 yards the past three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Packers need to become more balanced in their offense and they have to be able to run the ball effectively, especially late in the regular season and the postseason, when the weather becomes much colder.
Under Mike McCarthy, the Packers have never had a rushing attack which was ranked in the top 10 in the NFL. The best mark was in 2009, when the Packers were ranked 14th in the league in rushing. Last year, the Packers had the 27th ranked rushing offense in the NFL.
That has to improve this year.
When the Packers won the Super Bowl two years ago, the Packers became much more balanced in the postseason. James Starks ran for 315 yards in four postseason games, which led all NFL backs. Starks is still on the team, but has been hampered by a turf toe injury.
The Packers have some real talent at the RB position, with Benson, Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine. In addition to those four RBs, the Packers also have a Pro Bowl FB in John Kuhn.
The Packers offense is scary good without an effective running game. Imagine how good it could be if the offense was able to run the ball well. Actually, you don't have to imagine. Just think back to 2010 postseason, when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV.
The Green Bay Packers had the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL last season and the primary reason was a lack of a pass rush. The Packers had only 29 sacks last season, which was 27th in the NFL.
Go back to 2010. The Packers had the 5th ranked defense in the NFL and the team had 47 sacks, which was the second best mark in the league. It led to a Super Bowl win.
The Packers also had 37 sacks in 2009, when the team had the 2nd best ranked defense in the NFL under Dom Capers, which was the first season in which Capers became defensive coordinator.
The Packers pass rush is led by Clay Matthews, who has been fabulous his first three years in the NFL. Matthews has 29 and a half sacks the past three seasons and has been named to three straight Pro Bowls as well.
Matthews clearly missed the presence of DE Cullen Jenkins last season, as the veteran pass rusher left via free agency. Matthews only had six sacks last season as he was constantly doubled teamed. Ted Thompson has reloaded in 2012 by bringing in a number of players who should be able to help the pass rush.
Namely OLB Nick Perry. Perry had a stellar pass rushing career at USC, which is also the place Matthews went to school. Perry had 21 and a half sacks as a Trojan and it is hoped that Perry can provide some balance to the pass rush as the LOLB, as Matthews has moved over to the ROLB position.
Some other names to keep in mind are veteran OLB Erik Walden, who looks like he is back to the form he showed in the late 2010 season as a pass rusher (three sacks) and also undrafted rookie Dezman Moses, who had the best training camp of any rookie for the Packers.
Walden is currently serving a one game suspension due to an off the field incident last season, while Moses looks like he could really add another dimension to the pass rush with his tenacious ability to get to the passer.
Both Walden or Moses could be used in the Psycho defense that Capers employs, when he puts five LBs on the field.
Thompson also drafted defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels to help out with the inside pass rush in the nickel and dime alignments along with B.J. Raji.
Bottom line, the Packers need to establish a fierce pass rush again this season if they expect to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy again.
Even with the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL, the Packers led the entire NFL with 31 interceptions. Four of those picks were returned for TDs. The Packers also forced 12 fumbles, six of which were recovered. One of those fumbles were returned for a TD.
The Packers need to keep doing that in 2012 and also in the playoffs. In the 2010 postseason, the Packers had eight interceptions and three of those picks were returned for TDs, including one in the Super Bowl by S Nick Collins.
How important is it to return an interception in a Super Bowl? VERY important. It has happened 13 times in Super Bowl history and the team that does that has never lost the game (11-0).
But to get to the Big Dance, a team has to keep getting turnovers. There is nobody who is better in doing that than DB Charles Woodson.
Since his arrival in Green Bay in 2006, Woodson has 37 interceptions, nine of which were returned for TDs. Woodson has averaged almost 85 tackles per season. He has 10 sacks and 14 forced fumbles—one of which he recovered and returned for a TD.
Woodson was also the Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL in 2009 for the Packers.
Woodson has been named All-Pro four times as a Packer and has also been selected to four Pro Bowl squads.
Woodson will again lead the charge in creating turnovers again in 2012, as he moves to strong safety in the base defense of the Packers, while moving to the slot in the nickel and dime alignments.
One thing is for sure, creating turnovers is a winning combination for any team in the NFL.
The Packers are very fortunate to have five of the of the best players at their positions in the NFL on their special teams. I'm speaking of K Mason Crosby, P Tim Masthay, LS Brett Goode, KR Randall Cobb and special teams dynamo Jarrett Bush.
Crosby has scored 649 points in just five seasons and has become a dangerous long range FG kicker, as he hit from 56 and 58 yards out last season. Crosby also hit a 56 yard FG in 2010. Crosby also had a career best 85.7 mark in FG percentage last season as he converted 24 out of 28 FG attempts.
Crosby is also very good on kickoffs, as he had a whopping 49 touchbacks last season.
Masthay has become one of the best punters in the NFL, as he has averaged 44.6 yards a punt (gross), while having a 38.0 net average. Masthay has become a very effective directional punter, plus he punts well in cold weather too, which is very important in Green Bay.
Goode is as "good" as it gets in the NFL in terms of being a long snapper since joining the team in 2008. It's critical to have a long snapper getting the football back in perfect form when attempting a field goal or having to punt. The Packers have that with Goode.
Cobb became the Packers best KR since the Allen Rossum days. Cobb had two returns for TDs last season, one on a kickoff return. and the other on a punt return. Cobb averaged 27.7 yards on kickoff returns and 11.3 on punt returns.
Cobb is a very valuable weapon to have. Packer Nation knows this full well, as it was KR Desmond Howard, who was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXI.
Bush is the leader on special teams in terms of blocking and covering kicks. Bush has had double figure numbers in terms of tackles for six consecutive years on special teams.
Overall, the Packers have become much better as a whole on special teams, as the team was ranked 13th in the NFL last season by the annual Dallas Morning News rankings, which was the team's best mark since 2007.