Why the Green Bay Packers Can Still Make a Super Bowl Run Without Cedric Benson
Cedric Benson just made the Green Bay Packers' road to Super Bowl XLVII more difficult.
McCarthy: Benson had surgery yesterday. He will not be back with us this season.— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) November 29, 2012
The only optimistic perspective from which to look at this is that Green Bay won Super Bowl XLV while overcoming an abundance of injuries. So, although that experience definitely helps, nothing is guaranteed and it's always better to be healthy.
Not to mention, Benson's absence puts a damper on the Packers' rushing attack. Getting just 3.8 yards per carry as a team, Green Bay's leading rusher in terms of average yards per rush—with at least 30 attempts—is quarterback Aaron Rodgers at 4.8.
In short, when the quarterback gains the most yards per attempt, the ground game needs to improve. Nonetheless, Green Bay remains a legit Super Bowl contender because, as we learned from Titletown two years ago, qualifying for January is all that matters.
When the Defense Gets Healthy...
Green Bay is simply far too banged up defensively right now.
According to the Packers' official team website, key defenders listed "out" for Week 13 are Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Sam Shields and C.J. Wilson.
The concern here surrounds the Packers' ability to generate turnovers.
Matthews is easily the team's best sack-master, and that aspect is virtually non-existent without him. After all, the guy has collected nine sacks, which is three times more than anyone else on the defense.
And quarterback pressure creates additional forced fumbles or ill-advised throws. The end result is guys like Woodson and Shields making interceptions and providing Rodgers with extra possessions.
Fortunately, rookie Casey Hayward leads the team with five picks; therefore, just imagine how many more turnovers Green Bay will force whenever healthy. It's quite scary to any opposing offense.
Potential RB Tandem
The magic of James Starks took over the 2010 NFL playoffs because he rushed for 315 yards and averaged almost four yards per attempt en route to helping Green Bay win a fourth Super Bowl.
Last season, Starks appeared in 13 regular season games and amassed 794 total yards while averaging 4.3 per carry. So, despite the limited usage, as the Packers are a pass-oriented offense, Starks has proven to be quite reliable.
Which NFC foe is the toughest challenge for Green Bay to make the Super Bowl?
Unfortunately, 2012 has not panned out nearly as well.
Alex Green, on the contrary, is picking up the slack with 412 total yards despite only impacting the previous seven games.
What the Packers have here, though, is a two-back tandem, and each is capable of contributing on the ground and in the passing game.
Starks and Green each present the size to win short-yard situations and athleticism to pass protect and beat linebackers in coverage. We've seen what the New York Giants have done in utilizing two ball-carriers, and the Packers have a similar opportunity in 2012.
Aaron Rodgers and the Passing Game
Everything here first comes from the offensive line's ability to pass block.
And yes, that has not been consistently reliable in 2012 with Rodgers already getting sacked 37 times. Still, there's no pessimism along the line. In an article by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Veteran center Jeff Saturday said [James] Campen has responded the way he would expect, which is to stay consistent with his teaching and not go into panic mode. He has not had to fly off the handle to get his point across.
"Just be consistent," Saturday said. "That's the most important thing."
Also, in terms of good news, there is Rodgers' production despite the pressure. Sporting a 66.5 completion percentage entering Week 13, Rodgers has tossed 28 touchdowns to only seven picks as he continues to spread the field.
Taking every dimension and level into account, Rodgers has dished the rock 67 times to Jordy Nelson, 78 to Randall Cobb, 67 to James Jones and 55 to tight end Jermichael Finley. Altogether, these four targets account for a 67.4 percent completion percentage and 23 touchdowns.
Provided the offensive line quickly adjusts and improves, Rodgers will get Titletown back in the title game.
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