It was early January of 2009 and the Packers were at the one place they did not want to be...sitting at home watching the playoffs.
The 2008 Green Bay Packers were somewhat of a disappointment, seeing as how in 2007 they were one play from the Super Bowl.
The 2008 squad went 6-10 and finished third in the relatively weak NFC North. The offense showed real fireworks under new quarterback Aaron Rodgers, while the defense gave up so many points that Packer fans were sick all season.
The 2009 offseason has seen some pretty big changes in Green Bay, starting with the hiring of Dom Capers and the new defensive coordinator. Capers brings with him the 3-4 defense—a defense that can only be run through fast and athletic players.
In this article I will cover both the strengths and weaknesses of the Packers and how each will affect the season.
The entire offense seems to be a strength for the Packers.
It all starts with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. His decision making is well beyond his years, and he can make some big plays when he gets out of the pocket.
The wide receivers have grown more and more effective with each passing year. Greg Jennings is now a star in the NFL, while Donald Driver is still getting a ridiculous amount of YAC.
The pass rush has always been effective; it took a dip in 2008, but overall Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins put quarterbacks on the turf.
Defense. Defense. Defense.
I was one of the chief criticizers of the 2008 Packers defense. Apart from the pass rushing, the rest of the team practiced arm tackling and didn't seem to ever shed their blockers.
In the NFL it isn't a sin to get blocked, but it is a sin to stay blocked.
The secondary often let the first receiver of the opponent get open and tear them apart.
There wasn't even any run defense to speak of.
Overall, the defense was dismal as they finished the season ranked 22nd in scoring and 20th in yards.
Rankings like that will keep you out of the playoffs for sure.
The offensive line was marred by injuries, but the backups were unable to do their job of replacing the starters. Head coach Mike McCarthy was unable to find an offensive line that had chemistry with one another as he often put a new line on the field every week.
If the 2009 Packers are to have any success, they will need to give the Packers running backs lanes to run and give Aaron Rodgers time to throw.
Pretty basic formula for success.
2009 Packers Predictions
The NFC North is a pretty weak division, which means a 10-6 record will most likely win the division.
The Packers have been handed a pretty easy schedule in 2009, something the 2008 Packers would gladly have taken.
Here are my game by game predictions for the Packers in 2009.
Week One: Bears 23, Packers 20
- I'd like to think the Packers can win this one, but the Bears offense has gotten some serious upgrades in the offseason.
- The Packers defense struggles in their new scheme, but put enough of a fight to give Rodgers a chance in the fourth.
Week Two: Packers 34, Bengals 7
- It's always nice to have the Bengals roll into town. Easy win for the Packers. Rodgers lights up a terrible defense and the Packers defense builds up some confidence.
Week Three: Packers 17, Rams 16
- The Packers defense struggles to keep Stephen Jackson under wraps, but behind Rodgers' first game winning drive of his career, the Packers avoid the "upset."
Week Four: Vikings 31, Packers 21
- Favre or no Favre, the Vikings offense will light up the new 3-4 defense of the Packers at the Metrodome.
- Expect Ryan Grant to keep a lot of pressure off Aaron Rodgers, but in the end the pass rush of the Vikings will force a few mistakes from Rodgers.
Week Five: Bye, Packers record: 2-2
Week Six: Packers 44, Lions 14
- Matthew Stafford gets his first taste of the Packers-Lions rivalry. It doesn't bode well for him as he gets little time to set his feet because of the improved Packers rush.
- Aaron Rodgers could have a career day as the Lions defense hasn't gotten much better since last year.
Week Seven: Browns 27, Packers 24
- The Packers were one of the worst road teams last year as they went 2-6 away from home.
- The Browns defense does little to stop the Packers, but if the Packers defense makes a few mistakes the Browns get the win.
Week Eight: Packers 13, Vikings 7
- Both offenses are stopped by great defensive play. Mason Crosby is the difference as he makes his field goals to put the game out of reach.
- At mid season the Packers are 4-3.
Week Nine: Packers 26, Buccaneers 17
- A big win for the Packers as the playoff race begins. B.J. Raji proves his worth as he has his best game yet.
- Rodgers gets his offense back on track with a big road win.
Week 10: Packers 24, Cowboys 17
- Another upset for the Packers as the defense steps up to smother Tony Romo and his favorite target; Jason Witten.
- The Cowboys only have one real No.1 receiver in Roy Williams, with two shutdown corners—the Packers dominate the Cowboys receivers.
Week 11: Packers 31, 49ers 10
- A dominant game for the Packers on both sides of the ball. Defense forces a lot of turnovers and gets two defensive touchdowns.
- Ryan Grant controls the game and keeps the 49ers offense on the sideline most of the game.
Week 12: Packers 34, Lions 21
- The Packers win their fifth straight game of the season. The defense is starting to dominate, and the offense is one of the best in the league.
Week 13: Ravens 16, Packers 13
- A battle of one of the best defenses (Ravens) and one of the best offenses (Packers) sees a pretty low scoring game.
- Joe Flacco is torn apart by the Packers secondary, but makes just enough plays to win the game late in the fourth.
Week 14: Bears 20, Packers 13
- The Packers are swept by the Bears for the second time in three years.
- The Packers have an average game; the deciding factor is great special teams for the Bears
Week 15: Steelers 31, Packers 14
- A disheartening day for the Packers defense as Ben Roethlisberger exposes the key weakness: Lack of depth in the secondary.
- Heath Miller tears apart the linebackers.
- Aaron Rodgers spends most of the afternoon on the turf.
Week 16: Packers 23, Seahawks 20
- The Packers win a close game at Lambeau as the race for the NFC North title heats up.
- Matt Hasselbeck drives late in the game only to turn it over on downs.
Week 17: Cardinals 28, Packers 27
- A Late drive from Kurt Warner keeps the Packers from a 10-6 season.
- The Packers show they have real guts as they compete against last year's NFC Champions.
Final Season Record: 9-7
The Packers will finish second in the NFC North behind the 10-6 Vikings.
The Packers just miss the playoffs.
Obstacles for the 2009 Packers
The transition to the 3-4 defense could be an ugly one at the beginning of the season.
Let's hope the players can make the transition before they start dropping games fast.
While Aaron Rodgers avoided missing time because of injury last year, his track record shows that he will get injured this year.
If Rodgers does go down and misses three to four games, expect that 9-7 record to go to 7-9, probably lower.
Mike McCarthy is notorious for bad play calling. If he keeps that trend in close games, the Packers could drop a few games to 8-8 or 7-9.
Speaking of Mike McCarthy, if the Packers don't have a winning season this year...his job could be in question.