Realistic expectations are not what the NFL offseason is all about. It is about wild speculation and naive hope. I happen to really like the offseason for those very reasons.
I'll refrain from pointing out that most seasons are determined by team chemistry and injuries and that expectations in May are, by definition, wild speculation.
You just want to know what to expect from the 2009 Green Bay Packers.
Here are a few things I think you can reasonably expect to see this season:
Aaron Rodgers will prove that he is legit.
There were reasons General Manager Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy were so ambivalent about Brett Favre's overtures to return to the team. The number one reason was No. 12 himself.
What Rodgers represents is someone physically capable of making all the throws Favre could, was a lot younger, made fewer desperate mistakes, and was seriously more coachable.
Last season proved the management's faith in Rodgers was sound. Rodgers' numbers were nearly identical to Favre's from the year before. And Rodgers kept pace and eventually surpassed Favre in the silly, media-hyped, man-to-man comparisons dished up every game.
This year the Packers return the same offense and Rodgers has a bit of seasoning. I wouldn't be surprised to if he ends up as one of the top quarterbacks in the league in '09. If he develops the ability to go win games when the Packers need it—watch out.
The Packers will be much better in December than in September.
Count on it.
This is not a prediction based on strength of schedule or other nonsense – it's based on the fact that the team will have some growing pains adjusting to Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 defense. How could they not?
Early on they will probably resemble the 2008 Packers—playing well on offense but giving up games on defense. Until the team gets a feel for the scheme this is a vulnerability the Packers can't hide (unless Rodgers steps up and is able to win games for the team on his own.)
Capers is a great coach and I'm positive he will have the defense prepared. But it might not click until after the Packers have lost a couple games early in the season.
This could be decisive in an evenly-matched NFC North.
Come December, however, the team should be hitting its stride. If it gets into the playoffs, it will be dangerous.
Aaron Kampman will succeed.
I've heard some reports that Kampman isn't a great fit at outside linebacker in the 3-4.
I'd point out that Kampman didn't seem like a great fit at defensive end in the 4-3 either. He became productive through hard work and determination. I have no doubt that he will get himself into positions to make plays.
Circle Sunday, November 1.
Odd man out?
The Packers will either make the playoffs or be the best team not to make the playoffs. With the Bears and Vikings also fielding playoff-caliber teams, one or two teams from the NFC North will get shafted.