Now for anyone who knows me or at least read my profile, you understand that I love the Green Bay Packers. I want to let you know that this is not just another homer pick to win it all. Green Bay has a lot of pieces to a puzzle that is almost complete and with a little help from new defensive coordinator Dom Capers, it will be completed.
First off, the sky is the limit for the offense. Last year, it was ran by first year starter Aaron Rodgers, and for the most part it didn't disappoint. The offense gained a total of 5,618 yards a year ago (which was good enough for 5th in the NFC and 8th overall) and this was with an inconsistent ground attack.
Aaron Rodgers was one of the most efficient QBs in the NFL last year, with a QB rating of 93.8 which was good enough for 6th in the league. Andthat was his FIRST YEAR AS A STARTER, imagine what he will do with more experience. He also was 4TH in the NFL in passing yards, with just the one year of in-game experience now better understands the speed of the game and will be able to read cover schemes better. He is one of the hardest working players on the Packers' roster, he is dedicated to the game. He shows up to OTAs, workout sessions, after practice practice and stays longer for film. He wants to be the best that he can. And to add to that he is very confident, borderline cocky, but very humble at the same time, which is the attitude you want in your quarterback. His leadership qualities are great, he commands a great deal of respect from his teammates. Overall he is one of the better QBs in the NFL and easily the best QB in the NFC North.
The Running game last year to my surprise wasn't as bad as I thought when you look at the average yards gained per game. Green Bay's average 112.8 a game, not bad but could be better. Ryan Grant was "hurt" all year and was recovering from missing a lot of time in the mini-camps OTAs, etc in the pre-season. This was believed to be the reason he never got in rhythm with the offense and more importantly the offensive line. Brandon Jackson showed flashes of brilliance in some games, but in most was bounced around like a ball in a pinball machine. With Grant not complaining about his contract and being with the team for all pre-season activities and workouts will allow the running game to hit the ground running.
The WRs are easily the best position on the Packers team that is why Aaron Rodgers was able to have the year he had. Donald Driver even though is aging is still one of the most sure handed WRs in the game and is tough as nails. Greg Jennings is arguably one of the top 5 WRs in the game, he is a game changer. James Jones is a solid possession receiver but had a hard time staying healthy, in the beginning of his rookie he looked like he was going to be a very good WR for the Packers, but than he hit the "wall". He is hard at work rehabbing and getting ready for the season and is looking to be a major part of this explosive offense. Last years first pick (2nd rounder) Jordy Nelson looks to be a keeper, he isn't going to make the big play but he will make the important ones, the ones that keep the drives alive. He isn't flashy, but he sneaky fast with ultra super glue hands. I don't think I saw him drop a pass that should have been caught. Then the fifth guy Ruvell Martin, not a big time player but a solid WR who could possibly be the 3rd receiver on some teams. They also brought in some undrafted FAs who are looking to make the lineup, my guy not to sleep on is Jamarko Simmons from Western Michigan. Not only are these very good, but are most dangerous with the ball in their hands that is where they are scary. The YAC stat is one that is very important to them. They are also very competitive, they see one of the WRs catch the ball andmake a big play after the catch, not only are the unselfish - happy for their teammate - but they don't want to be the one who goes down on the first hit or even the second or third. And lastly they are great down the field blockers, looking to aid a big play for the RBs or even one another.
The TE position is a very crucial one in an offense, they have to be able to stretch the field and open up opportunities for the WRs. Not only that they have to be able to block, for RBs or as an extra tackle in the passing game. Donald Lee is not a household name, another non-flashy guy who just get the job done. Jermichael Finley has a ton of talent, so much potential. As a rookie I don't think he understood what it took to play in the NFL which is why he was a non-factor to be nice. This year he will be Green Bay's big play threat at the TE position.
The offensive line, this is a tough one for me because they have a lot of potential. Chad Clifton is solid at the LT, but he is old and his knees and legs aren't cooperating with his want to continue to play. This might be his last year, so I expect him to be at his best. Remember last year the first game when he owned Jared Allen. Allen had no sacks, no TFLs (or very low amount), and rarely even got close to Rodgers. If he can perform like that the majority of the year defenses better look out Rodgers will pick opposing defenses apart. Now to the entire line as a whole. It is full of projects, but very versatile and athletic projects. The goal is to have a cohesive unit, one that has that continuity and that plays together for a long time. This will be the best unit on the team this year, I guarantee it.
The Special Teams
Green Bay has found themselves one of the best punt returners in the league in Will Blackmon, hopefully he can continue his success of last year and I don't see any reason why h\e won't. Their kick returners are okay again Blackmon is pretty good, but overall it could be better. Mason Crosby is one of the top place kickers in the NFL and K is one of the most important positions on the team. Punting, terrible, enough said.
Last year, Green Bay's defense was the main reason for the majority of the team's 10 losses. The secondary was very good with Chuck Woodson and Al Harris as the two starting CBs and Nick Collins was outstanding at FS, but the SS position wasn't consistent. This year GB will have their normal starting SS back, Atari Bigby, who has for the most part been very solid, minus the stupid penalties. But what good is a secondary when your front seven never get to the QB. Green Bay had only 27 sacks, which was 25th in the league, that is terrible. Green Bay has a new Coordinator and a new scheme to go along withhim. The becoming ever so popular 3-4 defense. Green Bay added two new pieces to their front seven in the first round of this years draft NT B.J. Raji and OLB Clay Matthews. Now I know and am aware that supposedly the 3-4 takes a couple years to get used to, but with the versatile players with the experience these players have will go a long way in aiding the progression of switch to a new scheme. The way I see it playing out Starters OLB, Jeremy Thompson and Aaron Kampman; MLBs, A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett; DEs Cullen Jenkins (Green Bays most consistent and best D-lineman) and Justin Harrell ( who I am still on the very light bandwagon); and the NT, Big B.J. Raji. In the beginning of the year it will be a struggle I understand, and the defense will take their lumps, but more importantly Dom Capers will make sure they will handing back some of their own. He wants to be more aggressive, while still being able to stop the run. Easier said than done, I understand. But we will see.
I know I wasn't the best at giving great facts on why they will not only make the Super Bowl, but win it, but here is my reasoning. Aaron Rodgers is going to elevate his level of play to a MVP caliber. Ryan Grant will return to form or at least close to, as he was two years ago, when he was averaging over 5 yards a carry. Greg Jennings is going to catapult his way to the top 3 WRs in League. Jermichael Finley will showcase his potential and become a big play target. The offensive line will become a very solid one, better than last year, which will be good enough. The secondary will only go as the front seven go and Capers is going to push this defense to be one of the top in the NFL they will be in the top half. I guess overall Green Bay will be 12-4 to 11-5 win the North, get a first round bye in the playoffs advance to the Super Bowl and beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXI. With Green Bay winning a shootout 41 - 38. Okay maybe I am living in a fantasy world, but when it happens I won't hate to say I told you so. Green Bay has one of the top 5 most talented rosters in the league and if they play like it they will be very tough to beat. Man, I can't wait for the NFL season to start.