With the season's first meaningful kickoff only a week away, the Green Bay Packers are that close to officially being able to put last season in the rear view mirror. And who can blame them?
The first two games gave every Packer fan such a sense of relief it only seemed logical it would come crashing down almost as quickly as it had started.
It ended with the team losing seven of nine and falling woefully short of the playoffs that seemed almost automatic after Week Two.
Yet, while football is a team game, the Packers' difficulties did not stem from troubles on both sides of the ball. The offense was fantastic all year, finishing ranked fifth in the NFL in points per game.
The running game had it faults as Ryan Grant was unable to match his productivity of the second half of the 2007 season, but Aaron Rodgers and the passing game was magnificent.
Yet while averaging over 26 points per game, the defense let up an average of over 23 points per game, 22nd in the NFL. Aside from the blowout loss to the Saints and the Cowboys game in Week Three, every loss was decided by less than 10 points, five of which were of three points or less.
Thus was the fate of the Packers' season: close but not close enough. The offense would put up the points to win, only to have the defense allow just enough to be beaten. Five defensive stands could possibly lead to an 11-5 season, and a home game the first round.
Looking forward to the 2009 season, as a Packers fan, one cannot help to be excited. The offense returns with minor changes up on the line, leaving one to expect the same, if not better, from Rodgers and Co.
The defense was a heavy priority in the draft with the first-round selections of DT BJ Raji and ILB Clay Matthews. The defensive scheme also went through an overhaul with the addition of Dom Capers, the purported "3-4 master."
With Raji plugging the middle and the talented linebacking core led by AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett sweeping the sidelines, the Packers D should be much improved.
With a powerful offense, that despite its meaninglessness has been unstoppable this preseason, and a revamped, and hopefully improved, defense, the Packers should see a marked improvement in the win column this year.
As for my predictions?
Record: 10-6 (First in North Division)
Awards: Aaron Rodgers will receive MVP consideration as will BJ Raji for Defensive Rookie of the year.
Favre: Five sacks, three interceptions, two wins. How could it get better than that?