Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be celebrating after throwing for a lot of touchdowns during the upcoming 2010 season.
I expect Rodgers, who threw for 30 touchdowns, 4,434 yards, and just 8 interceptions while also rushing for 316 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2009 to be even better in his third season as a starter.
This will be the year where Brett Favre's protege puts it all together and completely steps out from the legend's shadow, although he does play an awful lot like the old man and that will not change.
He has gained insurmountable experience in posting a 17-15 career record as a starter over two seasons, which will allow him to hold the ball less and take a few more chances.
Don't expect Rodgers to over-throw the deep ball to Greg Jennings like he did on the first play of his team's overtime playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Ensuring his receiver has a chance at making the play would have sent the Packers into the second round.
Rodgers will contend for the M.V.P. in 2010 protected by an improved offensive line.
The Pack added Bryan Bulaga and Marshall Newhouse in the draft and surrounded Rodgers with an all-star cast of weapons at skill positions including Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Donald Driver, Ryan Grant, Jordy Nelson and James Jones.
And the defense, which finished the 2009 season ranked second in the league overall, will be even better in 2010: their second year running Dom Capers 3-4 defense. They posted 37 sacks, 30 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries and three touchdowns in Capers' first year as defensive coordinator in Green Bay.
In 2010, the defense, led by 2009 Defensive Player of the Year Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, Nick Barnett, Ryan Pickett and Nick Collins will be even better. They'll be aided by the addition of safety Morgan Burnett and defensive ends Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson. The return of veteran cornerbacks Al Harris, Will Blackmon and Pat Lee from injury will also be helpful. With the influx of talent and a second off-season under Capers' scheme, Green Bay's defense will be dominant in 2010.
The Eagles will struggle in their first game without Donavon McNabb at quarterback. Philadelphia receivers Jeremy Maclin, Desean Jackson and Jason Avant will have little to celebrate as Kevin Kolb will struggle against the Packers 3-4 defense.
He will be harassed into mistakes and turnovers all game long while Rodgers picks apart an Eagles defense that has a questionable secondary with big play after big play.
Packers cast off Brian Brohm has a shot at being the Bills starting quarterback and leading them into Lambeau Field.
Enough said: The Bills will be terrible in 2010.
The Packers offensive and defensive units will run wild in this game. Expect at least one defensive touchdown for Green Bay. Also, look for undrafted free agent kick returner Sam Shields, out of Miami, to get in on the action ending the Packers decade long kick return touchdown drought.
The Bears added defensive end Julius Peppers and running back Chester Taylor in free agency and safety Major Wright in the draft, but did little else of significance during the off-season to improve a team that wasn't very good in 2009.
Jay Cutler will struggle with Mike Martz's quirky offense early in the season and the Packers defense will be glad to add to his troubles.
Brian Urlacher is old and injury-prone much like many of the Bears other key defenders, Tommie Harris and Charles Tillman.
They will be no match for the Packers high-octane offense.
Despite adding dominant DT Ndamukong Suh and speedy RB Jahvid Best in the draft and defensive linemen Kyle Vanden Bosch and former Packer Corey Williams via free agency, the Lions are still the Lions.
They will be better in 2010, but won't match up with the Packers.
QB Matt Stafford appears to be the real deal and WR Calvin Johnson most definitely is, but Detroit won't challenge Green Bay or Minnesota for the division title.
This game is at Lambeau Field where the Packers were unbeatable in the 90's, and Green Bay is well on its way to getting that aura back.
McNabb is a Redskin and they will be better than they were in 2009, but we have to remember they were terrible last season.
Their strength was on defense in 2009, but under new coach Mike Shanahan they are switching to a 3-4 scheme in 2010.
How will their players fit the scheme and how long of an adjustment period will they need before they are able to just play instead of having to think about what to do?
The Packers get the Redskins in Week 5 which I believe will put the Washington defense squarely in that adjustment period.
They will be adjusting on offense as well due to the addition of Shanahan and McNabb.
The Redskins also don't have enough at the skill positions to trouble Green Bay's defense, at least not this early in the season.
While the Redskins could be a surprise team in the logjam of a division that is the NFC East, at this point they are no match for the Packers.
The Dolphins will contend for the AFC East with the Jets and resurgent Patriots in 2010. However, they won't contend in this Week 6 match-up in Green Bay.
QB Chad Henne will be improved in 2010 but, on this day, he will be hounded by Capers pressure packages. Clay Matthews III and company will harass Henne into mistakes all game long while Ryan Pickett and company hold the Dolphins rushing attack in check.
The wildcat won't work against a smart Green Bay defense, who I'm sure would love to pick-six Ronnie Brown.
The Dolphins defense is solid but unspectacular, while the Packers offense is spectacular. We have a mismatch.
Without significant pressure applied to Rodgers, he'll pick them apart.
Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre returns to Lambeau Field for the second time in his career, and this will indeed be one for the ages.
The two explosive offenses will shoot it out despite both teams possessing top 5 defenses.
The Vikings will have the Williams Wall, Pat and Kevin, back in the swing of things after serving their 4-game suspensions to begin the season. The two massive tackles will give the Vikings defense a noticeable boost.
Still Rodgers and the offense will score four touchdowns. One of Rodgers three touchdown passes will put the Packers up 28-24 with less than two minutes left.
But, in the end the grandfather will do him one better leading his Vikings on the winning touchdown drive to end the game: the savvy vet leaving Rodgers without enough time to stage a comeback.
If Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels is at quarterback, the Packers will dominate.
This will be a closely contested game between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked defenses in the NFL, respectively, in 2009.
In 2010, I believe the Packers defense will be a lot better than it was last season in its second year under Capers.
Caper's version of the 3-4 defense is rather complicated, but his players won't have to think too much in his second year.
This will lead to a much faster defense and second-year quarterback Mark Sanchez will struggle against it.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan made comments about Charles Woodson being undeserving of the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year award.
Don't be surprised to see Woodson sprinting into the end zone after a turnover for the decisive game- winner.
The Packers won in Dallas last season with a suspect offensive line that was well on its way to surrendering a league high 51 sacks, not including five more in the wild card playoff loss in Arizona.
In 2010, the Packers will boast a revamped offensive line with great depth.
Aaron Rodgers won't get sacked four times in this game and having good protection will allow the Packers offense to roll. Tony Romo will struggle in a return to the state where he grew up.
The Packers get a late bye for the first time in a number of years. This should help a team that has several veterans at key positions who are a bit long in the tooth.
Left tackle Chad Clifton will be 34 at this point in the season and has been injury-prone in recent years. Right tackle Mark Tauscher will be 33 and in only his second season returning from knee surgery. Cornerback Al Harris is 35 years old and coming off knee surgery, while Woodson will be 34 and is perennially banged up during the season. All of these players along with the rest of the team should benefit greatly from the extra week off.
It'll also allow coaches to prepare for a tough stretch in which they will play four of their next five games on the road.
Mike McCarthy is 3-1 as the Packers coach coming off of a bye week but has his toughest opponent to date in that spot in 2010.
The Vikings and Packers are NFC favorites to go to the Super Bowl, and this will be another great game.
With the Packers offensive line playing so well at this point it will be Jared Allen and the rest of the Vikings defense who have trouble laying a hand on Rodgers.
The Packers will get to Favre early and often. However, as he has so many times in the past, he will perform admirable in the face of the onslaught. He'll nearly lead his team to yet another one of his dramatic fourth quarter comebacks, but fall short this time.
Rodgers gets the monkey off his back by going into the Metrodome and coming away with a victory.
Green Bay takes a trip down south to Atlanta in late November and, while the Pack of yesteryear may have been built for the rugged outdoors, the 2010 model is a lot sleeker.
The 2010 Packers have plenty of speed and play better on turf. The momentum from their victory in Minnesota will carry them through this game against Atlanta.
The Falcons have good receivers, but the Packers receivers are better. The Falcons have a good young quarterback, but the Packers have a better one. The Packers are arguably better at every single position and that will translate into an easy victory.
The 49ers come to Green Bay in 2010 and, as they did in 2009, will leave on the losing end.
The Packers are too good. The game will be closer than some expect but, in the end, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, Alex Smith, isn't even in the same league as the man who went 24th in that draft, Rodgers.
San Francisco is definitely headed in the right direction under coach Mike Singletary, but they aren't one of the elites just yet.
I'm not sure Smith can be the quarterback of an elite team unless the defense is great and, while the 49ers unit is getting there, all I can say is maybe next year.
The Detroit Lions will win more games than they did in 2009. They just won't be winning any of those games against the Packers.
The Lions are headed in the right direction but they are still a ways away from competing with the likes of Green Bay and Minnesota for the NFC North title.
Matt Stafford will be sacked, hit and hurried all game long. He'll be unable to get anything going. Detroit's improving defense will take a step back on this day in December. The Packers' high octane offense will be able to run or pass the ball at will, and allowing them to run play action is almost unfair. They are that good.
New England made the playoffs in 2009 but they weren't the same team as in years past. The defense was shaky at best and Tom Brady seemed to be missing something in his first year back after tearing his ACL in 2008.
It takes two years to really recover from that type of injury and, while Brady was never a running quarterback, he needs to be able to move in the pocket and looked uncomfortable doing so in 2009.
In 2010 Brady will be back to normal which will lead to a resurgence for receiver Randy Moss.
Due to playing this game in New England, Green Bay will struggle to get anything going on offense as the Patriots defense will be improved this season.
They won't be great, but after adding numerous defensive players in their last two drafts, they will be much better than the liability they were in 2009.
These two teams haven't met since the sub-zero affair back in the 2007 NFC Championship. The Giants won by a field goal in overtime after a Favre interception near midfield. That pass proved to be Favre's last as the Green Bay Packers' quarterback.
Although Rodgers didn't play in that game, he will make the 2010 Giants realize very quickly that things will be different this time around.
This game will never be close as the Packers offense will once again prove to have too many weapons for one defense to contain.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will be running for his life early and often on what will be a cold January day in Green Bay.
Matt Forte is just not good enough and Chester Taylor is a backup at this point in his career, meaning the Bears will struggle to run the ball.
It doesn't seem possible, but the Pack should be better against the run in 2010 with the addition of two defensive linemen in this year's draft and 2008 first round pick B.J. Raji getting more playing time in his second season.
By this point in the season, the Bears key defensive players will be beat up and will offer little resistance to a Packers offense that is peaking.
Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson has stuck to his guns, refusing to compliment his team with other teams free agents.
Instead, he has built through the draft and improved from within from year to year.
In 2010, Thompson re-signed several of his own key free agents, including Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Ryan Pickett and Nick Collins, losing only Aaron Kampman to free agency. He also added several key contributors in the draft, including safety Burnett, running back James Starks, defensive end Mike Neal and tight end Andrew Quarless, as well as a few undrafted free agents who will contribute that includes cornerback/kick returner Sam Shields and wide receiver/kick returner Charles Dillion.
In the end, it will all pay off during the 2010 regular season. Thompson's Packers will finish 14-2 and capture the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The road to the Super Bowl will go through Lambeau Field, a huge advantage for the Packers.
This scenario gives the Packers the best possible shot at returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in the post-Favre era.
In the second part of this story, we will explore the playoff scenarios as pertaining to the 2010 Green Bay Packers.