NFL Predictions for 2010 Season: Path Clear For Packers Title Run
Can you hear that? That sound coming from the Green Bay Packers' training camp?
Yes, silence is deafening.
Given the drama that surrounded the past two training camps, the Packers most certainly are already enjoying a quiet and drama-free training camp.
Yes, Johnny Jolly was recently suspended for the season by the NFL for violations of its substance abuse policy, but this hardly came as a surprise to the Packers. They were prepared for such a situation to arise.
What the Packers in hindsight were not prepared for was the drama that engulfed the team's 2008 training camp and to a lesser extent, the 2009 camp as well.
The drama involving Brett Favre in 2008 no doubt hampered the focus of the players and coaches and it no doubt played a role in the 6-10 record that year.
As for last season, the Packers started off sluggish after losing to Favre and the Vikings twice and sitting at 4-4 halfway through the schedule. The team rallied to finish 11-5 and qualified for the playoffs. Despite the overall success of the season, the slow start cost the Packers a division title and a home playoff game.
Things look much better in 2010. No one is being forced to answer questions about Favre. Current starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers has proven himself to be one of the league's elite signal callers and all seems well once again in Titletown.
The happiest group of men in the organization is the triumverate of coach Mike McCarthy, general manager Ted Thompson and president Mark Murphy.
No longer do they have to worry about the F-word being tossed around camp. McCarthy can focus on installing the game plans for the 2010, Thompson on filling the roster with the right people and Murphy with securing the team's long-term financial future.
This is not to say Favre's antics ruined the Packers in 2008 and hurt them early on in 2009. The Packers had horrible play on defense in 2008 and even worse play by the offensive line early in 2009 before rectifying the problem as the season went on.
That said, the circus has not come to Packers camp this year. The defensive issues were solved with the new 3-4 scheme last year and the Packers return the entire offensive line who dramatically improved the second half of 2009. The team overall remains largely intact.
Good-to-great quarterback? Check.
Opportunistic defense? Check.
Head coach willing to roll the dice? Check. (That onside kick in the Arizona game was brilliant!)
Solid core of veterans? Check.
The runway is finally clear. This team is ready for takeoff from Lambeau Field and ready to land at Cowboys Stadium in Texas for Super Bowl XLV.
To the Packers credit, McCarthy made no excuses for the issues the team had in 2008 and early last year. He held himself and his team accountable and never once blamed outside sources for the maladies the Packers faced.
That turned out to serve the team well. The problems have been solved and the players are in place for the Packers to make a run for the Lombardi Trophy.
Issues will no doubt arise during the season as they do for every team every year, but after what the Packers went through the past two seasons there is absolutely no doubt they are capable of handling any kind of adversity thrown their way.
That said, the team still has yet to prove it can handle success. The Packers still have not put together back-to-back winning seasons since Thompson and McCarthy arrived. Consistent winning is what has defined past glory years in Green Bay, and until this current team does that the jury is still out.
This is the first time in the past few seasons the Packers will not enter the season as the youngest team in the NFL. That should scream to anyone with a brain that management thinks this team is ready to contend.
Many of the national sports media agree, with the Packers either winning or finishing a close second in the NFC North depending on what Favre does. Most also pick the Packers for a deep playoff run.
Will the burden of high expectations sink this team? Time will tell.
The Packers' time is now. Destiny is calling them. Will they answer the call or send it straight to voicemail?
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