Super Bowl or Die: Why the Packers Are Serious Contenders
Expectations in Green Bay for the 2010 season are soaring higher than they've been in the past decade, and ILB Nick Barnett isn't afraid to talk about it.
"Super Bowl or Die," said Barnett, although later he admitted that he picks them to go to the Super Bowl every season.
The Packers have a bad taste in their mouth from the way they went out vs. the Arizona Cardinals last season and look to avenge that loss by taking out any team that gets in their way.
It's been 13 seasons since Green Bay has hoisted the Lombardi trophy, which is way overdue to Packer Nation.
In no particular order, here are five legitimate reasons the 2010 Packers could be the beginning of a truly remarkable dynasty.
Nothing Is New
Over the past two seasons, the Packers have never had a chance to really settle down and build on what they've already achieved.
In 2008, they had a new quarterback.
In 2009, they had a new defensive scheme.
In 2010, they get a chance to build on their foundation, which is what all Super Bowl teams have in common.
Rarely, if ever, do you see a team that just implemented a new system, playing in the Super Bowl.
Simply put, the dude's a monster.
He basically put up 55 receptions, 676 yards, and 5 TD in 10 games and capped off his astonishing breakout season with a six-reception, 159-yard performance in the playoff loss vs. the Arizona Cardinals.
Finley quickly became Rodgers' favorite target and accumulated more receptions than any other Packer receiver in the final seven games of the season.
He is a mismatch for almost anyone who has the misfortune of covering him.
"Too fast for linebackers and too big for cornerbacks" pretty much sums up the talents of Jermichael Finley.
With an entire season of experience and Finley being the full-time starter from Week One, don't be surprised to see Finley put up numbers that are simply unheard of when compared to former Packers tight ends.
Healthy Offensive Line
In the first eight games last season, the Packers offensive line surrendered 37 sacks and the team went 4-4.
However, in the second half of the season, they only gave up 14 sacks, and to nobody's surprise, went 7-1.
With RT Mark Tauscher and LT Chad Clifton fully prepared and healthy for the 2010 season, Rodgers and that offense are set up for a very memorable season.
Also, with a much improved offensive line, the team will be able to capitalize on turnovers.
Last season, the Packers defense was ranked No. 1 in turnovers, but a lot of the time the offense was unable to take advantage of them due to lack of protection.
The Packers offensive line heading into the 2010 season has the most depth its had in years, with Bryan Bulaga and T.J. Lang serving as backup tackles.
Aaron Rodgers proved last season that he can put this team on his shoulders when he led a 17-point comeback vs. the Cardinals in the playoffs when his defense completely fell apart.
"I don't ever want to face him again in my life. I am dead serious. I'll face Drew Brees any day of the week before I face him again," said Antrel Rolle.
He is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in his first two seasons as a starter and is currently No. 1 in career passer rating.
Although still a youngster, Rodgers is developing into the type of quarterback who can make any wide receiver dangerous.
In just a matter of a few weeks it seemed like Rodgers took his game to the next level and was ready to be considered among the elites.
Rodgers' pocket presence, ability to read defenses, and ability to get the ball away, significantly improved last season and has Packers fans extremely excited about his future.
More Experienced Defense
In just their first season in Dom Capers' psychotic 3-4 defense, the Packers ranked No. 2 in total defense and No. 1 in turnovers.
What's even more impressive is that they did it with two rookie OLB's, Brad Jones and Clay Matthews.
With the return of Al Harris and talented "prospects" such as Brandon Underwood, Pat Lee, and Morgan Burnett most likely getting a significant amount of playing time, there's no doubt in my mind that their secondary will be much improved.
On top of that, Capers is adding a sufficient amount of new plays to the scheme, making it that much more confusing for opposing offenses.