The 2010 Green Bay Packers are ready for the football season to start. They had an ugly exit from the playoffs last year and are eager to show the NFL what they are made of.
This year, the Packers will look to take the division and possibly host a few games at Lambeau in January. Here is why the Packers will win the NFC North this year.
The team returns starting QB Aaron Rodgers, who threw for over 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. His only problem was the amount of times he was sacked. The Packers have retained Mark Tauscher, whose signing in October of 2009 helped minimize the sack total for the rest of the season. The starting line for most of the season remains intact.
As for the wide receivers and tight ends, Rodgers still has a ton of weapons with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, and Donald Lee. They did not lose any key guys. Running backs Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson return this year. Grant rushed for over 1000 yards last season.
Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams are also returning. Williams only started ten games last season, but had 22 passes defensed and four interceptions. Also, starting safety Nick Collins, who made the Pro Bowl last season, is back.
The weak link will be the new rookie safety Morgan Burnett, which does not say much because he was an All-American in 2008. He comes from Georgia Tech, where he had four interceptions, eight passes defended, and one forced fumble.
BJ Raji and Brandon Chillar are new starters to a 3-4 defense that led the league in rushing defense. The big loss is Aaron Kampman, so look for Chillar to fill his shoes.
Bottom line, this defense has some new faces, but look for those newbies to fill the shoes of last year. This defense will not be any worse than last year.
Kicker Mason Crosby returns this season. He hit 75% of his field goals last year. Crosby does not have the best range, but he is a solid outdoor kicker.
The game of musical punters continues as the Packers have another new face in Tim Masthay. He was a solid punter for Kentucky, so we’ll see how he does this year. Bottom line, the offense should score enough points that special teams won’t matter much.
They finished second in the division last year, so they get to play Atlanta and San Francisco. Atlanta could be a tough game, but the Packers should be able to contain their offense. The NFC North plays the NFC East and AFC East this year.
The Packers have to go to New England, the Jets, Washington, and Philadelphia. All are tough away games, but the Jets are still learning, Washington is re-building, and Philadelphia had some big offseason transactions. The only game the Packers will lose is New England and possibly Philadelphia.
As for their division, they will split against Minnesota. Neither team will get swept. The Lions and Bears don’t even need to be mentioned – those are wins.
That leaves the home schedule with Dallas, Buffalo, Miami, and the Giants. Buffalo and Miami are both still learning. The Packers will lose to either Dallas or the Giants at home but not both. This leaves the Packers at 12-4 for the season.
The Packers are in a relatively weak division. With the Bears and Lions continuing to struggle, it’s a two-headed race between the Packers and the Vikings. The Vikings play the same opponents as the Packers, but they also play Arizona and New Orleans, both of which are potential losses.
In addition, the game plan to beat Favre is to hit him early and often. He will be beat up towards the middle of the season. As soon as Favre begins to struggle, the team will struggle, even with Adrian Peterson.
The Packers had offensive line trouble last season, giving up 50 sacks. They will be returning the same offensive line. Towards the middle of the season they added Mark Tauscher and that helped with the sack numbers. This pre-season, however, the Packers have again given up some sacks, but they were when the back-up quarterbacks were in. This is definitely something to watch.
The Packers also have had trouble with their special teams coverage. They gave up a few huge punt returns against Seattle in the pre-season. With the inexperience at punter, they really need to step up their coverage game if they want to beat their opponents.
Minnesota could take the division again this year. With Favre coming off a great season and Adrian Peterson healthy, they have a good offense. The Vikings also have a tough defense. Both teams have virtually the same schedule, so if Favre can stay healthy and in the game to support Peterson, it will be a tight division race.
The division is Green Bay’s to lose this year. As long as they can plug up their few holes, they will take the division. The goal is to keep teams from sacking Aaron Rodgers and give him time in the pocket. They have a lethal offense, and the offensive line needs to keep Rodgers protected.
Also, they must fix the special teams coverage. Yes, it is easier said than done. I believe that will come with time as well. They may struggle in the first few games, but with more experience, the coverage team will be better.