2010 Predicted Record: 12-4
The Packers have officially arrived.
Sure, Green Bay was already pretty good last year—finishing 11-5 and qualifying for the playoffs as a wild card team—but this season they’re ready to take it to the next level and compete for a Super Bowl.
Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. That’s not a misprint. He doesn’t have a ring like the Manning brothers, Brady, or Brees yet, but he’s well on his way. No defense (or below-average offensive line) is capable of slowing him down.
Green Bay’s Achilles heel has been its shady offensive line, which allowed its fair share of sacks over the last few years. While the line still isn’t anywhere near elite, it finally has some depth with the addition of first-round pick Bryan Bulaga and the return of tackle Mark Tauscher. For what it’s worth, the Packers haven’t given up a sack all preseason.
Running back Ryan Grant should continue to provide stability out of the backfield and is a pretty safe bet to eclipse 1,100 yards. He’s a vital part of the offense.
Receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are major targets for Rodgers, especially Jennings, who, despite a down season in 2009, is still one of the best wide outs in football. Tight end Jermichael Finley looks ready to join the upper echelon of players at his position by year’s end as well.
Green Bay’s 3-4 defense made huge strides last season, leading the league in turnovers forced and interceptions. They have the reigning defensive player of the year (Charles Woodson), an improving defensive line led by youngster B.J. Raji, and a great group of linebackers that includes Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, and Nick Barnett.
Two things need to happen this season if the Packers want to be Super Bowl contenders. One, the offensive line needs to hold up. Two, the defense needs to play as well as it did last year. I suspect both sides of the ball live up to expectations, and the Packers compete for a championship.