NFL: The Green Bay Packers' Road to the Super Bowl Gets Bumpier by the Day

Ian HanleyCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2010

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 03: Jermichael Finley #88 of the Green Bay Packers runs with the ball after making a catch from Aaron Rodgers #12 against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on October 3, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 28-26. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

At the start of the season, Packer fans, Packer players, the national media, and even Las Vegas oddsmakers had picked the Green Bay Packers as a Super Bowl favorite, and while the Packers' Super Bowl dreams remain very much alive, it seems with each passing week, the task at hand gets a little more difficult.
Week 1 saw a leg injury end the season of running back Ryan Grant, in his place the Packers are relying on Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and the recently acquired Dimitri Nance to make up for Grant's absence, and so far the trio has had little success. Although the trade deadline does not end until October 19th, the chances of general manager Ted Thomson making a move to bolster the running game seems highly unlikely.
Injuries continued to plague the Packers in Week 4 with the news that rookie safety, Morgan Burnett would be lost for the season due to a knee injury and veteran linebacker Nick Barnett sustained a wrist injury that could very well end his season. Both injuries could be extremely detrimental to the Packers defense, particularly in the short term, as fellow middle linebacker, Brandon Chillar is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury, and the Packers will be without the services of safety Atari Bigby until at least Week 7 when he is eligible to return from the PUP list.
Also of concern for the Packers is the fact that they have yet to put together a complete game on offense or defense this season, even against competition that has been less than average.
At times, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has looked like the potential MVP candidate that most thought that he would be at the beginning of the season, at other times he has looked out of sync with his receivers. Rodgers, who threw only seven interceptions all season in 2009, has already thrown five so far in 2010. With the Packers running game being almost non-existent, the Packers are going to need to rely heavily on Rodgers' arm to carry them the rest of the season.
The Packers defense has also been quite inconsistent. At times looking like the No. 2-rated defense that they were last year, and at other times giving up big plays to vastly inferior offenses.
The Packers special teams, which has been one of the team's shortcomings for the past few years, continues to be problematic. In the Monday night matchup versus the Bears, poor special teams play coupled with the Packers' lack of discipline, led to a 20-17 loss. In last Sunday's matchup versus the Lions, two Jordy Nelson kickoff return fumbles nearly derailed the Packers' chance at victory.
All is not gloom and doom for the Packers however. As I stated earlier, the Packers have not played a complete game yet, and with the talent the Packers have on offense it seems it is only a matter of time before, even without a threat of a running game, the offense gets into a rhythm, and becomes the offensive juggernaut that most Packer fans hoped it would be.
On the defensive side of the ball the Packers have some reinforcements coming. Both Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris, and safety Atari Bigby will be eligible to come off the PUP list after Week 6, which should give a needed shot in the arm to the Packers passing defense. The Packers also have 16 sacks on the season, which ties them for the lead league.
Yes, the Packers have some injury issues to overcome, and no, they have not been playing at as high of a level as most thought they would be playing at this point. But with no other team staking a claim to be the team to beat in the NFC, the Packers, if they stay healthy from here on out, have as good of a chance as anyone to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.