Green Bay Packers, A Lambeau Leap Of Faith: Fans Should Be Optimistic
Step back from the ledge and take a deep breath, Green Bay Packer Nation.
Yes, it has been a bad few weeks for the Packers. First there was the news that Randy Moss had returned to Minnesota to join Brett Favre, then there was the realization the Packers would not be getting running back Marshawn Lynch after he was traded to the Seahawks, then Jermichael Finley and Nick Barnett were likely done for the year joining Ryan Grant on injured reserve. Finally, linebacker Clay Matthews and quarterback Aaron Rodgers were injured last Sunday in the Packers' 16-13 defeat to the Washington Redskins.
Oy vey. Add to all that that the Packers face a brutal schedule coming up and times are looking pretty gloomy in Titletown.
Buck up, Packers fans! This team can ride through this storm and here are five reasons why they can do so:
1. Aaron Rodgers
Luckily, all early indications are that Rodgers is OK and very likely could be starting this Sunday against the Dolphins.
Even injured, Rodgers has inherited the same ability that made Brett Favre a legend: the ability to raise the play of the players around him. He could not have developed that trait at a better time, because with Jermichael Finley banged up, Rodgers will very quickly have to develop some chemistry with rookie tight end Andrew Quarless.
Also don't forget Rodgers' ability to handle adversity. His mindset during "Favregate" in the training camp of 2008 showed everyone he can handle whatever hoopla (whether it be positive or negative) surrounds him and maintain focus on the task at hand.
Throw in Rodgers' no-excuse attitude combined with his toughness, and the Packers have someone who can carry them on their shoulders no matter who else is on the team.
2. Even without Finley, the Packers have plenty of offensive playmakers
Paging Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
With all the hype surrounding Finley, everyone seems to have forgotten Jennings and Driver, Jennings in particular. In fact, even Mike McCarthy may have forgotten about No. 85.
Both men are healthy and Jennings hasn't lost any speed or ability nor has the ageless wonder Driver. Add Jordy Nelson and James Jones into the mix and the Packers offense still contains plenty of dynamite.
Rookie tight end Andrew Quarless showed potential last week as well. No one expects him to be Finley but if he can become even an average goal line threat, the Packers will be fine.
3. The offensive line is holding up....for the most part
It looks like last season's problem has been fixed.
Rodgers has been sacked far less than at this point in 2009, although he has taken some wicked shots after the ball has been thrown. Even with Mark Tauscher out for a couple of weeks for his shoulder to heal, the Packers can get through it with rookie Bryan Bulaga playing early well in Tauscher's place despite some holding penalties that all rookies will commit. He's still learning, so he will get even better.
4. B.J. Raji continues to emerge
He's not the Gravedigger like Gilbert Brown but he's quickly becoming a solid run stopper.
Raji has surprisingly been able to get to the quarterback much more frequently in his sophomore season and has contributed a lot to the Packers rushing defense as well. He has shown good speed for his size in getting off the line and should help open up holes for the Packers linebackers as the season continues.
With Matthews already established as one of the best young pass rushers in the league, the Packers 2009 first round draft class is suddenly becoming quite the dynamic duo on defense.
5. The NFC is mediocre, or worse.
The Packers are not as bad as compared to most of the NFC. Even the defending champion Saints explosive offense suddenly lacks sizzle as they have an identical 3-2 record and could arguably even be 0-5 like the 49ers. The winner of the NFC West could very well be 7-9 and no one seems to want to win the NFC East.
The Atlanta Falcons are likely the best team in the conference at 4-1 and even they have some serious flaws.
In the NFC North, the Bears will fall back to earth as their schedule gets tougher. Jay Cutler is coming back from a concussion and that injury could be the least of his worries should the Bears offensive line not be able to keep him upright. The Vikings are struggling with a beat up Brett Favre who has not only suffered a battered body but a battered psyche with the texting scandal he suddenly finds himself in.
The NFC is wide open. The Packers aren't out of it. Not by a long shot.
The point of all this, Packers fans, is don't give up. There plenty more reasons than these five to be optimistic even in the battered state the Packers are in. It's a long season just barely past the quarter point.
Anything can happen. That trip to Dallas could still happen after all.
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