Perfect For The Pack: 10 Best Case Scenarios For Green Bay in 2011
The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV by containing Big Ben Roethlisberger in the final minutes and forcing a turnover on downs. After Aaron Rodgers knelt to the Dallas turf and the clock hit triple zeros, the Packers were ready to celebrate.
But the celebration could only last so long before it was time start looking ahead and preparing for next season.
"Let's go get another one," said Rodgers, anticipating a 2011 in which they will find themselves as favorites. They have the talent, teamwork and motivation to do just that.
A lot of things went wrong for the Pack in 2010, so a lot of things had to go right for them to reach their ultimate goal. It is a tough feat to repeat in the NFL, and if Green Bay will do it, many things have to go their way.
Players must stay consistent, injuries must be avoided, and they must play with the determination that won them six straight games to take home the title.
Here are 10 best case scenarios that would be perfect for the Packers as they work to defend the Lombardi in 2011.
Ryan Grant's Return
After Week 1, Grant was declared out for the year, and Green Bay's ground game struggled through the regular season. Green Bay's coaching staff had faith in rookie RB James Starks, but had to wait until he was off the PUP list to employ him in their scheme.
Starks sparked the Packers rushing attack in the playoffs and led all postseason rushers with 315 yards. If Grant starts where he left off, rushing for over 1,200 yards in the last two healthy seasons, and Starks continues to improve, Green Bay will no longer be one dimensional.
This would boost the effectiveness of an already potent play-action for the Pack, and less pressure would be put on quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers' and the Packers' offense was extremely deadly without a running game. Let your mind wonder how great they could be with the return of a solid 1,000 yard rusher and an emerging second-year.
It is almost a necessity in the NFL these days to have two effective running backs. Both Grant and Starks can be receivers out of the backfield, and Starks would also be a threat as a third down back.
Throw in John Kuhn for short yardage situations and goal line plays, and the Packers' possible dynamic duo in Grant and Starks could be a triple threat.
Jermichael Finley Will Pick Up Where He Left Off
Jermichael Finley came out firing in 2010 with 301 yards in the four games he was able to play in. He became a favorite target for Aaron Rodgers during the 2009 season and added a rising elite TE to an already strong Packers' receiving corps.
Now the Pack's WRs are one of the top units in the NFL, partly because they have a young elite quarterback tossing them the pigskin. Once Finley is returned to Rodgers' arsenal, the explosive offense will be even more of a nightmare for defensive coordinators.
When Finley steps back onto the field in 2011, the Packers hope he will continue to harass the opponent's secondary, like he has in the past with deadly combination of size and speed. A Pro Bowl year would quickly elevate Jermichael to one of the top TEs in the league.
If everything works out the way it should, Green Bay's passing attack will continue to be unstoppable and even harder to control in 2011.
Injury Woes Become Old News
The Packers would have had an acceptable excuse had they not even made the playoffs in 2010. They were forced to place 16 players on IR, including six starters, and their star quarterback battled concussions throughout the year.
Even once they made it to the big game, injuries threatened to ruin their chances. The leader of their defense, CB Charles Woodson, suffered a broken collarbone and injuries also limited veteran WR Donald Driver and rookie CB Sam Shields.
There will be no excuses for the Pack in 2011. It will be in the team's best interest if they can leave their bad injury luck in the past. Could a team overcome so much adversity two years in a row?
The Packers don't want to have to find out.
Defense Will Be Even Better
Green Bay ranked first in turnovers and second in points allowed in 2010.
In 2011, they'll remain at the top of the rankings as several contributors, including LBs Nick Barnett, Brad Jones, Brady Poppinga, Brandon Chillar and S Morgan Burnett, all return to the field. These reinforcements can't hurt an already league leading defensive unit.
Tramon Williams will keep up his stellar play and make the Pro Bowl, refusing to be snubbed two years in a row. Charles Woodson will be back to full strength and will lead the top ranked defense in the NFC, as it keeps opponents off the scoreboard and puts up points itself.
Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji will thrive in their third season as pass rushers for Dom Capers, and the defense will be a turnover machine. One area Capers will have to improve is the team's ability to stop the run.
Other than that this defense, like the offense, has very high expectations in 2011.
Rodgers Will Start Every Game and Win MVP
Rodgers missed two games in 2010 due to concussions. The Packers need him to be on the field to be successful, not that Matt Flynn isn't a worthy backup, but Rodgers is a prime candidate for the league MVP in 2011.
Rodgers had a slow start coming out of the gate in 2010, but at the end of day he was the hottest QB in the league at the most important time of the year. If the Super Bowl XLV MVP can stay upright, keep concussions in his past and continue to pick apart defenses, there is no reason why he won't be the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2011.
Aaron Rodgers will only get better with the return of Jermichael Finley and a revamped rushing attack. Who cares if Brett Favre is truly retired? There is a new gunslinger in Green Bay.
Wide Receivers Will Cut Down On Drops
How many times this season did Rodgers put his hands on his helmet in frustration after his receivers continuously dropped sure touchdowns and big-gainers?
Too many times, but ultimately his young targets made up for their ugly blunders by getting in the endzone when it mattered most. It is time they work on reeling in the ball so this doesn't continue to be a problem in 2011.
If they can correct their mistakes, Jordy Nelson and James Jones will have solid seasons as an aging Donald Driver's production is limited. Jones' big drops will decrease, Jennings will have a career year, and Nelson will emerge as a top wide out.
Sophmores Continue Rookie Success
In 2010, first-year corner Sam Shields made the switch from receiver and got his hands on the passes on the defensive side of the ball. He recorded four picks, including two in the playoffs and looks to be an even better nickelback in Capers' scheme next season after a little more experience at the position.
The Packers first round draft pick, Bryan Bulaga, filled in at right tackle for veteran Mark Tauscher after his departure to the IR. Bulaga played well enough in his debut season and became the youngest player to start in a Super Bowl. He'll secure his spot as Aaron Rodgers' long term protector if he can become the youngest player to start in two consecutive Super Bowl.
The Packers have not a real threat at RB since Ahman Green. Grant is a good back, but he'll never be a the top five rusher. For James Starks, the sky is the limit. He could be a one postseason wonder or the next great running back in Green Bay history, the best case scenario for the Green and Gold.
They Will Sweep The Bears
Nothing could be better for Packer backers than if Green Bay can knock off the Bears twice. The most intense rivalry in football is alive and well, and if the Pack can get the brooms out in 2011, that'll mean they've beaten their hated enemies in four straight matchups
Chicago will be out for revenge after falling to their rivals from up the road in the NFC Championship with QB Jay Cutler on the sideline. They'll be sick of hearing about all the Titletown talk, and they'll be dying to take it to the defending champs.
These two divisional games will mean a lot to both teams, and they'll be two of the toughest for the Packers in 2011.
First Round Bye
The Packers will dominate the NFC North and cruise to home field advantage throughout the playoffs, after not playing a single game at Lambeau Field during the 2010 postseason.
The city and the organization will benefit from hosting playoff games, and the Pack will defend the Frozen Tundra following a week of rest to punch their ticket to Indianapolis for the big one.
All the fans in Green Bay will have the opportunity to cheer for their team in person, if they decide brave the cold that is, instead of having to watch postseason Packer football on TV.
They Will Repeat As Super Bowl Champions
The Packers will tear up opponents at Lambeau through the postseason and stride into Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis as heavy favorites. This game won't be as tight as last years' and it will all but be decided by the start of the fourth quarter that the Lombardi Trophy will stay at home.
Cheeseheads in chilly Wisconsin will welcome home the members of the new Packers' dynasty, Titletown will earn its name once again, Donald Driver and Charles Woodson will retire in glory , and the youngsters will be talking about a three-peat.
What could be a better scenario for the 2011 Green Bay Packers?