Green Bay Packers: Wildly Speculative Week-by-Week 2011 Predictions
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Since the CBA talks have continued their Sisyphean trek into the plane of futility, fans are left with little to do and all day to do it.
Naturally, this has led to a lot of what ifs, what mights and "what the hell were they thinking?" So, I decided to get in on the endless speculation by taking a look at what might come of the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers' 2011 season with a week-by-week projection.
Week One: Vs. New Orleans
The Slop Bowl
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With training camps and practices seriously truncated, this Week 1 matchup should prove to be both exciting and disappointing.
Thanks to a lack of cohesion, this game will most likely be an offensive free-for-all. The Saints' shaky defense will be even shakier without practice, and don't expect the Packers' defense to fire on all cylinders in Dom Capers' complex 3-4 or 2-2-5 or 1-1-2-1-2 (or whatever exotic looks he normally throws out there).
This game will come down to individual talent and which team has more of it. Passers extraordinaire Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers will be pitching it all over the field. Expect lead changes, and expect New Orleans' well-stocked RB larder to be tapped later in the game to keep the Packers' explosive offense off the field.
Unfortunately for the Saints, the Packers' offense has too many weapons to stop with a so-so defense that hasn't had time to pull it together. Playmakers on both sides of the ball favor Green Bay, despite heroics from Brees.
Final Score: GB 31, NO 27
Week Two: At Carolina
Super Fun Time Cupcake Love Love
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Bring on the cupcakes. The Packers get an early break by facing a team that is starting to draft quarterbacks like Matt Millen on wide receivers.
Under a new coach, new system, with a new QB, look for the Panthers to function as the Packers' extra practice. With a ten-day break between this game and their previous, Green Bay will have had a chance to start getting it together, and unfortunately for Carolina, this means a bloodbath.
Look for a blowout, with a Cam Newton sighting the only plus for beleaguered Panthers fans.
Having now faced one disorganized squad and one overwhelmed squad, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers will by now lead the league in most passing categories. Look for Packers fans to start counting chickens and excitable sportscasters to start making Steve Young comparisons.
Final Score: GB 38, CAR 6
Week Three: At Chicago
Get Used To Disappointment
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The oldest rivalry in the NFL. Should be exciting, considering these two met in the NFC Championship, right?
Not so fast. While the aging Bears' defense still has a few more miles on their tires, their offense remains underwhelming, The 2011 Bears will be as were the 2010 Vikings: a team that got hot, lucky, and skillful at all the right times the previous year, only to be let down. Don't worry, Chicago. The corner is right ahead of you.
But not this game. Two teams that know each other with a couple of weeks under their belts will prove the usual, bruising, slugfest of a game, as opposed to the occasional blowout. Chicago has enough talent in the right places to make this contest close, but they're still short of their arch rivals.
Look for Jay Cutler to have a bad day, hurrying throws and getting frustrated. That O-line looks better with Carimi on one side, but he's only one player, and he's still green. The #29 overall pick left or right, Clay Matthews III still has a big day.
Final Score: GB 17, CHI 10
Week Four: Vs. Denver
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The good times roll for Green Bay as they host a still-lost-in-the-woods Broncos unit in Week Four.
Is it Orton or Tebow? The answer only affects in what way the Broncos get steamrolled by Green Bay. Orton's lack of mobility means either sacks or plenty of checkdowns, with the latter being the safe bet. If so, look for a rapidly gelling Packers' defense to quickly close in on receivers in the flats and on the bubble.
Then there's Tebow. If he plays, look for the former first-round pick to take a lot of hits as his competitive spirit dictates he try to make a play. Tebow up the middle; Tebow on the boot - Tebow down for a short gain or a loss.
Denver is a team that has gone into rebuilding mode, with a new coach and a new offense and defense. As I said, the good times keep rolling for Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers bounces back from a comparatively tougher game versus the Bears to once again light it up.
Final Score: GB 27, DEN 13
Week Five: At Atlanta
I Got Your "Win" Right Here
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When these two teams met in the 2010 regular season, it was electrifying. When they met again in the playoffs, the promise of a legendary playoff contest went unfulfilled, as the Packers pimp-slapped the Falcons, 48-21.
You think Matty Ice & Company are going to let that slide? Think again. So far, the Falcons have had to tough it out against Chicago, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, and Seattle (okay, it's a bit of a stretch to say Seattle will be "tough"). Nevertheless, that's three 2010 playoff teams and one that should have been in the playoffs. The Packers? It's been a cakewalk.
That ends in this game, where a surprised Green Bay is blindsided by an angry, hungry Atlanta Falcons. Look for flawless execution by the Falcons as they exact their revenge, while Green Bay mounts a comeback, only to fall in the end.
Look for jealous fans of other teams to start ripping the Packers as a paper tiger. "They lost the only time they faced a good team!" will be the chorus, and Green bay fans will have to weather a lot of sneering before they find out if their beloved Packers are the real deal or not.
Final Score: GB 20, ATL 27
Week Six: Vs. St. Louis
Close, But No Cigar
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The St. Louis Rams are a team on the rise.
Unfortunately for them, the Green Bay Packers might be at zenith.
With five weeks under their belt, both teams are at peak efficiency, neither too tired and beat-up nor too out-of-synch. Sam Bradford continues to show why he was worth the #1 overall pick, and Aaron Rodgers continues his career-long F'-You to the 2005 49ers">San Francisco 49ers.
Look for Steve Jackson to exploit some softness in the middle versus a Packers squad that might have been exposed versus Atlanta's Michael Turner. Then look for a well-oiled Green Bay to come out ahead on both sides of the ball.
Final Score: GB 27, STL 17
Week Seven: At Minnesota
Bye Bye, Mister Number 12 Guy
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Is it in the Metrodome? Ford Field? Baraboo Senior High Field? These are questions more in doubt than the outcome of this game.
Christian Ponder or Veteran Groomer will hand the ball off to All-Day, who will have some success versus a Packers squad built for the pass. Unfortunately, the Packers figure this out, and there the game ends.
Look for a game that seems to be close at first, only to blow wide open in the second half. The Vikings are without a franchise passer, so Clay Matthews III will have his ears well-pinned for this game. Look for Jermichael Finley to live up to the hype in this one, as Antoine Winfield is busy elsewhere. Not that it would matter. Minnesota has too many question marks to prevail.
Green Bay coasts in this one, daring a team to ambush them like the Falcons did.
Final Score: GB 17, MIN 3
Week Eight: Glorious Bye!
...and she was like, "Ewww! Gross!". But we did it, anyway.
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It's a bye week in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Fans down metric tons of sausage, bratwurst, and corn on the cob, while bemoaning the end of Pete's Wicked Strawberry Blonde, because the company has gone out of business.
The nation prays the week passes without incident. After all, this is the state that gave the nation Jeffrey Dahmer, Ed Gein, and Joe McCarthy. Do not mess with Wisconsin. At least in Texas, they shoot you in the face. In America's Dairyland, they eat people and make crafts out of their leftovers.
Week Nine: At San Diego
Come On, Tramon: Why Green Bay's #1 Corner Shouldn't Return Kicks
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In Week Nine, Green Bay faces the two-faced Chargers, and this one will all depend on which San Diego team shows up. Is it the Early Season Chargers or the Late Season Chargers?
I say Early.
Why? Norv Turner and missing skill players. Home-run threat Darren Sproles will be wearing a different uniform, and Ryan Matthews is no LT (the good one, not the bad one). This team rests on QB Rivers' capable shoulders, and I say even he isn't good enough to overcome bad coaching and missing keys. Not against a rolling Green Bay team.
Don't get me wrong; look for Antonio Gates to come up big against a Packers' defense that has had trouble with athletic tight ends in the past. Either that, or look for Charles Woodson to be buried in yellow as he plays Gates physically. One way or another, the Chargers will march down the field. However, they come up short one too many times.
Final Score: GB 20, SD 17
Week Ten: Vs. Minnesota
Mirror Images, Right Down To The Numbers
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Every teams stumbles, especially against division rivals, and Green Bay is due.
On the lookout for the more competitive Lions and Bears, the Packers get ambushed by a Vikings team looking for respect. Pulling out all the stops against a known opponent, Percy Harvin, Adrian Peterson, a more experienced Kyle Rudolph, and more than one trick play will keep Green Bay on it's toes and Aaron Rodgers off the field.
It will be low-scoring and ugly. Packers haters will rejoice and point to this game as their predicted (read: hoped-for) fade down the stretch. Unfortunately for them, Green Bay is not so easily turned aside.
Final Score: GB 10, MIN 13
Week Eleven: Vs. Tampa Bay
Yer Damn Right The Creamsicles Have Cool Jerseys
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Looking to bounce back after an embarrassing loss at home, Green Bay hosts the other 'Bay, looking to do a little embarrassing of their own.
But there's something about the Buccaneers that the Packers just can't seem to get a handle on.
Look for Josh Freeman to have his coming-out party, facing a world-class defense with poise and getting the job done. A suddenly snake-bit Green Bay tries to slug this one out, throwing high-percentage passes and running it down Tampa Bay's throat, but to no avail.
A late surge gives the fans hope, but it's too little, too late as the Packers lose two in a row at home. Sports-talk jockeys start claiming they always knew some fatal flaw about Green Bay and are called out for the liars they are.
Final Score: GB 20, TB 24
Week Twelve: At Detroit
The D-Line Needs Red Meat
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Detroit fans have been licking their chops, waiting for their now-dump-a-brick scary defensive line to get their mitts on Aaron Rodgers.
Unfortunately for them, the Packers' skid stops here. Pressure up the middle by Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley moves Rodgers outside, and forget containing him; he's deadly out there. Angered by losing two winnable home games, Green Bay comes out swinging and doesn't stop until the final whistle.
Look for Matt Stafford to show flashes of both brilliance and his lack of playing time since entering the NFL, giving the Detroit faithful hope before dashing it on a botched play or two. Especially if a certain blitzing linebacker gives the former overall #1 pick a reminder of their last encounter, causing happy feet.
Trying to take pressure off, Detroit wastes valuable time handing off one too many to their thunder-and-lightning team of Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best. The Packers smell blood and pour it on. This one is a reminder that Detroit is still a year away.
Final Score: GB 31, DET 14
Week Thirteen: At NY Giants
Here Comes The Young
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This game is where looks-good-on-paper meets stays-on-paper. Or in the case of Marvin Austin, on the bench. Tom Coughlin has no patience for a young player who thinks more of himself than others, and Giants fans have to wait a couple of years for the promising prospect to mature.
In the meantime, top pick Prince Amukamara is getting every chance, and he's making the most of it. Unfortunately, he finds himself out of his depth against a Packers receiving corps that now has a widely-regarded steal in Randall Cobb, who has found his feet in his rookie season. Not to worry, Giants fans, he won't have many more games like this in a long and storied career.
Look for Aaron Rodgers to go ballistic. Finley, Driver, Jennings, Cobb, Quarless, Green out of the backfield, and mildly disappointing Jordy Nelson run wild as Green Bay spreads the ball around, while New York chases their own tails early on.
But the #7 defense in 2010 can't stay confused for long, and a surprisingly efficient Eli Manning brings the Giants to within 3, torching a season-long-weary Packers defense in the second half.
Too bad it's not enough, as corner Sam Shields nabs a drive ending pick and Rodgers-to-Randall Cobb drives the last nail into New York's coffin in this game, scoring the final touchdown.
Final Score: GB 34, NYG 24
Week Fourteen: Vs. Oakland
Chugga Chugga Chugga Choo-Choo!
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The Raiders are not an easy team to figure out. Oh, we know what they're doing on draft day: picking physical freaks with lightning-fast 40 times. But on the field, this team very nearly took their division despite a coaching mess and a quarterback carousel.
The Packers don't know what to make of them, either, and this game starts to get sloppy. Look for penalties to rear their ugly heads for the first time in large numbers. Green Bay struggles as they thought this penalty-bug was behind them. Groans sound in Lambeau as fans begin to fear that their team is about to drop another game at home.
Thankfully for them, the Packers do have an identity, and they stick with it in the second half to good effect. Oakland uses it's backs to try to grind the game down, but a suddenly stiff Packers defense puts the ball back in Aaron Rodgers' hands, and the comeback is on.
Neither team comes away feeling good about themselves, but Green Bay takes the win and thanks their lucky stars.
Fina Score: GB 27, OAK 21
Record 10-3, still not good enough to take the division.
Week Fifteen: At Kansas City
Not This Time, Kuuuuuuuhhhhnnn
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It's always a crap shoot when two teams unfamiliar with each other meet, and this is no exception.
The tale of the first half will be fairly tame. Look for both teams to feel each other out, looking for weaknesses to exploit in the second half. 13 total points in two quarters, and that's being generous.
But the Packers find out quickly how Kansas City got so hot last year, and the second half opens with two unanswered scores, while Green Bay tries to get a rhythm going against a surprisingly stiff Chiefs defense.
In the meantime, a Kansas City unit coming off four straight crushing defeats (versus New England, Pittsburgh, the New York Jets, and a shockingly explosive Chicago Bears) is playing angry, and the Packers stumble at just the wrong time. Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin come up big, but not as big as home-run hitter Jamaal Charles, who scores twice in the final quarter.
Final Score: GB 17, KC 28
Week Sixteen: Vs. Chicago
You Know It's Gonna Happen Once
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The Bears come into this game looking for something to prove. Sadly, they only prove they have too far to go.
Look for Jay Cutler to show up for his team, carrying them as far as he can in this game. By this point, it should be obvious who the real receiver is on this Chicago unit: Earl Bennett, who hauls in two scores, the only times Chicago even gets into the red zone.
The Packers defense attacks Cutler, hoping to rattle him, and the on-again, off-again Vanderbilt product shows that he doesn't go down easy, NFC Championship Game notwithstanding. Matt Forte hits a wall, gaining less than 40 yards, as the reigning Super Bowl Champions continue to clobber the Bears.
Aaron Rodgers has a solid day, but this one goes to the surprisingly effective running game, where James Starks and Ryan Grant team for 168 yards and two TDs on the ground. The Bears never see a lead in this one and go home disappointed.
Final Score: GB 31, CHI 14
Record: 11-4, clinching the division title
Week Seventeen: Vs. Detroit
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The final game of the season is upon the Packers, and they decide not to rest their starters, playing for a bye in the playoffs.
But an angry Detroit, feeling robbed of another good season, has other plans.
Look for a brutal match-up, as the Lions take their frustrations out on an unsuspecting Packers squad, who respond in kind. Turnabout is fair play when defensive MVP-candidate Ndamukong Suh knocks Aaron Rodgers out of the game, and millions of Packers fans defecate pink Twinkies. Sports media hacks everywhere start pretending they always support resting players when the playoffs are assured.
Meanwhile, back-up Matt Flynn is pressed into service, auditioning for a starting job on another team in 2012. Both teams pound the rock, with Green Bay trying to protect the QB and Detroit trying to keep the explosive Packers offense off the field.
Something has to give, and once again, it's the Lions, who come up short but go home with the respect they earned on the field. Matt Stafford proves he can make it through a season intact, and Detroit fans begin salivating for 2012, when they will contend for a playoff spot for the first time since the heady days when no one knew who Osama bin Laden was.
Packers fans breathe a sigh of relief as Rodgers gets the week off he needs to be ready for the divisional round of the playoffs.
Final Score: GB 21, DET 17
Record: 12-4, #2 seed in the NFC
Postseason: Here's Where I Go Completely off the Rails
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The injury bug flies south for the winter, and Green Bay enters the playoffs relatively healthy. Analysts everywhere begin to hedge their bets on a repeat. Clay Matthews III has a down year, but only because of the emergence of other players, solidifying an already dangerous pass-rush.
By this time, people are talking about Mr. Packer, Donald Driver retiring with the emergence of Randall Cobb, but Driver isn't going away just yet.
In the divisional playoffs, the Packers draw the now 12-5 Atlanta Falcons again, after Atlanta handled a depth-thin St. Louis Rams in the wildcard. History repeats itself (with minor variations) as the Packers take care of business at home, dropping the Falcons 20-17.
At the NFC Championship, Green Bay faces their own, personal Moriarty in Tampa Bay, the #1 seed in the NFC. No back-door Super Bowl contenders from the NFC this year; strictly the cream of the crop. Green Bay gets the monkey off their back in a brawl, edging Tampa Bay 10-7 to move on to the Super Bowl.
Where they face the feel-good, Cinderella-story, 5th-seed Houston Texans, who - like the Packers of 2010 - got hot at just the right time, sliding by the Jets in the wildcards, the Ravens in the divisionals, and the Patriots in the AFC Championship.
Sadly, Houston's wave of good fortune crashes into their hot hand, extinguishing it, and they get pummeled in a lopsided Super Bowl 38-17, leaving fans vaguely unsatisfied. The MVP is once again Aaron Rodgers, despite a star-making, breakout performance by Jermichael Finley.
Notable Events in the Offseason:
1. The retirement of an unwanted Randy Moss, followed by an injury-related retirement of Terrell Owens, subtracting two of the best receivers in football, while simultaneously increasing the character of NFL receiving by a factor of 10.
3. Tim Tebow converts to Judaism for love and instantly becomes the worst player in the history of football - according to his "fans".
4. Carson Palmer comes out of retirement, sidestepping the Bengals' punitive refusal to trade him. He then signs with the Tennessee Titans and has two more serviceable years before plummeting on the depth chart.
5. I am crowned Emperor of Football, and my name is legally changed to SIrrion Pelour, the Surturian, Prince of the Flames of Nyctalinth, Fury of the Eastern Skies, God of All Fire. Former Presidents must shine my shoes on command.