The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLIV and will head into the 2011-2012, given we have one, with the highly respected title of defending world champions. But as any fierce competitor knows, accomplishments in the past are history and looking forward to the future is key. Ahead lies a whole new set of challenges including repeating so that the decorated franchise can hoist another Lombardi Trophy, making that their fifth.
Of course, it's easier said than done. In the 45-year history of the award, it's only happened on eight separate occasions. Do note that the first was by the Packers as head coach Vince Lombari led the team to claim victories in the league's first two Super Bowls, thus resulting in the trophy's eventual name. Later, when they captured their third in 1997, they were talented enough to proceed to the big game the ensuing year as well even though they ended up losing to the Denver Broncos 31-24. So, yes they've demonstrated their ability to duplicate their success before. Sure, it's possible to do it again even with the odds against them and the level of difficulty raised. But never doubt one of the greatest organizations in all of professional sports.
The Packers have the raw talent required in order to make another run. In a quarterback driven league, they hold one of the best behind center with Aaron Rodgers, who was named Super Bowl XLIV MVP. He's a cerebral signal caller who makes wise decisions, possesses rare leadership qualities and has the physical tools to make all the throws. He carried the team on its back even when it was suffering nagging injuries which was an integral key to their success.
To make things fair, he did have a stellar supporting cast around him. Perennial Pro Bowlers Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley had their seasons prematurely end due to injuries, which just goes to show how skilled Rodgers is. But at the same time, Greg Jennings is a top-flight wideout and behind him are a plethora of other receivers who provide depth and fill specific roles on the offense.
Offensive line may be the only group on that side of the ball with any questions, but I believe they solidified it by taking Derek Sherrod with the final selection in the 1st round during this year's draft. While possessing that franchise quarterback is key, it's no use if he's lying on his back so having adequate protection is extremely important.
Barring any significant injuries, if Rodgers can continue to play like he has and they can maintain their balance, there's no question in my mind that this offense has what it takes to score with the best of them as they proved by topping the Falcons 48-21 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
On the flip side, they've developed one of the best defenses in the league partly due to the brilliance of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who transformed a unit that ranked 20th prior to him arriving in Green Bay to 2nd in just his first year.
Maybe the fact that they have the '09 Defensive Player of the Year in cornerback Charles Woodson along with last year's candidate for the award in Clay Matthews has something to do with it. Or maybe it's their top ranked pass rush or their dominant young nose tackle B.J. Raji. Whatever it may be, it's certainly working and it seems as if nobody's figured out how to take them down.
Even on special teams, they're strong with a reliable kicker, solid punter and crafty return specialists.
Despite having the apparent talent for another title, it won't be a walk in the park either. They've got a relatively difficult schedule especially playing in the tough NFC North.
But frankly, as long as they avoid any major setbacks then I see them being in contention all the way to the wire so the other 31 teams better watch out.