10 Not so Bold Predictions for the Green Bay Packers
With the NFL lockout finally over, it's back to business as usual. Free agency and trading is in a complete frenzy right now, and it's probably the craziest the NFL has ever seen.
From Chad Ochocinco traded to the New England Patriots, to Peyton Manning re-signing with his team, to Nnamdi Asomugha suddenly signing with the Philadelphia Eagles, it's pretty clear that everyone is trying to get geared up for the season as quickly as possible.
But for one team, there's no crazy free agent signings or trades of any sort going on whatsoever, and that's become a regular thing for them.
Yes, the Green Bay Packers are approaching this year the same way they ever have, with signing undrafted free agents and their draft picks. Letting go some of their older and more expendable free agents go to create some cap space.
Same old, same old.
And for that reason, we should also expect the same frustrations and satisfactions with how the Green Bay Packers perform in the regular season. Here are just a few.
Mike McCarthy Will Cost Us a Game or Do Something Really Frustrating (or Both)
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Last season against Chicago, on a Monday Night game, the Chicago Bears managed to pull a big play that kept the Packers from going down the field, and possibly winning the game.
Lovie Smith made one of more ridiculous moves he's made as a head coach that this author has seen. Instead of trying to drain the clock and just kicking a field goal, he decided to tell his team to run in for a touchdown.
Letting your opponent score in the final two minutes of the game would obviously be a bad decision, unless of course they're in the red zone and the game is tied. Mike McCarthy decided that letting the Chicago Bears attempt a field goal gave him a better chance at winning.
Now you're baffled.
The preceding season, he made a decision that wasn't necessarily "costly", but it was clearly one that just lacked some thought and understanding.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, a game in which that the Packers were desperately trying to turn things around, Mike McCarthy threw a challenge flag to rule that Jordy Nelson (the replay had already showed) stretched the ball into the end zone for the touchdown.
McCarthy's challenge flag failed and the ruling was upheld. Later in the game, Tony Romo threw the ball on a critical fourth down that seemed to hit the ground, and Mike McCarthy threw in a third challenge flag.
Coaches are not allowed to a third challenge flag if a previous one has failed.
Maybe it wasn't a costly or fatal decision, but it still just shows that at times, McCarthy needs to think about his decisions a bit more before he makes them.
This year should be no different when we cry out that coach McCarthy needs to be fired for doing something that made absolutely no sense. And soon after, the Packers will start winning again and we'll all forget it ever happened.
Ted Thompson Will Also Do Something Extremely Frustrating
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Last season, the Green Bay Packers lost their running back in Ryan Grant, and Brandon Jackson couldn't fill the void.
The Buffalo Bills decided to put their main back, Marshawn Lynch, up on the trade market before the deadline ended.
It seemed like the perfect fit. Lynch's style was similar to Grant's, and if anything he looked like a better running back than Grant.
Aaron Rodgers certainly liked the idea of being reunited with his teammate from college and even insisted he would love to help Lynch get past his offseason issues.
Ted Thompson offered far too little to acquire the running back, and the Green Bay Packers only barely made the playoffs. And though Thompson was right in end in trusting running back James Starks, it just doesn't make up for not trading for Lynch.
A running game is needed in this league, and there's no way Thompson could have known Starks was going to be ready to play last season.
The preceding year, the offensive line completely fell apart, and Thompson's only solution was to wait for Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton to both get healthy.
Now imagine if Rodgers had gotten sacked and broke his leg. Would you say Ted Thompson made the right move in waiting for Clifton and Tauscher to get healthy enough to play again?
Clearly Thompson doesn't care for anything less than the very cheapest solution he can find, no matter what the circumstances. Don't expect 2011 to be any different.
Aaron Rodgers Will Be a Little Better Than Last Year
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Aaron Rodgers had a rocky start last season, throwing nine interceptions in the first seven games. From that point to the Super Bowl, he only threw four more—two of which weren't even his fault.
Also, Rodgers only threw seven interceptions in the 2009 season, so it should be pretty clear by now that Rodgers is pretty good at protecting the football.
With James Jones now re-signed, all of his weapons will be returning.
Jermichael Finley will be back after suffering a knee injury in Week 5 of last year, and he's more eager than ever to get back on the field.
Rodgers should also have the best running game he's had since becoming the starter to support him, with Ryan Grant coming back from injury and James Starks coming off an impressive postseason run.
The only concern that there may be for Rodgers is that dreaded offensive line. While it's certainly far better than the line that allowed 41 sacks in the first nine games of the 2009 season, it's clearly still a work in progress.
Why does it seem like in nearly every play, Rodgers is behind Center Scott Wells at the snap of the ball, yet near the sidelines when he finally releases it? Why does it always seem like late in the game , Rodgers struggles to perform?
Since 2008, Rodgers has been sacked 115 times, not including the playoffs. That's third most in the league since then.
Rodgers deserves better than that, but even with that said he should easily be able to pass for 4,000 yards, 30 touchdowns and once again keep his interception numbers low.
And hopefully he can stay away from those concussions as well.
The Defense Will Struggle a Little More Getting to the Quarterback
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Last season, the Green Bay Packers were one of the best teams in the league at getting to the quarterback, and those 47 sacks prove that.
This year looks like it will be a little different.
Ted Thompson added no pass rushers this offseason, and Cullen Jenkins is now signed with the Eagles.
Clay Matthews should be as good as ever, maybe even a little better because of experience, but he's still the only legit pass rusher in that entire team. Jenkins was the only other player in the team that was able to get to the quarterback, and obviously, he's gone.
The difference maker here could be B.J. Raji, who seemed to really burst as another legit pass rusher last season, so there's hope that Raji could fill the void that Jenkins will leave.
Frank Zombo has been taking the No. 1 team reps in training camp so far, so let's hope that he'll be enough to fill the spot that has been so demanded by Packer fans to compliment Clay Matthews.
Dom Capers will surely try to think up of every play possible that will allow his defense to open gaps and let defenders run in and attack the quarterback. If he can figure out new schemes with the team, then it shouldn't be any concern as to whether the Packers can rush the passer or not.
The Packers should be plenty good enough at getting to the quarterback this season, it's just that it hard to imagine them being as successful at it as last season.
Jermichael Finley Will Be Injured but Will Still Get a New Contract
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Jermichael Finley has yet to play a full season in the NFL, and next year should be no different. That doesn't mean he won't get his contract.
I don't feel like Jermichael Finley is going to be fighting injuries his entire career, but I do feel like he's going to be out for a game or two.
Green Bay's organization is fully aware of the kind of raw talent it possesses with Finley, and they would be wise to keep him.
I can imagine Finley playing his entire career in Green Bay—with Aaron Rodgers.
The Aaron Rodgers-Matt Ryan Rivalry Hype Will Heat Up
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This will be the fourth time these two quarterbacks have met, with Ryan being 2-1 against Rodgers.
This will also include the third consecutive game the Green Bay Packers have had to face the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
These two quarterbacks play at a high level, but also very different from each other.
Ryan is a run-heavy dependent quarterback, who throws short passes and excels in the fourth quarter of the game.
Any time we've seen his running back Michael Turner struggle or injured, we've seen Ryan struggle as well.
Rodgers is about as opposite to that as you can get. He's a quarterback who throws long passes, does most of the running himself and works with a team and organization that doesn't excel in the fourth quarter.
Many believe that his record in close games has little to do with him, but that's a debate for another time.
With these two young quarterbacks playing as well as they do, and being born only a year and a half apart, it's easy to see why so many believe that this is the next great rivalry of the NFL.
The Packers Will Reach at Least 13 Wins
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The Green Bay Packers have only met the 13-3 record three times in their history, and this year should be their fourth.
The only two questionable positions in the entire team as of now are left guard and right outside linebacker.
Some fear the Packers may be a little thin at the defensive line, but Howard Green or Mike Neal will fill the gap just fine in my opinion.
But even then, the left guard position will be taken by first-round pick Derek Sherrod. The right tackle position had a similar event happen last year, which was a successful move.
Frank Zombo was an undrafted free agent, and the coaches apparently liked him the most among Erik Walden and Brad Jones. So even if Zombo doesn't work out, the coaches will have the option to try other players.
Case in point, the Packers are stacked, with talented players and Pro Bowlers alike. Even with the Philadelphia Eagles taking a handful of talented players out of free agency, the Green Bay Packers should still be the clear favorites to win the top seed in the NFC, and 13 wins should do it.
The Packers Will Meet the Patriots in the Super Bowl
A typical prediction every fan will give is "my team is going to the Super Bowl this year," and it's become so cliché that its words have lost their meaning.
Everybody says it. All the time. So why not something a little different?
The Green Bay Packers are the clear favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year.
The New England Patriots were superb in the regular season last year, due to Tom Brady's spectacular season. The quarterback threw for 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions, an NFL record low.
All with a bunch of rookies and young players.
With those players only getting better in their second year, and the Patriots adding players like Albert Haynesworth and Chad Och-john-cinco-son, who are presumably going to be reborn under Bill Belichick’s coaching, the Patriots should be the easy favorites to win even in a tough AFC Conference.
If the Green Bay Packers are destined to meet the New England Patriots in Indy next season (especially if Aaron Rodgers starts this time), it should surely go down as one of the best in history.
The up-and-coming Rodgers against one of the all-time greats Brady? Talk about a hype fest.
Aaron Rodgers Won't Win MVP
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For Aaron Rodgers, as good as he may play next season, there's just too much competition.
Tom Brady just came off a spectacular season, being the first player ever to win all 50 votes for the MVP award. If he plays even slightly worse than he did last year, then why can't he win the award again?
Peyton Manning is always a candidate despite his neck injury and his injury-plagued team. He's won four MVP awards already, you can never count this guy out.
Michael Vick will struggle to stay healthy next year, but if he does he's probably the favorite to win the award. Had he stayed healthy last year, he would have been on pace to break 28 touchdowns, 4,000 passing yards, 900 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns rushing—all with fewer than 10 interceptions.
Drew Brees has hit 69 percent of his targets these past two seasons and even threw for more than 5,000 yards in 2008.
The list goes on and on.
Clay Matthews III Will Win Defensive MVP
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For Clay Matthews III, it's a slightly different story.
Matthews was voted in the same poll with Troy Polamalu (30), Ed Reed (32), Julius Peppers (31), James Harrison (33), Brian Urlacher (33) and Haloti Ngata (27).
The competition for Matthews maybe large—even tough—but may be getting easier. Almost every other candidate for defensive player of the year award, last year, is well above the age of 30.
There are several players that play at an enormous level like Patrick Willis, Ndamukong Suh, Jerod Mayo and Darrelle Revis that are about the same age as Matthews.
But considering that all of last year's defensive player of the year candidates are far older, you have to like Matthews’ chances of winning the award this year.
As for why Matthews was so favored to win last season, and yet didn't, his production suddenly dropped after Week 5 of last season, where he had eight and half sacks but ended with only 13.5.
While Matthews tried to downplay the injury, this video (mind the ridiculous music) demonstrates why his injury was no small problem.
Notice how at 0:27 of the video, Matthews takes down Donovan McNabb, who's one of the better running quarterbacks in the league, with closing speed. Yet, at 2:45, he could barely chase down a 41-year-old quarterback with a foot injury!
If Matthews can play next season without a lingering injury, then watch out. He should be the clear favorite to win the award next season.
One Bold Prediction: Packers Will Dominate Eagles in NFC Championship Game
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There are three words that describe the Philadelphia Eagles right now.
Hype, hype and hype.
Remember a similar event that happened last year with the New York Jets, when they added all those big-time playmakers—Jason Taylor, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Ladanian Tomlinson?
Sure, the Jets were a lot better the next year, and even made the AFC Championship game, but what did it all mean in the end?
Even though they may be one of best teams in the NFL this season, they're not even close to the kind of team that the Green Bay Packers are.
They've signed Nnamdi Asomugha, and that's a guaranteed $60 million deal—money well spent. And Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should easily contribute to their defense right away.
Outside of that, not much else is being brought to the team. They signed some free agents like Jason Babin, Vince Young and Cullen Jenkins—half of which are injury prone.
Can Michael Vick stay healthy? Can their safeties grow fast enough to contribute? Will their offensive line keep the sacks below 40? Will they even keep Asante Samuel?
There are questions the Eagles have to answer first before they can give themselves the "dream team" label.
On top of all that, the Green Bay Packers will be adding some reinforcements of their own. Do the Eagles honestly think they can stop both the best receiving corps in the game, one of the best tight ends, and two legit running backs?
Look forward to a showdown in Lambeau Field come Jan. 22, 2012.