Green Bay Packers: 5 Biggest Reasons the Champs Could Repeat in 2011-12
The 2010-11 Green Bay Packers are world champions. But that matters little—the lockout is over, the offseason free agent frenzy has subsided, most training camps are winding down and preseason is in full swing.
The NFL has returned. The Packers' most recent Lombardi Trophy is now locked in a case. Their magical 2010-211 season is just a memory.
While we're on the subject of history, it's been over a decade since an NFC team appeared in back-to-back Super Bowls. Ironically, it was the Green Bay Packers who last accomplished the feat, appearing in Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII.
Now, the real question is, can they do it again?
Here are five reasons why the defending champions just might hoist the Lombardi Trophy again in 2012.
As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.
5. They Now Have a Real Running Game
One of the most impressive aspects of the Packers' Super Bowl run was that they did it without Ryan Grant, their star RB who was injured in Week 1 of the regular season. Backup James Starks did an admirable job of filling in for Grant, but he does not have the talent or the upside to become a dominant force in the running game.
The good news for the Packers is that Grant is now healthy and ready to return to the gridiron. Adding him to an already potent offense will make the Pack an even more difficult team to match up against and defend.
It should even help the defense, as Grant is more than capable of grinding out tough yards and consuming the clock. That should help keep the Packers defense fresh on the sidelines while forcing opposing offenses to take more risks against Dom Capers' fast, unrelenting unit.
Having Ryan Grant back will do wonders for the Packers. He's another weapon on an already dangerous team.
4. The Secondary Is Still One of the Best
It's no secret that the NFL is a copycat league. Every other NFL team witnesses the success the Packers had spreading the field with four and five WR sets and allowing QB Aaron Rodgers to find and exploit the mismatches. Its a simple recipe, but it's effective.
I fully expect a number of NFL teams to try to copy the Packers' formula for success. But it seems the Packer front office has anticipated this move and has already moved to counter it by stockpiling talent across their secondary.
While the Packers no longer have the NFC's best coverage team (that honor belongs to the Eagles), they are still a clear-cut No. 2.
The Packers' secondary is talented enough that they should be able to match up well with just about every receiving corps in the NFL.
That's good news for Packers fans, since every other team is going to be looking to give them a taste of their own medicine.
3. Jermichael Finley Has Returned
Perhaps the scariest aspect of the Packers' 2010-11 success was that it was accomplished without the team's top receiving target in TE Jermichael Finley. And like Ryan Grant, Finley is now healthy and ready for action.
As if the Packers' offense didn't create enough mismatches last year, it will only get worse this season, when one of the NFL's best TEs returns to the Green Bay lineup.
And like the Grant situation, Finley's return should only give Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers another weapon to add to their already impressive arsenal.
Provided "the Jerm" can stay healthy, the Packers will have a massive target over the middle that can outrun just about any linebacker and outmuscle any defensive back in the league. That's bad news for the rest of the NFL.
2. Clay Matthews Is Healthy
Its a scary thought for the rest of the NFL when a player who finished the 2010 season with 13.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one interception and a second-place finish in the Defensive Player of the Year voting reveals that he was able to accomplish all that on one good leg.
Thought became reality about a week ago, when Packers star OLB Clay Matthews revealed that he had played much of the regular season and all of the playoffs with a stress fracture in his left leg.
If Matthews is capable of that level of production on a broken leg, imagine what he'll be able to achieve now that he's fully healthy once again. Despite the other losses to the Packers' defense (LB Nick Barnett and DE Cullen Jenkins), the unit as a whole might be improved simply because Clay is once again at 100 percent.
1. Aaron Rodgers Is a Franchise QB
There is a reason NFL teams are willing to use first round draft picks, spend tens of millions of dollars and part with Pro Bowl players for a chance at acquiring a true Franchise QB. That reason is simple: no position in sports is as pivotal to a team's long-term success as the QB position.
The Packers have found their franchise QB in Aaron Rodgers, who also happens to be one of the best at the position in the NFL.
Rodgers is young, cool-under-fire, ridiculously talented and, as he proved last season, is capable of leading a team to a championship.
Even with all of the other pieces the Packers currently have in place, Rodgers is the engine that drives the Packers. And if I were betting, I'd put my money on Rodgers to bring another Lombardi Trophy to Lambeau Field this season.