Green Bay Packers 2011 Predictions: Analyzing the Competition

Brennan ScotlandContributor IIIAugust 17, 2011

Green Bay Packers 2011 Predictions: Analyzing the Competition

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    The Green Bay Packers are back to defend their 2010-2011 super bowl championship—or championship “belt,” in quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ case.

    After inhumanely euthanizing the Eagles, Falcons, and Bears in the playoffs, the Packers didn't even need a bathroom stall in order to have their way with Steeler quarterback Ben Rothelisberger, en route to bringing home the Lombardi trophy.

    Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers is still being questioned in the vanishing of Steeler safety Troy Polamalu, who inexplicably disappeared during the super bowl.

    Despite incurring such wrath on aforementioned opponents to conclude their season, the Packers were never truly firing on all cylinders: multiple injuries befell the team early on in the season, depriving them of critical playmakers such as running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley.

    With that being said, both players have reported to camp completely healthy and ready to contribute to what is already considered an offensive juggernaut.  And, amid a rather quiet off-season in Green Bay, these two additions are arguably comparable to any other team’s ballyhooed free-agent acquisitions.

    As the Packers’ quest to repeat rapidly approaches, commencing against the New Orleans Saints on the night of September 8th, it’s time to glimpse ahead into their upcoming games—which boasts the 13th most difficult schedule with opponents’ 2010 cumulative record of 130-126.

    The following five slides will sedulously analyze the Packers first five games, factoring in many apposite variables and summoning my inner Final Destination to augur each team's fate…

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers

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    In case you haven’t heard, the Saints were holding organized team practices during the lockout.  Unfortunately for them, it still doesn't detract from the stomping they received from the Seahawks during the last season’s wild card game … the Seahawks! 

    In the immortal words of Seth from the movie Superbad, “People don’t forget!”

    While both teams have relied heavily upon their passing game, the Saints’ and Packers’ passing defenses ranked four and five, respectively, in pass yards allowed per game last season.  However, Green Bay forced almost three times as many interceptions and accumulated 14 more sacks than New Orleans.  Which brings me to the ...

    Key to the game: The Packers ability to create confusion and constantly pressure the quarterback.  Their unrelenting blitz schemes and blanket-coverage, headlined by LB Clay Mathews and playmaking DB’s Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, will ultimately prove too much for Brees.  Who, when faced with similar pressure last season—due, in part, to a sputtering running game—coughed up a career-high 22 picks.

    Cause for concern:  The Saints added RB’s Darren Sproles and Mark Ingram, in addition to the emergence of budding TE Jimmy Graham, who started to blossom at the end of last year. 

    Sproles and Graham both cause match-up problems, especially on third-down situations.  Graham’s built like a Spartan from 300 and is difficult to cover/tackle, especially on short routes. 

    Sproles, on the other hand, is hard to account for due to his diminished stature, yet is quintessentially quick.  Give him an inch, and he’ll take a yard … or 60. 

    These two players are not only problematic in their potential to convert third-downs, but also their big-play capability during these same situations. 

    But, then again, the Saints did abjectly humiliate themselves against the Seahawks on national TV.

    Final score:  Packers 34-28   

Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers

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    Last season, the Packer defense surrendered the fewest points per game behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers (although, the super bowl exposed the glaring discrepancy there).  Comparatively, the Carolina Panthers offense ranked dead last in points per game. 

    Cam Newton, meet Mr. Mathews and Mr. Hawk: they’re sort of like the college linebackers you’re used to.  Well, allow me to rephrase:  they’re similar to those college linebackers, except their bodies were chiseled by the gods and they probably were bottle-fed Muscle Milk as toddlers.

    Key to game: A rookie quarterback with no competent receivers in his second game against a tenacious defense.  I smell mistakes and anticipate about 10 frothing Packers stacking the box every down.

    Cause for concern:  Despite the above effrontery, the Panthers do boast one of the best—and highest paid—linebacker corps in the league, in addition to recently resigned DE Charles Johnson. 

    If Johnson is worth his paycheck, then a smart defensive coordinator should be able to utilize this collection of talent to pressure Rodgers.  Additionally, TE Greg Olson always scared me on the Bears, despite their inability to employ him advantageously, and presents a viable threat if his size, speed, and pass-catching proficiency are properly maximized.

    Final score:  Packers 27- 9

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

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    This rematch of the NFC Championship pits a volatile Jay Cutler against himself.  When Cutler is on, he’s on,  impetuously zipping balls down the field with supreme precision and pulling hard 10’s like Kristin Cavallari; when he’s off, he ends up sending DeAngelo Hall a father’s day card … get it?  Because Hall was Cutler’s daddy when he interce… sorry, I’m 12.  I digress ...

    The Bears will live and die by Cutler.  But that’s not exactly groundbreaking analysis.

    Key to the game: Cutler’s inadequacies were hardly all of his fault, as the Bears’ offensive line was among the worst in the league, allowing an NFL Blitz-esque number of sacks. They must rectify this problem in order to allow both Cutler and RB Matt Forte the opportunity to operate at maximum efficiency. 

    If B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett can expose this weakness and stymie the run game, it should force Cutler to rely upon his receivers. A group led by Roy Williams. ...  So, in other words, the O-line must hold up.

    Cause for concern: If newly signed DT Amobi Okoye can command attention and plug holes, a feat that seemingly no Bears D-lineman could accomplish last year.  It will finally allow singularly talented Julius Peppers to wreak havoc in the Packer backfield. 

    Oh, yea, and they signed Vernon Gholston.  So, given his outstanding and completely reliable combine numbers coming out of college, he should seamlessly dominate as expected.

    Final Score:  Packers 20-17

Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers

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    The Bronco defense was abhorrent last year, conceding more points and yards than any other team.  Seeing any offensive player on your fantasy team match-up against Denver last year was like hearing your teacher inform you that the upcoming test would be open-book: both assuaged any potential anxiety.

    Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, James Starks, Greg Jennings and friends are going to make Tim Tebow pray that the Packers attack abates.

    Key to game:  Establishing a dominant run game with a healthy dose of Grant, Starks, and Kuhn.  Not only will this boost their confidence for future games, it will ensure the passing game can perform unspeakable acts unto the Bronco secondary.

    Cause for concern:  My fantasy opponent that week owns multiple Green Bay players.

    Final Score:  Packers 49 - 17

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

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    Even in the Packers’ regular season loss to the Falcons last year, they seemingly dominated most aspects of the game:  more than doubling their net yardage, holding QB Matt Ryan to under 200 yards and WR Roddy White to a paltry 50+ yards, while conversely executing on offense and only turning the ball over once. 

    Nonetheless, the Packers absolutely embarrassed the dirty birds in their playoff rematch, again thwarting both Ryan and White, while unleashing an aerial assault that involved an array of Packer WR’s.

    However, this year is different, as the Falcons have added the highly-touted man-child, WR Julio Jones to complement White.  Jones' run-blocking ability should prove beneficial to the run game.

    Key to Game:  The Falcons free-agent addition of DE Ray Edwards could effectively complement fellow DE John Abraham and free them both up for opportunities at the quarterback.  If not, then Aaron Rodgers is once again allowed extended time in the pocket and he will pick up right where he left off in January – abusing the woeful Falcon safeties and lighting up the scoreboard.

    Cause for concern:  If Julio Jones exceeds rookie expectations and poses such a threat, along with White, then the Packers are forced to stay in nickel and dime sets, committing safeties and d-backs to shadow each receiver.  In doing so, this would hamper Dom Caper's ability to orchestrate his preferred defense and also unleash Michael Turner to run free, culminating in a multifaceted offensive attack.

    Final score: Falcons 30 - 28