The Green Bay Packers are the defending Super Bowl champions.
Let that sink in.
Now then, on to business.
Aaron Rodgers is now listed as an "elite" QB on most experts' short lists of the "Who's Who" of professional passers. He has pinpoint accuracy, a very fast release, the ability to make quick reads and has good-to-great pocket presence. Rodgers even has good scrambling ability—he was the team's leading rusher last season and one of the top rushers at the QB position in the league as a whole.
And therein lies the problem.
Defensive coordinators, who may not have before, now know just how good No. 12 is these days—and they will be attacking him every chance they get. This could be dangerous for Rodgers, as he has a tendency to hold on to the ball and appears to refuse to quit on plays, regardless of the potential for disaster as the pocket shrinks around him.
Rodgers should be more than alright, as despite missing a game last season, he seems to be developing a habit of churning out 4,000-plus-yard and 25-plus-TD seasons as if they were easy.
And for Rodgers, they are.
Aiding Rodgers in the hunt will be what must be the most deep and talented receiving corps in the league. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and TE Jermichael Finley are unstoppable when they work together to terrorize defenses. Getting practice time with and against the likes of Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams will only increase their ability to decimate secondaries—and that is downright scary after the way this team played in the postseason last year.
Ryan Grant and James Starks are fighting for the starting RB slot, which is good for any fan of the team. Grant is your classic straight-ahead, downhill runner, who loves contact and may lack that big burst of speed to get past the faster defenders.
Starks, on the other hand, is a runner more in the mold of Adrian Peterson, with great size, strength and the speed to burst through holes and arm tackles alike.
These two will likely split time, and the team will only benefit from their presence. Neither has shown a great ability to handle the role of third-down back, but not to worry, rookie Alex Green seems to have what Brandon Jackson had and nothing he lacked, and many a Green Bay fan should like to see a RB with the name "Green" on the jersey again.
On defense, things just keep on getting more, well, special.
Woodson and Clay Matthews have quickly become experts at disrupting offensive timing in the 3-4 scheme, and are especially effective when they are allowed to operate as "spies" or blitzers in the nickel package.
Williams and second-year corner Sam Shields are great at locking down routes on the outside, and Jarret Bush has proven to be an effective nickel corner in the slot. Safeties Nick Collins and Morgan Burnett are outstanding athletes and should rival most safety tandems in the league, as long as Burnett's injury issues are behind him.
Head coach and offensive play-caller Mike McCarthy prefers to use a balanced game plan to keep pressure on the opposing defense and off of his offense, unless the secondary of the opposition is especially dreadful, in which case he never shies away from unleashing Rodgers' arm. Now a champion head coach, and once vilified as too conservative, it will be difficult to question his coaching as well as his play-calling style in the short term.
This team won't have an easy schedule in 2011, but it should be a bit easier than last season. With the roughest part coming in the first half against the Saints, Bears, Chargers and Falcons, the Pack could easily be 6-2 or better by midseason. The Giants and Bears would be the only big games in the second half, and the Rodgers-led Packers could be anywhere from 12-4 to 14-2 to 16-0 by season's end.
With a top-notch passing game, above-average running game and arguably the best defense in the league, who's to say what can happen?
If all goes according to plan, Green Bay could be the first team to repeat as Super Bowl champions since the Patriots won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. Accomplish that feat, and the Packers could be on their way to the first three-peat of Super Bowl titles in league history.
Long story short, and way too early to be making predictions of this magnitude, I like the Packers' odds of repeating in 2011. They were the favorite pick last year, and nearly faltered behind a slew of injuries and perhaps mounting pressure to succeed without Brett Favre.
That was then, this is now.
Keep in mind that this is a team that took the best shots at the NFL's best defense (Jets) and best offense (Patriots), nearly coming away with wins over both—and playing the Pats with backup Matt Flynn at QB of all things.
I do not believe these guys are finished. They look hungry and desperate to prove they were not a one-year wonder—and that should scare teams.
These guys were good as unknowns; imagine how amazing they can be as established winners.
Look out, NFL, these guys might just be getting warmed up.
I smell a dynasty.