2011 NFL Predictions: 7 Reasons Green Bay Packers Won't Win NFC North
With the 2011 NFL season right around the corner, it's time to make some predictions. While the Packers are the sexy pick to repeat as Super Bowl champions, I'm here to tell you that they won't even win the NFC North.
The Packers are a great team, don't get me wrong. They have a tremendous quarterback, solid playmakers and a great defense. The NFC North is greatly improved this season and it would be ludicrous to hand the division over to the Packers before a game has been played.
The Packers, the Bears, the Lions and the Vikings are all ready to win the NFC North and will stop at nothing to get there. While the Packers may be the early season favorite, here are five reasons why they will not win the NFC North:
7. Everyone Will Be Gunning for Them
Being the Superbowl champ is great, but it isn't easy. The Packers will have a target on their back all season as long as teams look forward to the challenge of taking down the champs.
Teams will want to play their best against the Packers because while they were sitting on their couch last February, the Packers were winning the Super Bowl. It's a good problem to have if you are the Packers, but they should make sure to be ready for a challenge every single week, no matter the opponent.
6. Tough Road Schedule
The NFC North is paired up with the NFC South this season, which gives the Packers (as well as the rest of the division) a packed schedule for the season. Combine that with the already tough NFC North, and the Packers will have their hands full.
This season the Packers have to play some very tough road games. The Packers play the Falcons, the Chargers, the Giants and the Chiefs on the road. These are all games that the Packers are going to have to scrap and fight for if they want to steal a win in an opposing stadium.
Everyone has the same number of road games and the NFL does a good job of making schedules fairly similar in difficulty, but this year the Packers have some very difficult road games.
5. The Lions
The talk may be a little over-hyped, but there is no doubt that the Lions are definitely on the rise in the NFC North. For the past few seasons, the Lions have been a push over game in the NFC North and those days are long gone.
The Packers and Lions split their regular season matchups last season, showing that the Lions may be a good matchup for the Super Bowl champs. Aaron Rodgers did get injured in their one loss to the Lions, but even for the half that he did play the Packers failed to score.
In the other match of the year, the Packers held on for a 28-26 victory. The Packers know that the Lions are tough, but more importantly the Lions know that they can beat the Packers.
Expect the Lions to be a force in the NFC North this season and push the Packers and Bears for the division crown.
4. History Tells Us They Won't
The Packers had a great run at the Super Bowl last season and haven't lost really anything from that team, which makes them the early season favorite to win the Super Bowl. Even though many people are betting on them to repeat, it may not be as safe of a bet as one would think.
In the past 10 seasons only one team (New England) has repeated as Super Bowl Champs and only four of the 10 won their division the following year.
Forty percent is not a great bet, so I wouldn't write down the Packers as NFC North Champs quite yet. Whether they are the most talented team or not, recent history has showed us that sometimes it's just hard to repeat.
3. Questionable Running Game
It's tough to find flaws on this Packers team, but an obvious question mark has to be the running game. The Packers were 24th in the league in rushing yards per game last season, which shows an area of concern.
Many Packers fans would point the finger to the injury of Ryan Grant early on in the season, which is a valid point. The question at hand though is how will Grant recover? If Grant re-injures himself early on in the season, then the Packers may be in trouble on the ground.
Yes James Starks had a good postseason, but where was he all season? The Packers feature running back last season was Brandon Jackson who averaged a sub-par 3.7 yards per carry.
The Packers have put all their eggs into the Ryan Grant basket due to the fact that before last season he had back to back 1,200 yard seasons, but if the same old Grant does not return then the Packers could be in trouble.
2. Injury Prone
It may have been a fluke, but the vast number of injuries that the Packers received last season has to raise a red flag in Green Bay.
Last season the Packers saw injuries from basically everyone on their team. Ryan Grant was hurt, Jermichael Finley was hurt, and many others were sent to the unable to perform list due to injuries. Football is a very physical game and if these types of injuries pop up again, it could be bad news for the Packers.
When the Packers got healthy the league saw what they could do as they made their Super Bowl run, but the injuries almost forced the Packers to miss the playoffs. The Packers had to win the regular season finale against the Bears to simply get in the playoffs.
It hasn't been a major talk as of late, but an issue that has to be in the back of every Packers fan's mind is the health of Aaron Rodgers. Last season Rodgers dealt with concussions for part of the season and concussions are not an injury to take lightly.
With the NFL stepping up their requirements on player safety around concussions, the Packers have to hope that Rodgers is over his injuries or else some bad things may happen in Green Bay.
1. The Bears Are Defending Champs
Before everyone anoints the Packers as the 2011 NFC Champs, they should remember one thing: To be the best, you have to beat the best. The Packers did win the Lombardi trophy, but I'm sure every player on the team still remembers how they felt when the Bears won the regular season award.
The Bears remember the loss to the Packers in the NFC Championship game, so don't count on them to share any pity for the Packers as they try to win the NFC North. At this point, the Bears are saying, "If you want to be the NFC North Champs, then you have to come through us."