Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Green Bay Packers are predicted by most to return to the big game again this year.
There is no doubt that the Packers have an outstanding football team. During the 2011 season opener, every eye in America was watching as the Packers put up 42 points and proved to be worthy contenders again this year.
Unless the injury bug bites them, again.
Last year, a handful of starters and important players went down, only to have their positions filled by players who were unheard of, yet effective (who the hell is Erik Walden?). Now, don’t get me wrong, the Packers are a great football team, but if they lose 16 players to IR again this year, don’t expect them to be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in Indianapolis, let alone make the playoffs.
Here are seven Packers who will play the biggest roles in Green Bay bringing the Lombardi Trophy back home.
Better start the list off with the no-brainer.
Without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have a solid group of receivers, a freak at tight end, an above-average running back tandem and possibly the best backup quarterback in the NFL. The Packers don't need Aaron Rodgers to have a successful offense, do they?
The guy was the Super Bowl MVP for a reason. Double A-Rod had some ridiculous throws in the Super Bowl, and he's only getting better. Look for Rodgers to add a regular-season MVP award to his trophy case this year—if he can go the entire year without a concussion.
If he can't, look for the Packers offense to sputter, and for the Pack to miss the playoffs.
Some people believe that Greg Jennings is overrated. Some people also believe that Will Ferrell isn't funny. Some people need to get a clue.
Greg Jennings is an absolute stud. He's had three-straight 1,000-yard seasons and is Aaron Rodgers' favorite target. You might believe that Jennings isn't as valuable to the Packers because they are so deep at the wide receiver position. That's where you're wrong.
If you were take take Greg Jennings out of the Packer's receiving corps, it would go from elite to average. Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson doesn't sound quite as intimidating as Greg Jennings and Donald Driver to defensive coordinators.
If you just asked yourself who Scott Wells is, do some research on the Packers offensive line. In all honesty, Scott Wells is not the best offensive lineman for the Packers, nor does he play the most important position. Josh Sitton takes the award for best lineman, and he was rightfully rewarded for his services, and Chad Clifton has been protecting Rodgers' blindside for many years now.
However, Wells is entering his seventh season as the Packers starting center. When you have eight offensive linemen on your active roster, every starter is indispensable, but Wells plays a very difficult position on the offensive line. The average football fan does not understand that a center makes almost as many pre-snap reads as a quarterback, and Wells' consistent play earns him a spot on this list.
Oh yeah, and then there's his absolute dominance of Saint's DT Shaun Rogers on the goal line on Thursday's game. Yes, the 350-pound Shaun Rogers got manhandled by the 300-pound Wells.
That photo just screams athlete.
Raji is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Green Bay, and rightfully so. The third-year man out of Boston College is quickly becoming one of the best defensive tackles in the game. Raji can rush the passer like a (slightly hefty) defensive end and plug the run like a defensive tackle. The Freezer played 85 percent of the Packers defensive snaps last year.
Let me say that again.
The Freezer played 85 percent of the Packers defensive snaps last year. That is absolutely insane. The man is 337 pounds and played 17 out of every 20 snaps last year.
If Raji were to go down this year, the Packers would lose a versatile player who is simply irreplaceable.
The Packers released Nick Barnett for a reason. His name is Desmond Bishop.
Bishop, a sixth-year man who earned the nickname "Mr. August" because of his exceptional play in training in camp and preseason games, stepped in for an injured Nick Barnett last year. Bishop held his own and then some, as he recorded 103 tackles last year. That's called making the most out of an opportunity.
Bishop's one knock is that he is below average in coverage. However, the Packers are facing running backs like Adrian Peterson (twice), Jamaal Charles, Michael Turner, Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden and LeGarrette Blount this year, and having an intelligent linebacker with a strong nose for the football will only help.
Charles Woodson is the most valuable player on the Green Bay Packers roster. Not just because he is a great player, but because he is an exceptional leader and speaker. Woodson is the Packers version of Ray Lewis. An older veteran who plays spectacular, but is a leader second to none off and on the field. His speech after the NFC championship still sends chills down my spine: "The president don't want to come watch us win the Super Bowl? Guess what? We'll go see him."
He has the skills and mindset of a great corner. He will shutdown a receiver or tight end one play, then make a spectacular open field tackle on a fullback the next play. Charles Woodson does not back down from anyone, as seen with his questionable punch to Saints tight end David Thomas. I guess the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year still has a little Oakland Raider in him.
A kicker? Did he seriously just do that?
Yeah, I did.
But kickers are a dime a dozen in the NFL. What's the difference between Mason Crosby and Nate Kaeding, or any other kicker in the NFL?
Well, kickers may be a dime a dozen in the NFL—unless, of course, they play eight games a year at Lambeau Field. Lambeau has some of the toughest kicking conditions in the NFL, but, nevertheless, Crosby has been able to prove himself as an elite kicker in the NFL the past four years.
If Crosby were to take a cheap shot or pull a Martin Gramatica and get injured this year, the Packers would be forced to pick up another kicker, who would struggle on the Frozen Tundra.