Green Bay Packers: Why Packer Fans Shouldn't Book a Super Bowl Trip Just Yet
The Packers are 7-0 and look like the best team in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense have been unstoppable, and while the defense has had its struggles giving up yards, it is playing well at the right times and has played just well enough to keep the Packers undefeated.
However, like any team, there are still some concerns, and while the Packers look poised to repeat, nobody should be booking a flight to Indianapolis just yet.
Here are five reasons why the Packers could stumble down the stretch and why fans should stay cautiously optimistic about the Packers' success so far in 2011.
The Defense Needs to Play Better
Let's get the obvious out of the way: The Packers defense is second to last in pass defense and has been giving up 21 points per game, a far cry from last year's performance. While the Packers have excelled defensively in some areas—particularly in turnovers—their defense needs to play better down the stretch if they are going to make another Super Bowl run.
The Packers have the talent to be a dominant defense, so while I do expect their defense to improve as the season goes on, it is certainly the biggest concern the Packers have so far in the year.
Cold Weather Games Could Hurt the Offense
The Packers offense has proven to play best in climate-controlled domes. The only problem is that they play in Lambeau Field, a place that gets extremely cold and potentially snowy during the winter time. While the Packers have played well late in the season in past years, they could find themselves slightly out of their element if they are facing particularly harsh weather conditions.
Lambeau Field hasn't had a snowy game since the NFC Championship game in 2007, so it is unclear how Rodgers plays in this type of weather. However, the Packers will likely be tested with this if they get home-field advantage in the playoffs. It could prove to be ironic if they struggle at home after playing so well on the road.
Rodgers and this high-octane offense will be more comfortable in snowy Lambeau than their opponents will be, particularly if they play a warm-weather team like the Saints or Falcons, but the question remains if they will be slowed down by these conditions.
Injuries Could Hit at Any Time
Last year, the Packers were able to overcome a rash of injuries, having 15 players on IR and still winning the Super Bowl. However, can they really pull something like this off again?
The Packers have the depth to overcome many injured players, but if someone like Aaron Rodgers were to go down, that would obviously be a huge blow to the Packers' Super Bowl hopes.
The Packers know all too well they are just one hit away from a major injury. They've lost Nick Collins and have persevered without him, but can they afford to lose another big player?
They Are Approaching the Most Difficult Part of Their Schedule
The Packers haven't exactly faced an easy schedule so far, defeating three of last year's playoff teams in the Bears, Saints and Falcons in the first seven weeks.
However, after the bye week they face the 4-2 Chargers, one of the best teams in the AFC, and play a stretch of three games in 11 days as they face the Vikings on Monday Night Football, Tampa Bay the next Sunday and then the Lions a few days later, on Thanksgiving.
I believe these four games could be the most difficult part of their schedule, and if they can get past these games unscathed, they will be in great shape to get home-field advantage in the playoffs and get back to the Super Bowl. However, none of these matchups are going to be easy, and the Packers will have to continue to play their best to get past these tough opponents to reach a 16-0 record.
Recent History May Not Be on Their Side
The Packers are in great shape to grab the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NFC, meaning they will have a first-round bye in the playoffs. While this bye sounds like a big advantage for the top-seeded teams, recent history has not necessarily proven this.
Last year, the No. 1 seeds in both the AFC and NFC were eliminated in the divisional playoff round. The year before, the No. 2-seeded San Diego Chargers, who won 11 straight to get a 13-3 record, lost in the divisional round, as well.
Besides the Colts and Saints in 2009, the top-seeded teams in the playoffs have seldom gone all the way to the Super Bowl, as they often inexplicably get upset somewhere along the way. And while this would be heartbreaking for any Packers fan, it is definitely a realistic possibility.
The Packers certainly look primed for another Super Bowl, but there are many things that could go wrong along the way. Let's hope everything goes right for them, and if it does, we will most definitely see them in Indianapolis in a few months.