The NFC North Belongs to the Green Bay Packers
By Bryce McRae of KFFL.com
on June 25, 2009
The Green Bay Packers will win the NFC North. OK, it’s early, but that’s the feeling I have.
Call me a homer, if you want. (I’ve been a Packers fan since Green Bay lost to Steve Young and the San Francisco 49ers in the Jerry Rice fumble/non-fumble playoff game). Sure, the Minnesota Vikings might be a hot pick, especially if (when?) Brett Favre signs with them. They have a strong offensive line, one of the best tackle tandems in the league, one of the top defensive ends, arguably the No. 1 running back, a decent receiving corps…what isn’t there to like?
Peterson has had injury problems in the past, though, they could be missing their tackles (Kevin Williams and Pat Williams) for the first four games of the year, and how much does Favre really have left if he does come back? He won’t be asked to win games, but he sure didn’t look great at the tail end of last year.
What is there to like with Green Bay then?
Aaron Rodgers should be given a longer leash this year. Some felt he held himself back to be more of a system quarterback instead of letting his own personality take over. He was the anti-Favre, so to speak. This A-Rod makes good decisions, and he has enough arm strength to make all the throws he’s asked to do. He also answered the injury question by playing through a shoulder injury last year and making some impressive throws.
Much was made of his inability to win a game in the fourth quarter last year, but that falls as much on the defense as it does on Rodgers. The defense couldn’t hold a late lead against the Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings (twice, though one is on Mason Crosby), Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and Houston Texans.
The Packers have the best receiving corps in the division, maybe even the conference. They have a solid running back (Ryan Grant) and another who I feel should be better this year than in the past two (Brandon Jackson).
Their switch to a 3-4 defensive alignment is an obvious obstacle; I don’t feel it will be that bad, though. They plan on mixing in both 3-4 and 4-3 packages so they won’t be making the switch fullstop. They have a safety (Anthony Smith) with experience to help the younger guys (Nick Collins and Atari Bigby) with their duties as playcallers in the defense. They also have a solid linebacking corps, boosted by the addition of Clay Matthews. B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett (700-plus pounds combined) in the middle of the field should occupy plenty of blockers when they are on the field together, too.
In addition, any struggles likely would come in the first half as they are sorting out any problems on defense. Well, their first game comes against the Chicago Bears (not exactly an offensive powerhouse, even with Jay Cutler behind center); the next against the “mighty” Cincinnati Bengals and then the St. Louis Rams.
They have a big test against Minnesota (I’m already sick of hearing the Rodgers vs. Favre storylines leading into that one) in Week 4, but then they have two weeks to prepare for the Detroit Lions (shudder) and the Cleveland Browns. By then, I expect most of their problems in the shift to be worked out, at least the major ones.
Let’s not forget, either, they have one of the top cornerback tandems in the league (though Al Harris might struggle with the zone; he’s a far better man-to-man CB).
It is still way too early to make any firm predictions, but at this point, I’m happy with what the Packers have done (or not done). At this point, I think they come away with the division title, but as I said, it’s still early. What do you think? Vikings? Packers? Bears? Do the Lions have a shot?