Green Bay Packers Predictions
The Green Bay Packers finished the 2011 regular season 15-1. It was the best regular season in franchise history. Still, it was a disappointing year for the then-defending Super Bowl champs, who were one-and-done in the playoffs with a home loss to the New York Giants.
Last year’s offense was one of the best in the league. However, the defense was one of the worst. It’s going to take much better play from the stop unit for Green Bay to get back to the Super Bowl.
The Packers led the NFL in scoring offense in 2011 with 35.0 points per game. They finished third in total offense with 405.1 yards per game. They should remain one of the top offensive teams in the league as long as Aaron Rodgers is under center.
Rodgers completed 343 of 502 (68.3 percent) passes for 4,643 yards with 45 touchdowns and six interceptions last season. 68 of those completions went to Jordy Nelson, who had a breakout season. Not only did he lead the team in receptions, but he also led in receiving yards (1,263) and touchdown catches (15). Greg Jennings (67 receptions, 949 yards, 9 touchdowns) and Jermichael Finley (55 catches, 767 yards, 8 touchdowns) also had terrific seasons.
The running game, which ranked 27th in the league with 97.4 yards per contest, is an afterthought, and rightfully so with as efficient as Rodgers has been through the air. James Starks, who rushed for 578 yards last season, returns as the starter.
Up front, the Pack have a pair of solid young tackles in Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga. I believe they did well to get center Jeff Saturday as a stopgap following the loss of Scott Wells.
After being one of the best defensive teams in the NFL during their Super Bowl season, the Packers fell way off in 2011. They ranked dead last in the league in total defense with 411.6 yards allowed per game because they could stop opposing passing attacks.
B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett are solid up front, but more is needed from the right end position. Mike Neal was supposed to be the guy, but he had a knee injury last season and will miss the first four games of this season after testing positive for steroids.
Part of the reason Green Bay struggled so much against the pass is because it wasn’t able to mount a consistent pass rush. It tied for 27th in the NFL with only 29 sacks. Clay Matthews saw his sack total drop from 13.5 in 2010 to six last year as teams paid him a lot more attention. The ultra-athletic Nick Perry has been added via the draft to help keep teams honest. Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk will man the two inside spots again.
The secondary helped the Packers lead the league in interceptions (31) a year ago. Charles Woodson had seven of those. He’s still one of the best play-makers in the league but has lost a step in coverage. That’s why he could be moving to safety.
NFC North Prediction: 1st Place
Any team that can go 15-1 despite giving up the most yardage in the league should be feared. The Packers will be lacking no motivation either after a disappointing performance in last season’s playoffs.
The schedule is very favorable also as the NFC North gets the AFC South and the NFC West – the two weakest divisions in their respective conferences. With marginal improvement on defense, Green Bay should be able to make a Super Bowl run.
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