2009-10 Green Bay Packers Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 8/15/2009
2008 Record: 6-10 (4-4 H, 2-6 A); third in NFC North
2008 Against the spread: 6-10 (3-5 H, 3-5 A); 9-6-1 vs. Total (5-3 H, 4-3-1 A)
2008 Rankings: 8th Offense (17th Rush, 8th Pass); 20th Defense (26th Rush, 12th Pass)
2009 Odds: 24-1 Super Bowl odds; 14-1 NFC Championship odds; 9-4 NFC North odds; 8 ½ wins (O/U)
I would argue that the Green Bay Packers were the most misleading 6-10 team in the NFL last season. OK, they were the only 6-10 team, but by that I mean the Packers could have easily been above .500 in 2008 - so consider that when making your NFL predictions for 2009.
Did you know that Green Bay was 0-7 in games decided by four points or fewer last year? Just a few breaks is the difference between 6-10 and 9-7 in 2008. Diehard Brett Favre fans in Cheeseland will blame Aaron Rodgers for this. Rodgers had stellar numbers last year in his first season as a starter, throwing for 4,038 yards (63.6 percent completions) and 28 touchdowns despite dealing with a second-degree separation of his right shoulder for about five weeks. But he never missed a start, which is very Favre-like.
However, Favre was known for leading the Packers to game-winning drives, something Rodgers hasn't yet done. Look closer, however, and you will see Rodgers did lead the Pack to two go-ahead field goals, only to have the defense blow it. And he also led the offense in position for two potential game-winning field goals late in two games, but both were missed.
There is a scary lack of depth behind Rodgers, with Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm battling for the backup spot. Thus, it made sense that Green Bay was mentioned as one of the teams interested in Michael Vick before the Philadelphia Eagles picked him up. Elsewhere on offense, all the skill position players are back, with Green Bay having an argument as possessing the best QB/RB/WRs starting group in the NFC North. Ryan Grant rushed for 1,203 yards last year, but it was a definite step down from his 2007 breakout season. He will need to improve upon that 3.9 yards-per-carry average. Look for Brandon Jackson to lessen the workload on Grant. At receiver, Green Bay is as good as any team in the NFC with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. The offensive line is a bit of a question with Mark Tauscher gone and Chad Clifton recovering from multiple surgeries.
In reality, the defense got the blame for all those close losses last year, and almost all of the defensive coaching staff was let go. New Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is switching to a 3-4 scheme. The Packers took Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji at No. 9 overall in this year's draft, and he would seem a prototypical 3-4 guy able to tie up two linemen at a time. But he is in a messy contract holdout as of this writing. If he doesn't get in camp fairly soon, that could stunt his development in a big way this season and hurt that transition.
Green Bay's linebacking group should be very good this year, with former defensive end Aaron Kampman moving to outside linebacker in the new scheme. A.J. Hawk should benefit from the switch to the 3-4, and rookie Clay Matthews could play right away.
One concern on a solid secondary might be the age of both Charles Woodson and Al Harris. Can they continue to play at a Pro Bowl level despite the fact they will be 33 and 35, respectively, before the season ends? Those two won't be playing as much up-close man coverage this year, instead playing off the receivers to better read the quarterback.
2009-10 Green Bay Packers Predictions: This team is a bit of a mystery, in my opinion. Anywhere from 10-6 to another 6-10 is possible. Certainly another year of missing the playoffs post-Favre might lead to coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson losing their jobs. If Rodgers goes down for any length of time, then this club is in serious trouble (but then again, so are the Bears with Jay Cutler). The telling stretch of the schedule is final five games, with four against likely playoff teams (vs. Baltimore, at Chicago, at Pittsburgh, at Arizona). If by some miracle the Pack can go 3-1 in those four, they might win the NFC North. But I look for one win in that stretch, a 9-7 record and another third-place finish in the division, missing out on a wild-card spot.
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