Friday, August 31, 2012

32 in 32: Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers
Read the introduction here
Read the Saints preview here
Baltimore Ravens tomorrow

2011 Record: 15-1

Key Acquisitions: Cedric Benson, Casey Hayward, Phillip Merling, Nick Perry, Jeff Saturday, Jerel Worthy
Key Departures: Chad Clifton, Nick Collins, Ryan Grant, Scott Wells

The Packers were getting close to running the table before they lost to Kansas City in a really weird upset. The problem is that the Packers had no business going 15-1. Their defense was atrocious last year, but that had a lot to do with injuries and underachieving. They should have been much better last year, and they still have a good amount of talent on the defensive end. The D won't lead the league in anything, but they'll be better. Obviously the offense is great. Even though the running game was not very potent, this was the best offense in football. Why? Aaron Rodgers. I think he's the best quarterback in the league.  On top of that, he has really good weapons around him. The regular season record will drop a little bit due to the schedule and their division, but Green Bay will not play in the first round of the playoffs. I have them as the #1 seed in the conference, but now the issue is whether or not they can live up to expectations in the postseason.

Aaron Rodgers is great. As a passer, he's right up there with Brady and Brees, but the thing that he does better than those guys is run. Don't mistake Rodgers for Cam Newton or Michael Vick, but #12 can move. He would have been right near that 5,000 yard mark if he played in the final game of the season, especially after seeing what Matt Flynn did to the Lions defense.

I was very surprised that Cedric Benson was not signed until August, but I like this signing for Green Bay. Benson is a powerful back, and they could use him considering that speedster James Starks has always struggled with injuries. Alex Green is coming off of an ACL injury, so Benson could be all alone by the end of the year.

Greg Jennings is obviously an elite wideout. He has great chemistry with Rodgers and is a major factor down the sideline. It's not completely crazy if Jordy Nelson was the #1 wide receiver somewhere else. When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, I thought that Nelson made a legitimate case for being Super Bowl MVP. He had his breakout year last year, and is a really good talent. Speaking of really good talents, James Jones is amazing as a third receiver. I heard some trade rumblings about him earlier this week, and that's only because he's too good to be relegated to the slot. No team has given a suitable offer yet, so he's still a Packer. He's pretty dangerous. Donald Driver brings his experience back to this team, and he's still productive. Being this deep on the depth chart means that he'll be matched up against a lot of inferior defensive backs. He'll be good. Then there's the first NFL player born in the 1990s, Randall Cobb. He is fast. Fast I tell you. Aaron Rodgers will place the ball perfectly for him once he gets separation, so he'll have some big plays.

Remember Jermichael Finley? He was a disappointment last year, but that's partially because of the injury he suffered in 2010. This could be the year that he finally maximizes his talents, and possibly join the Boston TE Party and Jimmy Graham at the elite level.

The left tackle spot is the only hole on the line. Derek Sherrod broke his leg late last year, and he's currently on the PUP list. His counterpart on the right side, Bryan Bulaga is amazing. The interior is really good, with T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. There's also Jeff Saturday, who is one of the best in the game, even at his advanced age. He showed no signs of slowing down last year.

Last season, B.J. Raji was not anywhere near the stud that he was in 2010. He still made the Pro Bowl, but only because a lot of people love his dancing. He should be much better this year. Jerel Worthy will most likely overtake C.J. Wilson at defensive end because Worthy is a better pass rusher, and they need that. Ryan Pickett is pretty good at stopping the run, but can't get pressure on the QB.

Desmond Bishop is a very important player to this defense, and he got injured in the first preseason game and was placed on IR on Monday. That's unfortunate because he is a very good linebacker. I'm not sure if he will return this year. A.J. Hawk is fine, and D.J. Smith looked good at times last year. Clay Matthews suffered a drop in production last year, but that's because teams were able to double team him due to the lack of other pass rushers. He was still really good. Nick Perry's ability to rush the passer should help Clay's numbers.

Tramon Williams is a great cornerback, but the opposite side of him could be an issue. Future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson is moving to safety this season due to the ineptitude of the safety position. It's no one's fault really, Nick Collins suffered a possibly career ending neck injury. Jarrett Bush will play at the other corner position, and I'm not sure what to expect there. Casey Hayward and Sam Shields could possibly take over that job. Morgan Burnett will man the free safety position next to Woodson. He did a really nice job last year when Collins went down.

Special Teams
Mason Crosby was much more consistent last year, becoming a reliable kicker. Tim Masthay was really good himself last year, so the kicking game should be in Green Bay's favor. The aforementioned Randall Cobb is still fast. Fast I tell you.

12-4, 1st in NFC North

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