September 11, 2005
2005 Packers Prediction
It's time for my annual Green Bay Packers/NFL predictions. My beloved Packers deal with a split personality. They have an offense as potent as any in the league. Amman Green, Javon Walker, and Donald Driver are threats to score anytime; and future hall-of-famer Brett Favre can get them the ball. A big question is if they found replacements for guards Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera.
An even bigger question is the defense. Have they improved from last year's dismal showing? Then they couldn't get into the right position, couldn't tackle if they got there, and committed so many penalties. The defensive line hasn't improved. Cledius Hunt got cut for being a lazy bum who didn't fulfill his rich contract. Grady Jackson is a great run-stuffer, but his girth makes him prone to injury. Somehow the defensive coaches have to find a rotation of linemen to stop the run and derive enough of a pass rush to take opponents' focus off of Kabeer Baja Biamila.
I'll ask the same questions I did last year:
Did the Packers Get Better?
General manager Ted Thompson brought in no big-name defensive free agents. He did bring in ex-Patriot Adrian Klemm but who knows if he'll be a starter to replace either Wahle or Rivera? In the draft the focus was on the future by drafting Aaron Rodgers. (Thompson's best pick may end up being guard William Whitticker who could start even for being a seventh-round pick.) The team lacks depth at wide receiver and tight end. On defense it will be a line-by-committee. Nick Barnett, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamilla, and Al Harris are the only real stars on defense. Saying the Packers are the same as last season is being generous.
What About the Opposition?
It will be hard for the Packers to win a fourth-straight NFC North Division title. Minnesota has loss Randy Moss, but they've worked hard to improve the defense by signing ex-Packer Darren Sharper and Fred Smoot. The Detroit Lions have plenty of young talent. This might be the year when it finally comes together. The Chicago Bears, well they're the Bears, but they do have a solid defense. If Cedric Benson gets in gear after holding out so long rookie Kyle Orton could surprise teams.
What About Intangibles?
Brett Favre has made no indication this will be his last season. He couldn't have been too confident with Thompson's off-season moves--including drafting his presumed heir in Rodgers. But throughout his career Favre has never given up. His offensive line will need to gell pass and run blocking. On defense we'll see if new defensive coordinator Jim Bates can get his players to play above their talent level. What will help is if they can cause turnovers.
The Packers play some good teams this season. They play critics' fave Carolina in Week 4, Pittsburgh in Week 9, Atlanta right after that in Week 10, and Philadelphia in Week 12--a month of hell. They get the Bears twice in December when wins will be very important for a playoff birth. Sorry Packers fans, I have to use my head. 9-7 and a wild card spot if they're lucky.
As for my Super Bowl picks I'll go with Pittsburgh topping Philadelphia in an all-Pennsylvania final game.