Your 2010 Packers: Cruising to victory in the Premature Hype Bowl
The Green Bay Packers failed to win their division in 2009. They gave up 51 points in a playoff game. They allowed more sacks than any other team. They lost to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Their special teams were something close to a joke.
This is the same team that’s now being hailed by no less a mandarin than Sports Illustrated’s Peter King as the likely Super Bowl champion heading into 2010. Its on-field leader, Aaron Rodgers, is enjoying even richer acclaim: He’s lately been recognized as the most statistically efficient passer of all time, the NFC North’s next player of the year, and a future great in the eyes of Bart Starr.
Why does all this advance hype bother me so much? After all, I think the team we’re going to see is closer to the one King expects than the one that wheezed its way to a 4-4 start last year. The defense, already dominant last year, should be exponentially better with a full year of experience in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme. The secondary, our weakest point by far, should benefit from the return of at least one and possibly all three of last year’s injured cornerbacks, keeping Jarrett Bush and Josh Bell where they belong, ie. on the bench.
But what new weaknesses will emerge? Where will the injuries hit? Whose development will unexpectedly reverse its trajectory? No one would have foreseen heading into last season that our sure-handed receivers would suffer through an extended bout of butterfingers, or that Mason Crosby would become allergic to the right hashmark. Already, this off-season, we’ve seen the core of our No. 1 ranked run defense rejiggered, a change apparently necessitated by Johnny Jolly’s mishigas.
The parity-era NFL defies predictions. If the Packers go from being favorites in May to actually playing in the Super Bowl next January, it will be have as much to do with good luck — something no prognosticator can foresee — as with talent, youth, coaching, etc.