Thursday, September 09, 2010

Why the Packers Will Miss the Playoffs

This job is never easy.

In fact, as proven last year, it's usually an exercise in futility.

That doesn't mean I am going to quit. Instead, I just aim to be better.

It wouldn't take much.

When the season starts, there are always teams that are hyped to the hilt. This year, those teams are the Jets, Ravens, Cowboys, and Packers.

The Jets are hot because they have a good defense led by one of the league's best in Darrelle Revis. The Ravens have people's attention because of their always-tough defense, along with the improvements they've made recently on offense, adding Anquan Boldin to help make Joe Flacco's life easier.

Dallas is Dallas, the always-darling team that never seems able to get over the hump. In this case, the hype only grows because of the fact they are hosting the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium.

The Packers? Well, they have Aaron Rodgers and a top offense. They also have more holes on defense than at least half the league does, along with an offensive line that has to prove it's better than the one that surrendered 51 sacks last year.

What is the love coming from? Well, besides Rodgers and the offense, it appears many are mesmerized by Dom Capers and his defense. No, they weren't good in the playoff game, and Brett Favre and Ben Roethlisberger were stout against them. They have to get better in the secondary, and Capers has the belief they will do just that.

Of course, he's basing that on what he thinks will be an improved pass rush, and outside of the word of Capers -- a respected coach -- we have no idea if this will happen.

Look at the talent in the secondary. Charles Woodson and Nick Collins are both Pro Bowl performers. Collins is a tad overrated, and Woodson probably is now, too, thanks to the season he had last year. Like Favre with the Vikings, Woodson is unlikely to repeat 2009. Asking him to is unreasonable and unrealistic.

At cornerback, the Packers are blessed to have Al Harris. Oh, wait. He's hurt. And they have blossoming youngster Brandon Underwood. Oh, wait. He's hurt.

And Collins is flanked at safety by hard-hitting Atari Bigby. Oh, wait. He's hurt, too.

Harris and Bigby are out until at least Week 7. Underwood is too young to be relevant, but he is because he's currently the nickel cornerback. And Tramon Williams, toasted more often than English muffins, starts opposite Woodson.

And you people think this is a Super Bowl team? Are there eight NFC teams who are just going to throw their hands in the air and forfeit the season?

Quarterback is the most important position on the field. There, the Packers are set. If Rodgers can survive a season where he got pummeled, both because of bad line play and his tendency to hold the ball in the pocket too long, he can survive virtually anything. He's tough. He's a leader. He's a damn good quarterback, and he will probably win a ring before he's done in Green Bay.

Hell, it might happen this year.

I just don't think so.

While quarterback is the most important position out there, it's still defense that wins. When the Colts needed stops in the AFC Championship Game, they got them. When the Saints needed a play in the NFC Championship Game, they forced turnovers and set up their offense to win.

In the end, it was Tracy Porter -- not Drew Brees -- that made the game-clinching play in the Super Bowl. And the Saints defense made one more stop near the goal line as the Colts tried to close back to a one-touchdown deficit.

The old adage still applies. Offense sells tickets. Defense wins rings.

When it comes down to it, the Packers don't have nearly as good a defense as Minnesota. They're not as good up front -- where the Vikings don't need to blitz on play after play to generate pressure. They're not as good at linebacker. The Vikings have guys like E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway, both of whom make plays. The Packers have A.J. Hawk, who doesn't do anything without being told to first. He has no instincts, especially in a 3-4 defense.

In the secondary, neither team is flawless, but at least the Vikings aren't dealing with an empty deck like the Packers are. A guy like Asher Allen might not be a Pro Bowler this year, but he's better than Williams or Underwood.

Simply put, it's hard to envision this Green Bay team -- minus additional consistency and better overall pass defense -- winning more than nine or ten games against their schedule. That's a good record, but it's not nearly good enough to make the playoffs in a conference that's loaded with powerful teams like New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, and even Philadelphia, teams that will be duking it out for division titles, but only two of the four can win division titles.

I hope for the best, and I think the Packers can win a lot of games and make some magic. But asked if I think they will, I have to respond in the negative.

Prove me wrong.


Joe Dufek - NNC said...

I whole-heartedly agree with your take on the Packers 'D'. I was geting ripped last year for saying basically the same thing. However, given the state of the NFC Conf, I still think GB gets a Wild Card, with the Vikings winning the division.

Anonymous said...

Bruce...Philly? Really? Come on now. They have nothing!