2013 NFC North Division Preview: Green Bay Packers
Projected 2012 Finish: 1st NFC North
Projected 2012 Record: 11-5
2012 Record: 11-5
As long as QB Aaron Rodgers stays healthy the Packers will always contend for a division title. Green Bay has finished first in the division the past two years and will be in contention to win a third straight. With a definite need for some semblance of a running game, the Packers drafted Alabama standout Eddie Lacey to help balance their pass-happy offense. If the defense can catch up to the offense in potency, Green Bay could be a Super Bowl contender in 2013.
As the coaching staff and any sane person well knows, keeping Rodgers upright is the key to a successful season. LT Bryan Bulaga is done for the year with a knee injury, so Green Bay is starting a rookie and a second year player at the tackle positions. Not something you want to hear as a Packer fan; something opposing defenses definitely want to hear. The report, timing and chemistry that Rodgers has with his receivers is so good that it may not matter that the offensive line is average at best. That could be easier said than done as Rodgers was sacked a league leading 51 times in 2012.
The Packers invested a second-round pick in first-round talent Eddie Lacey. A big, bruising style RB, Lacey could be exactly what this offense needs to make sure teams don't constantly sit two deep safeties over the top and completely ignore the threat of run. That's what Rodgers most often sees in opposing defenses and will most certainly continue to see if the Packers do not have success running the football.
Even though Donald Driver and Greg Jennings are both gone, Rodgers still has one of the best receiving corps in the division and arguably the entire NFL. Jermichael Finley, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will be that much more of a handful to cover if a run game can be counted upon.
Green Bay finally parted ways with longtime Packer great Charles Woodson. They believe age has finally caught up to him. Desmond Bishop was let go as well, but promptly picked up by division rival Minnesota. Other than those two players, this defense comes back pretty much intact from 2012.
The key for this defense will be: Who can generate an efficient, consistent pass rush opposite Clay Matthews? The Packers last two first-round draft choices were defensive players. More specifically, theywere drafted to answer that question. Datone Jones and Nick Perry will be counted on to provide some sort of quality pressure on opposing QBs. B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett will get double teamed on a regular basis, so that should free others up for one-on-one match-ups in the pass rush. Green Bay will need someone to step up in a big way.
The defensive line and linebackers are both pretty deep in case of injury. The secondary is a different story. The Packers should be worried if they suffer a significant injury to a starting defensive back. And if they have to go without starting safety Morgan Burnett for an extended period of time, it could be a long season for the entire secondary.
The Packers should win the division again in 2013, however it will not be easy. Perhaps the best division in all of football, look for North division teams to beat up on one another all season long. Rodgers is at the top of his game and should be very difficult for opposing defenses to stop, but Green Bay desperately needs a run threat for him to be even more effective in the passing game. Look for Green Bay to go deep into the playoffs this year, but not if they suffer significant injuries to key players. This team is not as deep as the 2010 team that had major injuries on both sides of the ball, yet still managed to win the Super Bowl.