Why the Green Bay Packers Will NOT Win the NFC North

Tim SeemanAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2009

HOUSTON - AUGUST 31:  Running back Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings breaks a tackle by cornerback Brice McCain #41 of the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on August 31, 2009 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Just a disclaimer: Most who read what I write, both in articles and in comments, know that I'm a big Packer supporter. This is merely my attempt to play devil's advocate and to try to temper my very optimistic views about the team this upcoming season.

Up until the conclusion of the Green Bay Packers' third preseason game, that team was still considered to be a mediocre team—a team that caught some tough luck but with better quarterback play in the fourth quarter might have finished better than 6-10.

Following the first three preseason games, however, something magical happened around the Packers.

The offense literally could not be stopped.  

The defense got to the quarterback and forced turnovers on nearly every drive.  

Bottom line: They didn't look like a team that just had a top 10 draft pick.

Many have started to laud the Packers as the team to beat in the NFC North this season.

Others have anointed Aaron Rodgers as league MVP before any snaps of significance have been taken.  

Still others, though in smaller numbers, have gone as far as calling the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl favorites.

That's right: a 6-10 team from last season is now, at least to some people, a Super Bowl-contending team.

Let's back up for a second.

First, we need to keep the 2009 Packers' accomplishments in perspective. Teams have played four exhibition games.

Games used by teams to determine the 51st, 52nd, and 53rd players on the rosters.  

Teams don't even watch game film of their opponents. It shouldn't be surprising that the Packers defense confused opposing quarterbacks; the quarterbacks had no idea what to expect.

Same goes for the offense.

Nobody focused on stopping Rodgers or Greg Jennings or Ryan Grant; they just wanted to see what the younger players had to offer and prayed that their key guys wouldn't get injured.

After all, the Detroit Lions did go undefeated in the preseason last year. So let's just slow down on the Packers, at least for a couple more weeks.

Furthermore, the Minnesota Vikings haven't really lost any key players from a team that won 10 games last season.

In fact, they have improved at the most important position on a football team by signing quarterback Brett Favre.

Even without Favre, the Vikings would have had three key components to a competitive football team: a strong running game, a strong defense, and an above-average offensive line.  

No one is really certain if the Packers can say the same.

Grant seems to be back to his 2007 self now that he's fully recovered from a hamstring injury and had a full offseason of activity. But hamstring injuries can linger, and it only takes one little tweak to put him on the shelf.

The 3-4 defense has looked good up to this point, but again, it was only preseason.  

Once teams get their eyes on some game tape of the Packer version of the scheme, the growing pains associated with such transitions will become apparent.

Green Bay's offensive line has been shuffled and reshuffled like a deck of cards at a basement poker game.  

Chad Clifton is old at left tackle. The guard spots have never really been settled since Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle left town.  

Mark Tauscher seems to be out of the picture at right tackle. Scott Wells, who had started at center for a few seasons, has been supplanted by the younger Jason Spitz.

There's just no telling how this ragtag group will operate in the running game or how well they can protect Rodgers, who is absolutely critical to the team's success because of the current void on the depth chart behind him at quarterback.

The Packers have been quite impressive in the preseason, but they still haven't really proven anything yet. The Vikings still have to be the favorite in the NFC North because as long as Adrian Peterson is on that team, they always have a chance to be successful.


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