Green Bay Packers: Don't Sleep on the Pack!

Mackenzie KraemerSenior Analyst IJune 21, 2008

I'm sick of the Minnesota Vikings.

Adrian Peterson this, Jared Allen that.

All I ever hear about the NFC North is that the Vikings are going to be the best team in the division. With perhaps the best offensive and defensive lines in the NFL, there's no denying that the Vikings have transformed themselves into one of the elite teams in the NFC.

Unfortunately for them, there's already one elite team in that division. And that team isn't quite ready to abdicate the throne.

The Green Bay Packers went 13-3, but Brett Favre's retirement has dominated the offseason. Losing Favre and Corey Williams, while only signing linebacker Brandon Chillar, is not going to garner any positive headlines.

But don't doubt these Packers.

Favre's 28-15 TD/INT ratio of last year and Williams's seven sacks in each of the last two seasons will be hard to replace. But Packers GM Ted Thompson has a plan, and he's sticking to it.

Build through the draft, stockpile depth, and spend high picks on defense.

The most impressive aspect of the 2007 Packers might have been how well the defense was put together. With Al Harris and Charles Woodson anchoring the cornerback spots, Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila providing the pass rush, and A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett accumulating tackles, the defense is still great.

Although Harris and Woodson are on the wrong side of 30, the Packers were the youngest team in the NFL last season, and losing Favre should secure them that honor once again this season.

Think about it. The 13-3 Packers were the youngest team in the NFL last season. While Favre is a big loss, Aaron Rodgers was once thought of being the No. 1 pick in the draft. When the team needed Rodgers against Dallas, he performed admirably, going 18-for-26 for 201 yards and a touchdown.

While no one expects Rodgers to duplicate Favre's numbers from last year, it's not entirely out of the question with running back Ryan Grant and receiver Greg Jennings still improving.

Those two, along with veteran Donald Driver, give Rodgers weapons to give the ball to, so Rodgers will have every opportunity to play well.

Other than the two cornerbacks, the defense is also largely on the upside of their careers. Williams is a big loss, but between Johnny Jolly and last year's first round pick, Justin Harrell, the Packers hope Williams won't be missed too much.

One of the upsides of stockpiling draft picks is that they can afford to lose players of his caliber and still be able to replace them.

And once again, stockpiling draft picks is exactly what Green Bay did, adding playmaking receiver Jordy Nelson, quarterback Brian Brohm, and cornerback Pat Lee in the first 60 picks of the draft.

They may not have made as much of a splash or garnered as many positive headlines this season as their nordic rivals, but the Packers do not intend to give up the division anytime soon. They swept Minnesota last season.

Are Jared Allen, Madieu Williams, and Bernard Berrian enough to make up for those five wins? Maybe.

But they still have not proven it yet on the field. So with a dominant defense and a big-play offense that should continue even without Favre, the Packers, not the Vikings, are the team to beat in the NFC North until proven otherwise.