This past Saturday, the Green Bay Packers finalized their 53-man roster and after a full evaluation, it is easy to see that the Packers roster is good enough to contend for the Super Bowl in 2014. With all the variables in the NFL, it would be stupid to predict a champion right now so I won’t. But I will say with absolute confidence is that if the Packers avoid injuries, they will be one of the few teams with a legitimate shot at winning it all by season’s end.
Of course any team that has Aaron Rodgers under center will have a chance to win it all, quarterbacks are just that important in the NFL and Rodgers is unquestionably one of the best. He gives the Packers a huge advantage every week and particularly in the NFC North, where he is simply superior to Jay Cutler, Matt Stafford and whoever the Vikings throw out there.
Yet, the Packers are more than just Rodgers. They have two elite pass catchers in Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as well as the best young running back in pro football in Eddie Lacy, the 2013 NFL offensive rookie of the year. In fact, if the Packers end up hoisting the Lombardi trophy in 2014, it will have as much to do with the transcendent of Lacy as it will the elite play of Rodgers.
Furthermore, Green Bay has an offensive line that is easily the best in the nine-year tenure of head coach Mike McCarthy and will allow the Packers to not only protect Rodgers but establish a dominant running game. Think about it, for years the o-line and running game was the weakness on offense, now those are strengths. Defensive coordinators across the league certainly lose sleep trying to determine how they will stop both Rodgers and Lacy.
Sure, Seattle probably has the personnel to do it and some others will have success but the Packers are going to put up points this season, a lot of them.
However, a potent offense is nothing new in Green Bay but the difference between 2014 and previous seasons will be the defense. This offseason, the Packers added two playmakers to the defense, Julius Peppers and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Peppers will give defensive coordinator Dom Capers an elite pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews for the first time and Clinton-Dix is the kind of safety Green Bay has been missing since the departure of Nick Collins.
But there are other reasons Green Bay will be better on defense than in 2013 and it starts with getting Matthews and Casey Hayward back healthy.
Matthews, when healthy, is one of the few impact defenders in football. He can change a game by himself and without him, the Packers defense is just ordinary. Hayward, who led Green Bay with six interceptions in 2012, was sorely missed last season as the Packers had difficulty forcing turnovers without him in the secondary.
Internal development on defense will also be a key factor. The safety spot, which was the defense’s Achilles heel last year now has Clinton-Dix and second-year man Micah Hyde, who moved from corner, to solidify it. Now a position of weakness is one of strength as Hyde is ready to break out and prove once and for all he is a three-down player.
In addition to Hyde, the continued development of defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who recorded 6.5 sacks last season will be key, so will the improved play of second-year d-lineman Datone Jones and Josh Boyd. If those two can make a big jump from year one to year two like Daniels did, Green Bay’s defense will be a force to be reckoned with.
The truth is, each team needs a handful of difference makers on both sides of the ball, it’s easy to see Green Bay has that on offense, it has for years. But with Mattews, Peppers, Daniels, Hayward, Sam Shields, Micah Hyde, Datone Jones, Tramon Williams and Clinton-Dix, they have some on defense too, which is why Green Bay is poised for a Super Bowl run this season.
We will learn a lot about the Packers Thursday night in Seattle and as I said this is no time for predictions but this is true, Green Bay can play with anyone. Win or lose against the Seahawks, they will at least prove they belong — that I am willing to guarantee.