Packer Report experts grab their crystal balls

We've read your e-mails. You want to know "how are the Packers going to do this year?" The following predictions are for entertainment purposes only and shouldn't be used to gamble away your life savings.

Bill Huber, writer

Finish in division: tied for first, 10-6

2004 outlook: Never mind fourth-and-26 and the other gaffes that cost them a trip to the NFC championship game. The Packers finished last season as one of the best teams in the league, and there's no reason to believe that won't continue. OK, there's one reason, and that's the absence of standout cornerback Mike McKenzie. If the Packers can overcome his absence with the promising Ahmad Carroll and a fierce pass rush, then the defense will be better than a year ago. If Carroll isn't up to the task and the opposition gets wise to Bob Slowik's blitzes, then the Packers are going to be involved in a lot of shootouts.

The offense should be brilliant, with Ahman Green on top of his game, Brett Favre defying his age, and wide receivers Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson ready for breakout seasons.

The Vikings are a team on the rise, and a tough schedule and a tougher division will cost the Packers the outright division title. This team is poised to be a terror in the playoffs, and a trip to the Super Bowl is theirs for the taking if they enjoy another season of good health.

Laura Veras Marran, writer

Finish in division: 1st, 11-5

2004 outlook: Once again, I am hanging my hopes on Brett Favre. This time the intangibles tip the scale in the Packers' favor. Favre wants to go out a winner - every athlete does - but he has the power to make it happen. Remember the Monday night game after his father passed away? Favre knows the end of his career is approaching, and he believes in himself and this group.

That's the subjective argument.

The objective view sees a team with one of the league's best quarterbacks and running backs behind an amazing offensive line, complemented by talented tight ends and a trio of wide receivers who are coming into their own, especially Robert Ferguson.

Looking at the defense, safety Mark Roman helps answer one of the questions, but only the season will tell how the cornerback situation will work itself out with rookie Ahmad Carroll, serviceable sub Michael Hawthorne elevated to starter and an AWOL Mike McKenzie. Special teams need only avoid the disasters that occurred intermittently last season and things should be OK.

Green Bay needs to do what it couldn't do last year - gain one of the top seeds and a week off. If that happens, it gets its first-round game at Lambeau, where good things (almost always) seem to happen. Then we could be looking at a Super Bowl.

Todd Korth, Packer Report editor

Finish in division: 1st, 11-5 record

2004 outlook: Green Bay will win the division title by winning at least one of their final two regular season games at Minnesota and at Chicago. If they can do that, they deserve the crown. The Packers' defense should be improved this season and that should help them take the next step under Mike Sherman and advance to the NFC title game.

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