Packers' turnaround right on schedule

Maybe it's the fatigue from clearing my lengthy driveway of 15 inches of snow on Friday morning. Maybe it's the mind-numbing cold from the minus-13 degree temperatures (the wind chill is something like minus-40) from Friday night. Or, perhaps, maybe I'm just an eternal optimist. But when I look at the fruits from last year's disastrous 4-12 record, the prospect of a quick turnaround for the Packers doesn't seem farfetched.

By now, you know the Packers will have something like $20 million to play with in free agency, which should allow general manager Ted Thompson to keep the Packers' key free agents and add a few quality starters. And by now, you know the Packers own the fifth pick in the first round of April's draft.

There's plenty of time to talk draft and free agency, so let's just assume Thompson does his job and lands three immediate starters in those two NFL meat markets. Now, let's assume Javon Walker is healthy enough to be a season-opening starter, and he slowly becomes at least close to the game-breaker he was in 2004. And now let's assume the Packers find a competent starting running back, whether it's Samkon Gado, Ahman Green or a draft pick.

With those pieces in place, the Packers' schedule opens the door for an eight- or nine-win season, or, perhaps, even a playoff berth.

To refresh your memory, here is the Packers' schedule.

Home: Chicago (11-5), Detroit (5-11), Minnesota (9-7), Arizona (5-11), St. Louis (6-10), New Orleans (3-13), New England (10-6) and the New York Jets (4-12).

Away: Chicago (11-5), Detroit (5-11), Minnesota (9-7), San Francisco (4-12), Seattle (13-3), Philadelphia (6-10), Buffalo (5-11) and Miami (9-7).

To the losers go the spoils, and what spoils a last-place team receives. The Packers play nine games against teams that had double-digits losses. I'm no math major, but that's more than half of their games against the dregs of the league.

No, the Packers aren't going to win the Super Bowl next year, but really, can anyone argue that the Packers shouldn't win at least seven of those games against Detroit (twice), Arizona, St. Louis, New Orleans, the Jets, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Buffalo?

Sure, some of those teams will improve. That's the way the NFL works. But, like the Packers with Mike McCarthy, many of those teams — the Lions, Rams, Saints, Jets and Bills — are breaking in new coaches. Another one of those teams, the Cardinals, are always bad, so it's hard to imagine they'll be suddenly improved. Unless quarterback Alex Smith shows infinite improvement, the 49ers will be bad again, as well.

Add a season split with Minnesota — also with a new coach — and a home win against either Chicago or New England, and you've got nine wins, which might be good enough for a playoff berth.

Then again, maybe I'm just numb from minus-40 wind chills.

Oh, and one more thing. If Brett Favre retires, disregard this entire column.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com


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