Seven bold predictions for 2007

Longtime PackerReport.com correspondent Matt Tevsh makes seven bold predictions on the Green Bay Packers for this season.

In recognition of football's most cherished 10 yards commonly referred to as the end zone, here are seven bold predictions (a touchdown plus an extra point) for the Packers 2007 season:

7. The Packers will take a step back on paper and finish 7-9. Okay, maybe not such a bold prediction, but there seems to be more reason to believe the Packers' shortcomings (i.e. offense, no big additions in personnel) will outweigh their strengths (i.e. defense). In what should be an improved year for the Packers, they will go only as far as their defense will take them. It will not be enough. They will again fall short of the playoffs, a disappointment considering GM Ted Thompson is in his third season of a grand plan.

6. First-round pick Justin Harrell will play less than any other drafted rookie. Harrell will need time to become the player the Packers think he can be. He should not be considered a bust just yet, but because of where he is playing, he does not figure to see much action on the field this season. Tackles Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett, Colin Cole, Corey Williams, and Cullen Jenkins (on occasion) are all better than him and more deserving right now. With the expected contributions on offense and special teams from the other draft picks who made the Packers' active roster, Harrell will be at end of the playing time line – not exactly what fans want to see with the No. 16 overall pick.

5. Someone not currently on the roster will lead the team in rushing. The Packers seem quite vague about their running back position and for good reason. No one stepped up in the preseason as injuries dominated headlines. Vernand Morency is the team's best option and biggest play-making threat, but he might be best suited as a No. 2 back. Rookie Brandon Jackson needs some seasoning and will probably not be much of a threat this year. And veteran Noah Herron is out for the year on injured reserve. That leaves rookie DeShawn Wynn and recent addition Ryan Grant, both of whom have roster spots only because of injury issues. No doubt Thompson will be looking for help early in the year when the team realizes that it has bigger concerns than initially thought.

4. KGB will lead the NFL in sacks. While Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila maintains he is an every down player, he will find a re-birth in his old role as a part-time pass rush specialist. Not only will KGB benefit from being fresher during games, but he will also profit from playing on the best defense since he became a Packer in 2000. Opposing tackles will have to adapt from dealing with the stoutness of Cullen Jenkins on early downs before handling the quickness of KGB off the edge on passing downs. Not many NFL teams have such a unique combination of power and speed. The contrast in styles should spell for a great year for both Jenkins and KGB and a nightmare of a year for opponents. So just how many sacks will KGB tally? Anywhere between 16 and 20 would not surprise this scribe because opposing offenses will be focused on fellow defensive end Aaron Kampman.

3. Rookie kicker Mason Crosby will make the NFC Pro Bowl squad. To even draft a kicker this year and to have him beat out an already capable, young incumbent in Dave Rayner is an indication that Crosby could be among the elite. Everyone knows about Crosby's strong leg, but his accuracy was impressive, too, in training camp. The NFC has a handful of solid veteran kickers, but Crosby will ascend to the top in his first year because he might just be the Packers' most frequent scoring option. The Packers' offense has shown no reason to believe this preseason, whether by play-calling or offensive personnel, that they can cure their red-zone woes. So if a strong defense sets up good field position, Crosby should get more scoring opportunities than any one else (via field goal attempts). If he can connect, his numbers will be hard to ignore.

2. James Jones will lead the team in catches. Jones was the talk of training camp, but now will have to carry his big preseason into the regular season. His shortcomings in the offense and rapport with Brett Favre will get better with time. When it does, Jones will be dangerous. Suggesting he will top the Packers' all-everything offensive weapon in Donald Driver seems unlikely, but a mysterious shoulder injury and a foot sprain in the preseason leaves one to wonder if Driver can make it through the year in one piece. Yes, Driver is as tough as nails, but because his shoulder was still an issue at the start of this camp is a big concern. And because he is a marked man on an offense short on play-makers, it will be tough for him to get through the year unscathed again. Jones has shown great hands and an uncanny run-after-the-catch ability, and because he is playing the flanker position primarily, he will have a big season as a rookie.

1. Brett Favre will retire after the season. Right, right, no more retirement talk! This is more of a post-season issue, but what happens during the regular season will affect Favre's decision like never before. Of course every Packer fan wants a storybook ending with a Super Bowl run, which would surely end Favre's career. More than likely, though, the mounting mediocrity will make the ultra-competitive Favre question more than ever if he wants to go on. Even if he is unsure of what he wants to do after football, his love for the game will wane unless the Packers can win this year. Furthermore, the sting of losing Randy Moss in the off-season still has to resonate. In the end, Favre might continue to play at a high level but will finally give way to Aaron Rodgers.

Matt Tevsh is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.


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