Lines, schedule conspire against Packers

Green Bay will miss the playoffs, but not because of Rodgers, predicts PackerReport.com's Doug Ritchay.

The offseason is finally over, and now we can concentrate on this year's version of the Green Bay Packers. We can put away the drama that captivated us and frustrated us as the Brett Favre saga held Wisconsin and the rest of the football world hostage until we found out where he would play in 2008.

Unfortunately, he's a New York Jet, not a Packer.

With that in mind, let's look at this upcoming season. I guarantee you this: The Packers will not win 13 regular-season games, but not because Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback. New York Brett would've had a hard time matching his 2007 success.

The schedule, as usual, has bumps and cupcakes along the way, but I don't have a great feeling about 2008.

Monday's game against Minnesota has the makings of an underwhelming start. Minnesota has a real good defense, and the offense is led by Adrian Peterson.

You get my drift, don't you? Packers lose the opener to the Vikings.

Monday's game could expose why the Packers won't be as good as they were in 2007. The offensive and defensive lines are suspect. The offensive line may get better in the run game with Ryan Grant in the backfield (Grant didn't play in the preseason), but what about the pass blocking? I can see Brandon Jackson whiffing on another block and seeing Rodgers get crushed like a grape.

Welcome to the life of a starting quarterback, Aaron. Holding that clipboard may not be so bad after all, huh?

On defense, the tackle position is iffy. Ryan Pickett is back after missing all of training camp, but can he go the distance right away and be stern like he was last season? No. He'll have to work into it, which means the likes of Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole have to be good. Yes, Cullen Jenkins can slip inside, too, which helps.

Still, any good defense has a good defensive line, and entering Monday, the Packers' defensive line isn't good. Not yet. The depth last year was as deep as Lake Michigan. The depth this year is like a puddle.

Too bad they didn't draft a healthy defensive tackle in the last couple of years who could've strengthened this unit. How's that couch treating you, Justin Harrell?

Nationally, many believe the Packers will lose their grip on the NFC North and relinquish it to the Vikings. It's possible.

After Minnesota, the Packers go to Detroit, host Dallas and go to Tampa Bay. Those could all be losses, although the Packers will not start 0-4.

Then, the Packers host Atlanta, but then go to Seattle and host Indianapolis. Not looking good.

After a bye, the Packers go to Tennessee and Minnesota on back-to-back weeks. The start to the season won't be easy, but if the Packers keep their heads afloat during the first half of the season, there's reason to expect another playoff appearance.

The way the Packers stay afloat is three-pronged:

Rodgers has to play within himself, not try to win games. Basically, be a game manager. Also, have a short memory when he throws an interception.

Stay healthy, which is easier said than done. If the Packers get significant injuries at quarterback, defensive tackle or cornerback, it might be too much to overcome.

Win at least six home games. Good teams win at home; just check the Packers' record from 1995 to 1998, when they lost about as often as Jamal Reynolds recorded a sack during his career.

With that in mind, here's my Packers prediction: Packers go 8-8, lose the division title to the Vikings and miss the playoffs.

It won't be Rodgers' fault; it'll come down to offensive and defensive lines and the schedule. The Packers' road this season is not easy, and this team doesn't look as good as last year.

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. He has covered the Packers since 1993. E-mail him at dritchay@new.rr.com.


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