With Rodgers, there is no reason to think that the Packers will not win their second straight NFC North Division title. The Packers have all of their skill position players returning at wide receiver, tight end and running back, and the offensive line is anchored by two veteran tackles. Though the middle of the line is questionable because of injuries, everyone starting on Monday night has plenty of experience filling in at various positions from the last couple of seasons. Like coach Mike McCarthy said Saturday, "that's nothing new."
On defense, the Packers feature among the best linebacker and secondaries in the league and have two Pro Bowl defensive ends in Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Of course, there are question marks surrounding the interior of the line, but as long as it is not hit hard by injuries, the Packers should be able to hold up well against the run mainly because of their quick, hard-hitting linebackers.
That's an optimistic viewpoint of the Packers, but, hey, this is the time to be optimistic, right? There are questions, indeed, because of injuries to some key players throughout training camp and Rodgers' inexperience as a starter. There are questions amid the roster of every NFL team.
However, are any of the three other NFC North teams any better at quarterback and as solid on offense, defense and special teams than the Packers? I don't think so. The Vikings, Lions and Bears are not as good across the board as the Packers and, yes, Rodgers is better than Jon Kitna, Tarvaris Jackson and Kyle Orton, even though Rodgers has yet to start his first NFL game. He has been learning for three seasons behind Favre and is more than ready to go. In that three years, he has matured mentally and physically and has more than enough weapons at his disposal for the Packers to score enough points to win games.
How many games? The Packers are good enough to win at least 10 this season, which will be a little disappointing after last season's 13-3 regular season record. However, Green Bay's strength of schedule is more difficult than last season, which will account for a few less victories.
By winning 10 games, the Packers will win the division because the other division teams simply are not good enough to win more than nine games. With the addition of Jared Allen, the Vikings may reach 9-7 after finishing 8-8 last year. Detroit might be better, but don't we say that about Detroit almost every season? Look for the Lions to match their 7-9 record from a year ago, and it appears the Bears are going to be the weakling of the division. For whatever reason, they can't seem to accept that they need a new and improved quarterback. Judging by the way the Bears' first-team defense performed this preseason, the same can be said for that area of the team as well.
So, that leaves Green Bay with the best chance of winning the division and possibly getting a first-round bye in the playoffs. Depending on how the team is holding up injury-wise by early January, anything can happen.
As most Packers fans keep one eye on Favre this season, be sure to focus on Rodgers as he leads the team to another NFC North Division title.
Todd Korth writes for PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.