Seven Bold Predictions

How good of a season will Aaron Rodgers have? What player is going to have a monster breakout season? In which game will the Packers stub their toe? Veteran Packers reporter Matt Tevsh tells you what to expect on Sunday night against Chicago and for the rest of season.

The Packers will kick off their 89th NFL season Sunday night at Lambeau Field hoping to make frequent visits to the end zone. In recognition, then, of football's most cherished 10 yards of turf, here are seven bold predictions (a touchdown plus an extra point) for the Packers' 2009 season:

1. The Packers will beat the Bears on Sunday night by more than three touchdowns.

This game smells of a blowout. Such is not usually the case in the Packers-Bears series, which will continue with its 177th regular-season meeting. But the Packers are primed to explode at home before a national audience. They are coming off a great preseason, and with a new aggressive defense, they will give the overrated Bears some trouble. New quarterback Jay Cutler lacks the weapons he had in Denver and will need time to adjust, while the Bears' defense is no longer dominant. The Bears will miss out on the playoffs and miss out on a victory in the season opener. The Packers win, 34-10.

2. Jermichael Finley will lead the Packers and all NFL tight ends in touchdowns.


Jermichael Finley
Mike Roemer/AP
Finley endured an up-and-down rookie season, but closed with promise. He carried that into the offseason and training camp, where he was a beast as a receiver. Finley is a confident guy, but even he may not know how good he can be. Look for the Packers to feature the two-tight end set more frequently this season. They know they need to get Finley on the field as much as they can. And where might the 6-foot-5, 247-pound tight end be the most dangerous? How about the red zone? Finley will become quarterback Aaron Rodgers' favorite target inside the 20-yard line, taking TDs away from Greg Jennings, Ryan Grant and the rest of the offense. He will catch 12 touchdowns this season. No NFL tight end caught more than 10 last year.

3. Aaron Rodgers will top the NFL in quarterback rating.

Some of the boldness of this prediction has been taken away by some national predictions of Rodgers as the NFL MVP this season. Still, Rodgers ascending to the No. 1 quarterback in the league based on statistics will be quite bold enough considering the following: 1) He is in just his second year as a starter. 2) Three-fifths of his starting offensive line is new. 3) His competition at his position includes long-established starters Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Kurt Warner. Rodgers rated sixth last year with a 93.8 rating. His accuracy, velocity and command of the Packers' offense suggest that number could reach 100 this season.

4. Mark Tauscher will be with the Packers again by midseason.

Tauscher, an eight-year starter for the Packers at right tackle, had the bad break of bad breaks late last season when he tore his ACL on Dec. 7. He was scheduled to become a free agent just after the season, and thus, is without a job to begin 2009. Packers coach Mike McCarthy was mum about Tauscher much of the offseason, but there was a consensus that Tauscher might be ready to play by midseason. With a new starter at right tackle (Allen Barbre) and only one backup at the position (second-year pro Breno Giacomini), Tauscher is a viable option to return as insurance. The Packers have rookie tackle Jamon Meredith on the practice squad, but going with just one backup on the active roster for the whole season is as risky as going with just two quarterbacks.

5. The Lions will beat the Packers this season.


Calvin Johnson vs. Tramon Williams.
Paul Sancya/AP
There always seems to be at least one clunker each year. This season, the Packers visiting Detroit on Thanksgiving has all the makings of one. Yes, the Lions were 0-16 last year and have a rookie quarterback and a rookie coach at the helm, and yes, the Packers seem to be gaining steam as a trendy Super Bowl pick, but the Lions played the Packers as tough as any opponent last season. This rivalry is an underrated one, overshadowed especially this season by much-anticipated Packers-Bears and Packers-Vikings matchups. The Lions also have history on their side. They are 11-6-1 vs. the Packers on Thanksgiving.

6. The Packers will earn the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs.

There is no dominant team in the NFC this season. The Eagles, Giants, Cardinals and (puke here) Brett Favre-led Vikings are popular picks along with the Packers. None, however, make a convincing argument to be the overwhelming favorite. Look for NFC East, South and West to be won with 10-6 records. The Packers will post an 11-5 record, which will be good enough to top the Vikings in the NFC North and earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

7. This will be Aaron Kampman's last season in Green Bay.

As much as the Packers want to sell it, Kampman looks like a fish out of water playing outside linebacker. Sure, Kampman will do fine in his new role this season, just not as well as he does with his hand on the ground in a 4-3 scheme. For seven years in Green Bay, Kampman honed his craft to where he was technically one of the best defensive ends in the league. Nobody used his hands or leverage better from a three-point stance. Now, Kampman will be asked to be more of a speed guy, which is not one of his strengths. His relative silence through the transition this offseason spoke volumes, though he has maintained his team-first attitude. Scheduled to become a free agent following this season, Kampman will move on, seeking out a new team (with a 4-3 scheme) that will pay him what he is worth. His departure will open the door for Clay Matthews (one of the Packers' first-round picks this year) to step in as the starter.


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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