Packers favored in the division, but they have plenty of warts, questions

While the national media is predicting a return to greatness in one of the flyover divisions, the Minnesota Vikings may have something to say about revisionist history.

As the sports world continues to gear up for the 2016 NFL season, there is a lot of respect being shown for the Minnesota Vikings. But, almost to an analyst – from the talking heads on ESPN and NFL Network to the boys in Las Vegas who determine where to set betting lines on wins and losses – more love is being given to the Green Bay Packers.

The question should be asked: Why is that the case?

The most commonly cited reason – who are we kidding, the universal reason given – is that 31-year old wide receiver Jordy Nelson is back from injury. Apparently Nelson’s impact on an offense is somewhere in the realm of Jerry Rice and Randy Moss being melded into one super-player.

All of the blame for the Packers decline in offense last year was placed squarely by Packer apologists on not having Nelson. Randall Cobb didn’t step up to become a solo star – cementing his role as a very good complementary receiver, but not “The Man.” The lack of wide receiver depth was exposed and even the revered Aaron Rodgers couldn’t carry an offense on his back with a collection of Nos. 3 and 4 receivers, a MASH unit on the O-line and a 24-year-old running back with a gut.

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The Packers earned their five-year reign atop the NFC North for a reason. They had a young team (sound familiar?) that grew together, blending nicely the mix of veteran leaders and young, hungry players looking to make their own mark on the game.

But, 2015 saw a changing of the guard. The Packers fell from 12-4 to 10-6 – and needed a defensive collapse on a Hail Mary against the Lions (neither the first nor the last for the punchless Motowners) to avoid being 9-7 and making their Week 17 matchup with the Vikings meaningless.

But, thanks to Detroit’s inability to cover a pass that took 10 seconds from snap to splashdown to be completed, the Week 17 brawl for it all became important for both teams.

If the Packers were a legitimate Super Bowl contender, they needed to flex their muscles against a young upstart squad from Minnesota that had clearly showed improvement but had realistically proved nothing within the division. Lose to Green Bay and repeat the cycle that had dominated the decade of the 2010s.

That didn’t happen.

The Vikings went into Lambeau Field as prohibitive underdogs. These were the Packers, after all. This was Lambeau Field, where NFL ghost stories come to live out a long and prolific life – whether wholly accurate or not. This is Green Bay and this is what the Packers do.

Except not on January 3, 2016.

The Vikings opened a 20-3 lead and, while the Packers strung together a 14-play drive in the fourth quarter that bled 7:26 off the clock to cut the deficit to 10 points, the Vikings closed them out – with an interception with two minutes to play and a fourth-down stop as time expired.

The better team won in the opponent’s yard. Yet, the Packers are viewed once again as the favorite in the NFC North.

Rodgers is a likely Hall of Famer already, given his dominance since 2009, but even elite quarterbacks can’t will a team to 12 wins without a stellar supporting cast.

The reality of the Packers is that Nelson is coming off a significant injury and isn’t getting any younger. Eddie Lacy has mixed in some salads and is getting lauded for simply being in shape. The Packers offensive line is building an injury history that has impacted each of the last three seasons and all of those guys are a year older and too familiar with the team medical staff not to be concerned.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1673628-access-viking-update-free...

Defensively, in a 3-4 scheme, there may be no more important position than the nose tackle. Dominant ones change games. Those prone to making mistakes can ruin the party. Rookie Kenny Clark is expected to be the starting nose tackle. He comes to the NFL with good technique and a solid pedigree, but this is the NFL and rookies learn on the job – often in big ways, both good and bad. The linebacker corps has been such a mess that Clay Matthews has played primarily inside the last two seasons because they were so bad on the inside that they had to sacrifice Matthews’ edge rushing ability to not get carved up over the middle.

This a glove-slap at the Packers. It just seems that when it comes to the NFL, more reverence is given to the recent past than any other sport. The other Big Four sports all run marathons. Good teams stay good for a long time when kept together and, in the other three, the older you get, the better you get.

Not football. It’s a young man’s game and, if an opponent is wounded or inexperienced, the worst two places that can happen is on the offensive and defensive lines. The Vikings made a point in the offseason to help bring in big-time competition on its injury-depleted offensive line. The Packers are coming back with the same guys that have proved to not answer the bell for 16 rounds.

The Packers went from 5-1 in the NFC North to 3-3 last year. All three losses came in front of the green and gold fans. When every division opponent beats you in your yard, that should be sounding off alarms.

Not in Wisconsin. Jordy’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble.

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As the sports world continues to gear up for the 2016 NFL season, there is a lot of respect being shown for the Minnesota Vikings. But, almost to an analyst – from the talking heads on ESPN and NFL Network to the boys in Las Vegas who determine where to set betting lines on wins and losses – more love is being given to the Green Bay Packers.

The question should be asked why is that the case?

The most commonly cited reason – who are we kidding, the universal reason given – is that 31-year old wide receiver Jordy Nelson is back from injury. Apparently Nelson’s impact on an offense is somewhere in the realm of Jerry Rice and Randy Moss being melded into one super-player.

All of the blame for the Packers decline in offense last year was placed squarely by Packer apologists on not having Nelson. Randall Cobb didn’t step up to become a solo star – cementing his role as a very good complementary receiver, but not The Man. The lack of wide receiver depth was exposed and even the revered Aaron Rodgers couldn’t carry an offense on his back with a collection of Nos. 3 and 4 receivers, a MASH unit on the O-line and a 24-year old running back with a beer gut.

The Packers earned their five-year reign atop the NFC North for a reason. They had a young team (sound familiar?) that grew together, blending nicely the mix of veteran leaders and young, hungry players looking to make their own mark on the game.

But, 2015 saw a changing of the guard. The Packers fell from 12-4 to 10-6 – and needed a defensive collapse on a Hail Mary against the Lions (neither the first nor the last for the punchless Motowners) to avoid being 9-7 and making their Week 17 matchup with the Vikings meaningless.

But, thanks to Detroit’s inability to cover a pass that took 10 seconds from snap to splashdown to be completed made the Week 17 brawl for it all so important for both teams.

If the Packers were a legitimate Super Bowl contender, they needed to flex their muscles against a young upstart squad from Minnesota that had clearly showed improvement, but had realistically proved nothing within the division. Lose to Green Bay and repeat the cycle that had dominated the decade of the 2010s.

That didn’t happen.

The Vikings went into Lambeau Field as relatively prohibitive underdogs. These were the Packers after all. This was Lambeau Field, where NFL ghost stories come to live out a long and prolific life – whether wholly accurate or not. This is Green Bay and this is what the Packers do.

Not on January 3, 2016.

The Vikings opened a 20-3 lead and, while the Packers strung together a 14-play drive in the fourth quarter that bled 7:26 off the clock to accomplish to cut the deficit to 10 points, the Vikings closed them out – with an interception with two minutes to play and a fourth-down stop as time expired.

The better team won in the opponent’s yard. Yet, the Packers are viewed once again as the favorite in the NFC North.

Rodgers is a likely Hall of Famer already given his dominance since 2009, but even elite quarterbacks can’t will a team to 12 wins without a stellar supporting cast.

The reality of the Packers is that Nelson is coming off a significant injury and isn’t getting any younger. Eddie Lacy has mixed in some salads and is getting lauded for simply being in shape. The Packers offensive line is building an injury history that has impacted each of the last three seasons and all of those guys are a year older and too familiar with the team medical staff not to be concerned.

Defensively, in a 3-4 scheme, there may be no more important position than the nosetackle. Dominant ones change games. Those prone to making mistakes can ruin the party. Rookie Kenny Clark is expected to be the starting nosetackle. He comes to the NFL with good technique and a solid pedigree, but this is the NFL and rookies learn on the job – often in big ways, both good and bad. The linebacker corps has been such a mess that Clay Matthews has played primarily inside the last two seasons because they were so bad on the inside that they had to sacrifice Matthews’ edge rushing ability to not get carved up over the middle.

This a glove-slap at the Packers. It just seems that when it comes to the NFL, more reverence is given to the recent past than any other sport. The other Big Four sports all run marathons. Good teams stay good for a long time when kept together and, in the other three, the older you get, the better you get.

Not football. It’s a young man’s game and, if an opponent is wounded or inexperienced, the worst two places that can happen is on the offensive and defensive lines. The Vikings made a point in the offseason to help bring in big-time competition on its injury-depleted offensive line to make it a strength. The Packers are coming back with the same guys that have proved to not answer the bell for 16 rounds.

The Packers went from 5-1 in the NFC North to 3-3 last year. All three losses came in front of the green and gold face-painters. When every division opponent beats you on your yard, that should be sounding off alarms.

Not in Sconny. Jordy’s back and you’re gonna be in trouble.

Keep drinking the green Kool-Aid Packer backers. And, as always, cut it with a high-proof clear adult beverage. It’ll go down better that way as you convince yourselves that the throne is waiting for your return.

 

 

 

 

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