Few teams have a fan base as rabid as the Green Bay Packers. They're the only community owned team in any of the four major sports in North America, and they're the only NFL team that started in a podunk cowtown that's still playing in that podunk cowtown in spite of the fact the entire city could fit inside Lambeau Field. The reason is because the entire town pretty much does squeeze inside Lambeau Field every game day. They've sold out all their home games since 1960 and there's currently over 80,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets. The wait is so bad many people have put their season tickets into their wills, while other have taken the extreme step of getting their newly born babies onto the list in the hopes they'll be able to enjoy at least one year as a season ticket holder before they die.
Considering the average turnover is less than 100 tickets per year, undoubtedly the next step will be to let people put their place in line into their wills. As his last will and testament, John Smith bequeaths to his wife Mildred his Plymouth Prowler, to his daughter Madison his complete collection of county fair pins, and to his son Edward his 23,212th spot in line for Packers season tickets. And to think some would have us believe receiving Direct TV in a will is something to get excited about.
So can the Packers reward their fans loyalty by repeating as Super Bowl champions? The obvious answer is yes, of course they can, what a stupid question. Technically speaking even the Panthers have a chance of winning the next Super Bowl. Then again, there's a chance I'm not really writing this right now but rather my body is in some sort of matrix like cocoon being used as a double A battery for intelligent computers, waiting to be freed by Keanu Reeves. The only thing we can really say for sure is, "I think therefor I am, even if I'm not sure I am what I think I am," if that makes any sense. So a better question would be, "How likely are the Packers to repeat as Super Bowl champs?"
In the history of the Super Bowl, seven teams have won back-to-back championships, with the 49ers almost pulling off the three-peat before coming up just short thanks to a painful Rodger Craig fumble that still makes me want to bang my head against the wall to this day. So it's not that uncommon for a team to successfully defend their title, but the Packers are hardly a juggernaut. Lost in all of the hoopla (that's right, I said hoopla) surrounding the Packers Super Bowl victory was the fact they were only 9-6 going into the final weekend of the season, needing a victory over the Bears just to make the playoffs.
More after the jump...
The main reason why the Packer barely squeezed into the playoffs was their inability to get any kind of consistent running game going on offense. As a team they averaged only 3.8 yards per carry, ranking all the way down at only 25th best, and that number was inflated a little because of Aaron Rodgers averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Of their running backs not a single one with at least 10 carries averaged over 3.7 yards each run.
But if the Packers running backs sometimes looked like they were wearing waited cleats, the Packers defense usually did their best matador impression saying, "Ole!" as opposing running backs plowed past. They ranked 28th in the NFL allowing running backs to average 4.64 yards per carry, and that was with Clay Matthews prowling the middle. When even the vanilla 49ers rushing attack can average 4.4 yards each run, you know things are bad.
Yet if the Packers are to repeat it's really going to come down to the play of Rodgers. It's never easy taking over for a legend at the quarterback position especially when that legend still has some gas left in the tank, just ask Steve Young, but watching Favre turn into a late night tallk show punch line certainly helps. Last season Rodgers finished 3rd with a 101.2 passer rating, throwing just under 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. It was the second time in three years Rodgers finished with a QB rating over 100, something Brett Favre accomplished only once in his career, assuming his career actually is over (oh please let it be over), and never with the Packers. But to be fair, Favre only had Greg Jennings for two seasons while Rodgers has now had him for three. Last year Jennings finished 4th among receivers with 1,265 receiving yards and 2nd with 12 touchdowns.
And while the Packers rush defense last season stunk harry (bleep), they wrecked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Led by Matthews, they sacked them 47 times (2nd), intercepted them another 24 (2nd), and limited them to a league low passer rating of 67.23 that only JaMarcus Russell would have been proud of.
Given their shortcomings it should come as no surprise the Packers used their first pick in the draft on offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, their second pick on maybe the best overall return man in the draft, Randall Cobb (they ranked 22nd in punt returns and 26th in kickoff returns), and their third pick on running back Alexander Green. If Sherrod and Green can help the Packers get even a mediocre run game going they'll be difficult to stop on offense. They still have the problem of not being able to stop the run very well on defense but it didn't hurt them too much last year as they gave up the second least amount of points. They'll still have to contend with the defending NFC North champion Bears, and the Lions have the best team they've had in over 10 years (amazing what getting rid if Matt Millen can do), but there's no reason the Packers can't win the North and make another deep playoff run come January. Then again, maybe this is all fake and we're still waiting for Keanu Reeves to rescue us.