Friday, September 3, 2010

Scary Preseason Predictions

The Packers' preseason loss to the Chiefs this week was so boring that I had to write this blog post during the latter part of the game. The Packers chose to sit most of their starters for the game, which makes some sense, but must irritate anyone stuck with a full-price ticket for the game.

Meanwhile, the preseason accolades for the Packers continue to roll in. NFL.com polled its seven experts, and all seven picked the Packers to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. Four of them have the Packers winning the Super Bowl, while three of them have the Packers losing to the Colts, Ravens and Bengals.

The last time the Packers were the consensus Super Bowl pick was probably 1996. I remember it well, including the Sports Illustrated cover predicting the Packers and Chiefs for Super Bowl XXXI.

I love seeing this stuff, but it scares me almost as much as it pleases me. I also guess I am not yet a complete believer. In 1996, the Packers had gone to the playoffs the prior three seasons, and they were coming off an NFC Championship Game loss to the Cowboys. The Packers had led the game in the fourth quarter. To name a few players, the Packers started the season with Favre at quarterback, Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens at running back, Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman at wide receiver, and Keith Jackson at tight end. On defense, they had Reggie White and Sean Jones at defensive end, and Leroy Butler, Craig Newsome and Eugene Robinson at defensive back. On special teams, they had Desmond Howard. This was an impressive team, and it was obvious at the beginning of the season. Sure, they might not win it all, but there was no team in the NFC that you would have thought had a better shot at it.

I don't see the 2010 Packers as being at the same level. I like the 2010 Rodgers as much as I liked the 1996 Favre, and Driver/Jennings/Finley compares pretty favorably with Brooks/Freeman/Jackson. I am a Ryan Grant fan, but I don't think he stacks up well against Bennett and Levens. On defense, where are the pass rushers to match up with White and Jones? Where are the defensive backs to match up with Butler, Newsome and Robinson? Charles Woodson is probably better than the 1996 defensive backs, but with Al Harris (as well as Atari Bigby) spending the first six weeks of the season on the PUP list, I just can't make a case that the defensive backs as a whole are close to being comparable. And, of course, the special teams have been shaky for most of the preseason as well as last year.

Are the Packers better, going into the season, than the Saints, the Falcons, the Vikings, the Cowboys, or the 49ers? (The same NFL.com experts pick the Cowboys, the Saints or Falcons, and the 49ers to win their respective divisions.) Maybe. But I don't see it as being so clear cut as to make the Packers a consensus pick for the Super Bowl.

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