What could anyone possible have to worry about?
Green Bay is fielding roughly the same team it did last year when they went 15-1. They still have arguably the best quarterback in the league. And most of the nation has already penciled them in for the top of the NFCN again. Now it only remains to see what they have to do to make a run at another Super Bowl... Right?
While the Packers do have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, the 15-1 season last year was not quite as shiny as the record would indicate. The truth was finally exposed in their first game of the playoffs. And while the Packers faithful have been sitting on their hands, biting their fingernails down to the second knuckle, and pacing furiously waiting for the team to exact their revenge on the rest of the league, they may want to take a closer look at the team itself. There are some serious reasons for concern.
1) While the passing attack was deadly, the rushing attack was one of the worst. Although the old adage of "You win by running the ball and stopping the run" may be a little outdated, the principle that "one dimensional teams get exposed" is still alive and well. Having the best quarterback in the league is going to afford you the opportunity to have some amazing offensive moments. But understand, with no running game, defenses will have an advantage when it comes to game plan, quarterback pursuit, and receiver shut down. One dimensional offenses really are only dominant for a short while before defenses find a way to slow down that one dimension.
Some will argue against this, citing the example of the New York Giants last year. However, the Giants aren't an example of a great team. They are an example of how a flawed team can get on a roll with a star quarterback and win a few games. Remember that, although the Giants won the Super Bowl, just a few weeks prior they were fighting for their lives just to make the playoffs. Green Bay was in a similar situation in 2010. Really, in this offseason, they needed to give serious attention to the running game, just to establish a little balance.
This is not to say they needed the next Ray Rice or Arian Foster, but the Packers really need someone who isn't dragging on the bottom of the league. So, in the offseason, they addressed their running game... by letting half of it walk away. Although addition by subtraction works in some cases, I don't think this will be one of them.
So you really have to stop and think, if James Starks goes down, what then? And if this is all the running game the Packers are planning on fielding, what kind of pressure is that going to mean for Aaron Rodgers? Understand, if Aaron Rodgers goes down, the Packers will immediately resemble the Colts of 2011.
2) While we are discussing one dimensional systems, why don't we have a look at that pass defense. That's right. Dead last, baby. Now admittedly this number is slightly skewed because teams spent much of last year throwing their brains out trying to catch up, but dead last is still dead last. New Orleans also had teams piling up garbage yards. Their pass defense wasn't the greatest. In fact it was 30th in the league. But it was good enough to be a full forty yards better per game on average.
The front office has noticed this as an area of concern and addressed it by bringing in some cornerback help. It also appears that Charles Woodson will be moving over to safety, at least for a percentage of plays, in order to get the best talent on the field where it can do the most good. The question is, will it be enough?
3) The NFC North. The Chicago Bears have made significant strides to improve their offensive system. There will be a stronger focus on regularly running the ball and Jay Cutler has a bevy of new receivers to throw to. The Bears defense is still one of the more feared. If they find a way to score points, they will be lethal.
The Detroit Lions have added to an already explosive passing attack by adding a possession receiver of their own. If any of their running backs can find a way to stay healthy, their offense may come to rival what the Saints did in 2011. Considering their defensive line had a down year last year by their own admission and some new additions have joined their secondary, there is good reason to suspect the Lions defense will be at least marginally better. These combined add up to another lethal combination.
Of all of the divisions to be one dimensional in, this is one of the worst. Understand that 10-6 might be only good enough for third in this division.
The Packers had a dominant season in 2011, but weaknesses were exposed as well. Will those weaknesses be exploited in 2012? Will the running game be successful enough to keep defenses off Aaron Rodgers? If not, does Aaron Rodgers survive the season healthy? And will the pass defense be able to keep every Packers game from turning into a race to 50 points?
The Packers have reasons for concern.