Monday, October 18, 2010

The Packers Ain't Making No Super Bowl

Looking back over my long history of NFL picks, it's clear that I'm kind of an idiot.

2009 Super Bowl pick: New England over New York
(actual Super Bowl: New Orleans over Indianapolis. The Patriots were blown out in the first round of the playoffs, and the Giants finished 8-8)

2008: New England over Seattle
(actual SB: Pittsburgh over Arizona. NE finished 11-5 and somehow out of the playoffs, Seattle finished 4-12)

2007: New England over Seattle
(actual SB: New York over New England. Seattle lost to Green Bay in the quarter-finals)

2006: Carolina over New England
(actual SB: Indy over Chicago. Carolina finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs, New England lost the AFC title game to the Colts)

I also seem to recall picking a Denver/Seattle Super Bowl matchup in an NFL column for my school paper in the first half of the decade. Two themes emerge from these picks. A) I put a lot of faith in the Patriots dynasty lasting longer than it actually did and B) man, was I ever over-impressed with the Seattle Seahawks. Seemingly the only year I didn't pick them to reach the Super Bowl was in 2005, when they actually did get there and lost to Pittsburgh.

So basically what I'm saying is that it's no surprise that my most recent NFL predictions are already shot thanks to the mediocrity of my beloved Green Bay Packers. Picking Green Bay to actually win the Super Bowl is a classic case of heart-over-head, but it's especially pronounced in this case given that I actually cited several reasons for the Packers' downfall in my original piece. Lack of offensive line depth, check. Charles Woodson unable to repeat his great 2009 season, check (though Woodson hasn't been terrible or anything). I can't believe I didn't mention their shaky running game, since even Ryan Grant by himself didn't provide enough of a punch. Now with Grant out for the season, Green Bay's run attack is down to career bench-warmer Brandon Jackson.

Green Bay is currently 3-3 and could/should be 6-0 had they actually been a good team. Their loss to Miami yesterday could've gone either way. They should've whipped Washington two weeks ago but couldn't convert on red zone scoring chances, thus letting the Redskins stick around and eventually beat them in overtime. And the loss to Chicago was probably the most frustrating loss I've seen in 18 years of Packer fandom. Green Bay totally outplayed the Bears, are obviously the better team...and lost due to 20 goddamn penalties. Twenty. Disgraceful.

Let's look at the top five reasons why Green Bay isn't winning the Super Bowl this year.

5. Offensive line, as noted. Seeing Bryan Bulaga get pwned by Cameron Wake all game long tells me that Bulaga is still a work in progress.

4. Woodson. He isn't a shutdown corner, he's a veteran corner that seemingly has the mystical power to make the referees ignore the pushoff and holding penalties he commits on pretty much every play.

3. The penalties. Not just in the Chicago game, but Green Bay has been one of the NFL's most penalized teams for the last few seasons (they're currently sixth in the league). It represents a straight-up lack of discipline and, frankly, a lot of stupidity. The penalty problem seems to have begun when....

2. ...Mike McCarthy was hired as the team's coach. I'm officially off the McCarthy bandwagon. This guy is, at best, Andy Reid, except for the fact that Reid at least got his team to perform well in SOME big games. If Green Bay loses to Minnesota next week, I may go into 'Mike Sherman Mode,' a.k.a. when you want your team to just crater out in the hopes that it'll at least get the coach fired.

1. Injuries. Now, admittedly, Green Bay has been badly hit by the injury bug. Grant, Burnett, Barnett, Finley --- all key cogs in the Packer machine, all gone for the season. Aaron Rodgers had a minor concussion last week. Clay Matthews, easily GB's best defensive player, has a lingering hamstring injury. O-linemen Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton are both always banged up. It's hard to contend when you're losing this many quality players.

Am I jumping off the Green Bay bandwagon too early? Quite possibly. After all, the NFC is completely wide-open, since all of the really good clubs in the NFL this season (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New England, the Jets) seem to be in the AFC. It's not inconceivable that the Packers get their heads on straight by midseason, go on a hot streak and then carry on through January to a Super Bowl appearance. Stranger things have happened. But, unfortunately, Green Bay's problems are deeper than just the superficial injuries that many/most will blame as the cause if the Packers come up short in 2010. Even if Green Bay was at full strength, an ill-timed penalty, dumb play-calling or Woodson getting burned on a deep ball would still prevent the team from its full potential.

On the bright side, at least I picked Baltimore to be in the Super Bowl and they're looking like world-beaters at this point. Stay tuned as I pick them and Seattle for each of the next four seasons.

"Hey Mark, did you include a double-negative in your post title just to subtly cheer the Packers on?"

Shut up, grammar man.

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