Packers’ fans have plenty of reasons to believe in 2017
By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Packers’ fans are rightfully optimistic going into the fast-approaching season.
Why wouldn’t they be?
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The Packers have been among the NFL’s best teams for the past two decades. They rate with the New England Patriots in terms of consistently playing at a high level.
The standard is the Patriots, the Packers and whichever other teams have had a terrific draft, a great free-agent signing period, or both. The Packers, it appears, have had a most successful stretch between being blasted by the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game and today.
Let’s count the reasons to be excited – I mean genuinely excited – about the Packers’ chances to be playing in Super Bowl 52 in Minneapolis.
** Mike McCarthy and his staff: When the Packers were 4-5 after a dismal defensive stretch, McCarthy felt the need to defend himself and his credentials. He needn’t.
McCarthy ranks among the NFL’s top head coaches. Whether he’s in the top five or whatever is irrelevant.
What matters is that he’s among the best at his profession and he’s all Green Bay’s to have and second guess.
Frankly, McCarthy and his staff have shown the ability to do the draft-and-develop thing at a high level. The past three drafts – coupled with the tremendous veterans assembled – is what gives fans reason to believe and McCarthy the tools to make it happen.
Bottom line: Don’t underrate, underestimate or take for granted the head coach.
** Aaron Rodgers remains amazing. He is on the brink of 300 career touchdown passes (297) with a measly 72 interceptions. He continues to play at a high level while elevating the play of his teammates. It’s time for Rodgers and Co. to reap the rewards with a long, successful postseason run.
Rodgers is the gift that keeps giving. At some point, and this appears to be it, the Packers are focusing on making his life easier. The weapons are in place. The offensive line is fine.
Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks are tremendous safety valves, while Ty Montgomery is another pass-catching weapon and that’s three without mentioning a receiver.
Jordy Nelson may be in line for his best season ever. He is in terrific shape. He’s far enough removed from the knee injury. He’s at the intersection of physically capable and mentally indomitable.
DaVante Adams and the rest of the receivers are so good and so deep that it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where the wide receivers let the team down.
I can’t see it.
** The Packers’ decision to draft not one, not two, but three running backs speaks volumes to the team’s commitment to true balance. A legit running attack is as necessary to a Super Bowl run as a stubborn defense.
The bigger the stakes the greater the importance of true balance and the Packers at least have the pieces to run the football.
I don’t buy the criticism that McCarthy prefers to pass all the time. Actually, when he’s had a productive running attack he’s stayed with it.
Look, the Packers are always going to be a “pass first” team in a pass happy league.
However, the personnel and coaching staffs have shown a rather vigorous effort to upgrade the running back, tight end and offensive line positions.
That all speaks to running the football more effectively.
** Defensively, the Packers can’t be any worse.
I didn’t think so. Clearly, this unit is built to play with a lead, which would be great if it were the Brewers’ big-early inning offense they were conspiring with.
Instead, the Packers’ sporadic offense worked to derail a defense that didn’t have the horses to run the race.
This year, the draft was devoted to defense.
In fact, free agency also was fully invested in acquiring defense.
Ricky Jean-Francois, Davon House and the rest should be a significant upgrade on a defense in need of help.
** The prevailing sense of urgency brought by veterans such as Bennett, Rodgers and Nelson. There is no mistaking the goal.
It’s Super Bowl or bust, and nobody’s thinking bust.
That sense of pulling together in the same direction – unless I’m totally misreading what McCarthy’s got going on here – is going to be the Packers’ salvation.
This team expects to be there.
There’s no reason it shouldn’t.