Green Bay Packers 2011 Outlook

by Chris Houston

What can the Super Bowl champs possibly do for an encore? Most Packer fans know the answer to that question is obvious. Back to back Super Bowl titles does have a great ring to it-but is it plausible Green Bay can repeat with that enormous "X" on their back?  The Green Bay Packers 2011 outlook has perhaps the most optimism heading into a football season since Brett Favre capped 1997 with a Super Bowl XXXI championship over the New England Patriots.

Green Bay Packers logoThe Packers did follow up that banner year with a trip to the 1998 Super Bowl. Unfortunately for Packer fans, the trip ended with a 31-24 loss to John Elway and the Denver Broncos in San Diego.

The optimism might be even higher for this pack of Green Bay footballers. The Packers didn't exactly set the world on fire during the regular season last year. A 10-6 regular season mark just barely edged Green Bay into the playoffs. In fact, the Packers needed a win over division rival Chicago in the final game just to seal that trip. Injuries plagued a team that somehow managed to overcome the odds on their way to the Vince Lombardi trophy in 2009-2010. The Packers will get a fresh start to the 2011-2012 campaign with many of those injured starters back for a full season of action. Perhaps that's why Green Bay will be the team to beat in the NFC and one of the most formidable opponents in the entire NFL.

Back is quarterback Aaron Rodgers who assaulted defenses with his 101.2 quarterback rating. Rodgers tallied 3,922 passing yards coupled with 28 TD's and just 11 interceptions in 2010. Although his numbers weren't the brightest of all quarterbacks in the league, #12 certainly proved to be clutch down the stretch-particularly in a wild playoff run that led to the title.

The Packers also established a running game without veteran Ryan Grant. Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and James Starks provided just enough ground game to help Green Bay give Rodgers a breather every now and then. Starks provided 315 yards rushing during the 2009 postseason and will certainly have Packers fans enthused about the possibility of an incredibly talented duo in the backfield in 2011. Linebacker Clay Matthews was also one of the finest overall defensive players in the NFL and proved his worth in the Super Bowl in front of the entire nation. With this group returning, Packer fans have plenty to be excited about for the 2011 outlook.

So let's get to the 2011 Green Bay Packers schedule.

The Packers open up with what could be deemed the best match-up of Week #1 of the NFL season. Green Bay hosts New Orleans and Drew Brees on Thursday, September 8th at Lambeau Field. Super Bowl champs have struggled, particularly NFC teams, in the season following their titles. The Saints know all about that and will be looking to reclaim their grasp on the power in the NFC. It's probably one of those games where Packer fans would be thrilled to see some early September snow to slow down a very talented quarterback in Brees. These are the games that are crucial for early playoff jockeying. It's a Thursday night contest on national television where both teams will be playing at a high level. The two teams haven't met since a Monday night in 2008 when the Packers were blasted 51-29 in New Orleans. It only makes you wonder if many of the Green Bay regulars will remember what happened during that nationally televised appearance.

The Packers then get 10 days off before making their first road appearance in 2011. Green Bay travels to Carolina to face a Panthers football team that failed in literally every aspect in 2010. The Panthers were 2-14 last season. Analysts might warn that just about every road game in the NFL has the potential for disaster. Green Bay should still be off to a 2-0 start in 2011. Caution might be exercised because the Packers kicked off 2010 at 2-0 before losing three of their next four.

In the third game of the season, Green Bay opens divisional play at Soldier Field against the Bears. Nobody will soon forget the NFC title game in Chicago in 2010. The Bears certainly will have a lot on their minds as they try to recover from Cutler-gate. If any of the first five games have extra meaning, it would be the third game of the year against rival Chicago. The Packers could certainly make a statement with a 3-0 start that included a win on the road at the Bears.

In game #4 of 2011, Green Bay hosts Denver. The Broncos aren't one of those teams you can pencil in as a win or loss this early. Tim Tebow could be the starter for Denver when they visit Lambeau Field. Everyone remembers the incredible college career at the University of Florida for Tebow. However, Tebow didn't face defenses that included guys like A.J. Hawk, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson. This could be a critical game in the early season for several reasons. This is one of those games the Packers need to win if they are going to compete for home field advantage in the NFC. The games that seem extremely winnable can sometimes be the biggest factor in how a team develops in the early going. Many Packer fans will circle this game as a must win early on in 2011. Simply put, a loss at home to Denver could be devastating in the opening weeks.

Next up for the Packers will be a Sunday night game in Atlanta during Week 5 of the 2011 season. The Falcons will be looking for much revenge after losing to the Pack at hoAaron Rodgers football cardme in the 2010 playoffs. The Atlanta defense might also well remember a certain championship belt gesture made by Rodgers during the loss, too. This might be an opportunity to put forth a little extra protection on the franchise player.

Green Bay then tackles St. Louis at home(Week 6) before hitting the road for a date at Minnesota(Week 7). The Rams should be much improved from 2010. The Vikings could be in complete shambles but they'll still boast running back Adrian Peterson. Both of these contests are extremely winnable and could propel Green Bay into the division lead if things are heading in the right direction. Either way, a bye week looms following the contest against the Vikings so the Packers will get an opportunity to regroup and get healthy during week 8.

Week 9 kicks off in San Diego where Rodgers meets up with another terrific quarterback. Philip Rivers led the NFL with 4,710 yards last season. Packer fans must remember that Rivers was forced to pass quite often because of a lack of a strong running game. Winning in San Diego hasn't exactly been easy the past few years for opposing teams. In fact, only New England and Oakland handed the Chargers losses at home in 2010. This would be an important win if the Packers can win going away.

The Packers move on in Week 10 to face Minnesota for the second time in just four weeks. This Monday night affair is another huge divisional showdown that could have huge playoff implications for Green Bay. One thing is for sure, the Packers will be glad to see Adrian Peterson off the schedule for the rest of the season-barring a potential match-up in the postseason.

Week 11 finds the Packers hosting Tampa Bay. The Bucs are an interesting group for several reasons. Quarterback Josh Freeman led Tampa Bay to an impressive 10-6 season in 2010. This is a team that was completely unpredictable last year and could offer the same results in 2011. Nobody probably has to remind the Packers that Tampa Bay won three of their last four in 2010 including a 23-13 win at New Orleans.

In Week 12, the Packers travel to Detroit. The Lions have certainly acquired some young defensive talent through the NFL draft over the last several years. In fact, that talent seems to have found its way mostly to the defensive side of the ball. Detroit put a hurting on many NFL quarterbacks in 2010 with tha strong pass rush. Green Bay fans have to be a little worried about pass protection heading into this division rivalry this time around. Green Bay won by 2 at Lambeau Field but then couldn't muster any offense at all in a 7-3 loss in Detroit near the end of the season last year. Detroit, because of their defense, could be a team that emerges as one of the biggest competitors of the Packers in the next several years.

The schedule doesn't get any easier during Week 13 of the 2011 NFL season. Green Bay heads on the road for the second consecutive week when they visit the New York Giants. Anytime Eli Manning is in the equation, it's going to be a tough game to win. The Packers might still be jockeying for NFC home field at this point and the Giants could be in the midst of the formula. This game could be one of the premiere match-ups of the 2011 season if both teams are in a position of power. Similar to the Lions, the Giants pose a threat with blitzes and bringing some pain to Rodgers. Plus, it's only natural that New York will remember the 45-17 beating the Packers handed them on December 26, 2010.

Weeks 14 and 15 have the Pack home against Oakland and on the road at Kansas City. Both of these games could loom large for Green Bay as they pursue good positioning in the NFC playoff chase. Are they make or break contests? It just depends on what the Packers have managed up until that point. Neither of these games are impossible to win. Oakland and Kansas City both showed major improvements during the course of the 2010 NFL season. Neither, though, figures to explode as a major power in 2011. If things go smoothly, expect Rodgers to manage comfortable wins in both of these contests setting up a smooth finish to the regular season.

The Packers have a favorable schedule for the rest of 2011. Green Bay finishes the schedule off with division contests against Chicago and Detroit in Weeks 16 and 17. Once again, the Bears could be standing in the way of Rodgers. Fortunately, Lambeau Field will play host if there are major playoff implications down the stretch instead of Soldier Field. With three out of four games at home, the Packers could finish extremely strong and compensate for a few tough losses here or there.

Overall, the 2011 outlook for the Green Bay Packers is a great one. The schedule seems favorable with extremely winnable road games on tap. Can the Packers pull off back to back Super Bowl titles? The NFC hasn't provided a back to back Super Bowl appearance since, believe it or not, the Packers in 1997 and 1998. It only seems fitting the guys from Lambeau Field will be the ones to do it again.




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