Mid-2010 you wouldn't have felt this way about the Packers. That feeling you have that they're probably one of the best teams in the NFL and that nobody can stop their offense. Or maybe you did feel that way? How am I to know your feelings? Do you think that I'm talking specifically to you right now, because that would be weird. Don't forget to buy bagels, Todd.
The Packers were 8-6 in 2010 after a 31-27 loss to the Patriots. The week before they had lost 7-3 to the Lions and two weeks before that they lost 20-17 to the Falcons. Teams seem to go this way, sometimes. They hit a rough patch in the middle of their season and then get hot as they enter to the playoffs, seemingly unstoppable. In week 15 they beat the Giants 45-17 and put up a season-high 515 yards of offense, with Aaron Rodgers throwing for 404 yards, 4 TD and 0 INT.
Green Bay wouldn't lose another game until December 18, 2011, one day short of a year. That's why we now see the Packers as the Juggernaut (of X-Men fame) of the NFL.
Then of course, they went 15-1 and then did what a lot of great teams seem to do: Came apart in the playoffs. Their incredible run started with a win over the Giants and then ended over a year later with a 37-20 loss to the Giants. They struggled in 2010 and won the Super Bowl and they never struggled in 2011 until they lost to the Giants. The Giants of course struggled in 2011 before winning the Super Bowl. Here is the key to winning a Super Bowl: Be "just okay" until the very end of the season.
The Packers offense that scored 35 points per game in 2011 will do much of the same in 2012, with a few tweaks. There are going to be some more times when guys gingerly tip their toe across the goal line for an elegant touchdown. Let's try to break it down so that you can be "just okay" in your fantasy football league until you dominate Becky in Accounting for the title.
2011 Record: 15-1
Drafted Skill Players: B.J. Coleman, QB (7th Round)
Some will say that Rodgers is the best quarterback (or player) in the NFL, but how can that be true if the 49ers drafted Alex Smith over him? Frankly, your fate is decided on draft day and we all know that. He'll never be as "top picky" as Smith. In fact, Rodgers wasn't even good enough to get a D-1 scholarship out of high school and started his career at Butte Community College, so it's likely that he's not even in the NFL. Clearly, we are making this guy up.
We are making up a guy that threw for 4,643 yards, 45 TD, 6 INT and 9.25 yards per attempt last season. That can't be true. In his two "supposed" years at Cal, Rodgers threw for for only 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, so it's impossible that he could best that in fewer games at the top level of the sport. Let's stop pretending this guy is real.
It's not real that over his last 27 games, including playoffs, Rodgers has thrown for 72 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Not possible. Time to get real, Packers fans. You're living in the Matrix.
The Realest Talk: My advice to anyone who is about to rate Rodgers as the top player in fantasy right now, even after maybe the greatest season by a QB ever is to be careful what you wish for. Tom Brady threw 50 touchdowns in 2007 and 0 touchdowns in 2008. The year after Peyton Manning threw 49 touchdowns, he threw 28 touchdowns. Daunte Culpepper threw for 39 touchdowns in 2004 and 20 touchdowns over the rest of his career and he was 27 at the time.
You could look at Drew Brees now and say that here's a guy coming off of 46 touchdowns and 5,476 yards and has proven himself and so he'll do it again, but it's not like that's commonplace. Both Brees and Rodgers are proven. Both are great quarterbacks. Both should have great seasons. But expectations should be set at career-norms, not career-peaks.
2012 Projection: 68% completions, 4,700 yards, 35 TD, 10 INT
BJ Coleman and Graham Harrell
The loss of Flynn isn't insignificant. I'd be a little scared, even if the Packers have a lot of great weapons for receiving targets.
I rarely do this in my offensive preview posts but I'm going to lump the Packers running backs together for several reasons:
- There's no clear cut favorite to get the majority of carries.
- There are injuries everywhere in the backfield right now.
- The Packers were 26th in rushing attempts in 2011 and I wouldn't be surprised if they went down further. They were also 26th in yards per carry.
- Saving time. See how much I wrote about Rodgers? Haven't even gotten to the receivers yet!
I would probably draft some third-string, high-upside rookie on another team before I'd draft a Packers running back. Grant and Starks split carries last year and each ended up with a little over 550 yards while combining for three touchdowns. I'm not interested in this situation... at all.
2012 Projection: That someone else can waste a roster spot on a Packers running back.
Yes, Rodgers is good. Rodgers is great. Rodgers is my pal. (You're chanting, Ray!)
But ever notice that Green Bay also went to work on getting talented receivers in the draft? Nelson was a late bloomer but he bloomed like a Bloomin' Onion (TM) last year. I classify good for fantasy as: 100 yards or a TD. Great as: 100 yards + a TD OR 2 TD.
Last year Nelson had four games that were 'Good' and six games that were 'Great' In his season finale, playing with Matt Flynn, he had 162 yards and 3 TD which I classify as "WHAT THE HELL? MY FANTASY PLAYOFFS ENDED LAST WEEK!"
Nelson only had five really underwhelming games last year and in the last game that I haven't classified as anything, he had 94 yards. He was pretty damn consistently good. Maybe that's his ceiling, I doubt he catches 15 TDs, but he might!
2012 Projection: 70 catches, 1,200 yards, 12 TD
Outside of maybe his concussion, there's nothing you could really do to convince me that Nelson is a better buy this year than Jennings. He's been doing it longer, proven himself, and was also consistently productive in 2011, even if not quite at the same level. Jennings caught a touchdown pass in nine different games. He only had two "great" games but he played in just 13 games and was "Good" in ten of them. He's pretty consistently going to get you 12-18 points and more in a PPR league as he caught 67 balls in 13 games.
My only worry is the health, a little bit.
2012 Projection: 70 catches, 1,200 yards, 12 TD (Yeah, its the same, what of it?! These are projections, not predictions! Who do I look like, John McPredictor? I'm not good with that name game.)
You'd be pretty frustrated if you started James Jones every week. He had seven touchdowns last season and a few decent overall games, but he was also worthless about nine times. In the greatest offense, he was simply okay. Why would I expect more this year?
2012 Projection: 40 catches, 690 yards, 4 TD
I listed Cobb as a deep sleeper (Inception reference?) last season and he actually had a good opening week but finished with just 375 yards receiving. He did have a 108 yard kick return and had value if you count return yards. I'm not sure that year two will be his breakout year, but he's got talent.
2012 Projection: 400 yards receiving and some of those return yards.
2012 Projection: Someone in your league will draft him because he was so money in 2002 when he got him on the waiver wire.
Expectations for Finley were really high entering last season after he had gone from 52 yards per game in 2009 to 60.2 yards per game in 2010, but only in five games. Expectations were that Finley was about to be a 1,000 yard receiving tight end, but that didn't exactly happened.
Health wasn't an issue as he played in 16 games, but he finished with "only" 55 catches for 767 yards. On the bright side, he had 8 touchdowns but overall he disappointed, especially to start the year. Finley had 3 TD in week three but no touchdowns in any other games until week 7 ( and he had only 13 yards in that game).
I bought into the Finley hype and was not cool with it, man. Maybe this isn't just a tight end offense. Or maybe it is!
2012 Projection: 60 catches, 800 yards, 6 TD
A pretty funny follow on Twitter, except now I don't recall him tweeting since like training camp began. Who does he think he is? Better than Twitter? Stop focusing so much on work. @TCrabtree83 I think but that's actually a shot in the dim.
Follow Me On Twitter. It'll suck at first but then I'll bring it home by the end for the 'ship.