It's that time of year again when prognosticators and pundits around this here United States (and sometimes beyond) try to give us their vision of how the future plays out in the National Football League for the upcoming season. Longtime readers of this site will know that every year around this time I like to throw my hat into the ring and give you, dear reader, my own Heart and Head predictions for the upcoming Green Bay Packers season.
So here goes.
Heart: 14-2 Super Bowl Champs
Head: 11-5, Lose in the NFC Championship Game To the Saints In New Orleans.
That's right - I think the Saints get home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and when that happens, well, it's Say Goodnight, Gracie for the rest of the NFC.
Starting with three out of four on the road will be a big, big test for a Packers offense that has suddenly become young at the offensive skill positions (not to mention at center). There will undoubtedly be a few hiccups along the way in the month of September as a result.
With that said, I expect the defense to be improved, if not by leaps and bounds, then by increments.
Mike Daniels is a big reason for hope up front, as are the bookends, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. And if the edges were the most important, this particular set of defensive personnel would be well situated to dominate offenses in 2014.
However, up the middle is traditionally where the best NFL defenses have been strongest, and the middle of this Packers D sets up to be the weak spot for the Green and Gold.
B.J. Raji's injury left the team perilously thin in the middle of the defensive line, to go along with an already-weak inside linebacker corps. Yes, Hawk and Jones and/or Lattimore and/or Barrington will be serviceable - but not much more than that. And certainly not dynamic.
And speaking of a lack of dynamic play makers, the safety position, while certainly improved from 2013, still doesn't seem to have a player who can change a game the way LeRoy Butler or Nick Collins could.
Micah Hyde is a fine football player, a damn good one actually, and McCarthy's obvious affection for the 2nd year player out of Iowa is well-deserved. But he's not a difference maker, neither at safety nor at corner.
Last April's NFL Draft saw the Packers select Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round, and lo did Packers fans rejoice. After the clown-car that was the safety position in 2013, Clinton-Dix was here to restore honor and integrity to the back end of Dom Capers' crazy blitzes.
Then we got to spring and summer workouts, and lo and behold, Clinton-Dix was running with the second team. And, on the doorstep of the season, it doesn't look like he's passed the converted cornerback on the depth chart.
All of this, without mentioning the "veteran" of the group, Morgan Burnett. Lots of pixels have been used and ink spilled in article and blog posts alike telling me how a new and improved running mate, whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix, will fix much of what ailed Burnett last year.
I'm sorry. I just don't buy it.
Now, this has been a lot of negative nay-saying up to this point. I bet many of you with itchy trigger fingers are already in the comments telling me off.
For those of you still reading - first, thank you.
Secondly, let me make clear that I think this Packers team is incredibly talented. When you put Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels, Julius Peppers, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward on the same roster, well, I certainly think that's one of the better groups of talent in the league.
The Packers will undoubtedly score a bunch of points on offense. The defense will be better. (And it doesn't need to be fantastic - just respectable.)
However, the rest of the NFL isn't static either.
It's funny, because all offseason the media has asked the question "Have the Packers done enough to close the gap with the Seahawks and 49ers?" while ignoring what will most likely be the best team in the conference down in New Orleans.
But that's my head talking.
My heart says the Packers will surprise almost everyone, march to an incredible 14-2 record, tear through the playoffs and hoist the Lombardi down in Arizona. If they can just stay relativley healthy, they damn sure have the talent (and the quarterback) to do it.
And when in doubt, listen to your heart.
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