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January

Packers Beer Mug Perspective: Is this a Super Bowl team?

Can the Packers win Super Bowl XLVII?

Can the Packers win Super Bowl XLVII?

The 2012 season has been a roller-coaster for the Green Bay Packers.

From the early-season “Fail mary” in Seattle to the epic collapse in Indianapolis, the Packers have battled back to put themselves in contention for a second Super Bowl in three years. But is this team really Super Bowl-caliber?

The last time the Packers won the Super Bowl, they were decimated by injuries but Aaron Rodgers carried the team on his back all the way to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas. It was a season to remember, and there are certainly some similarities between the 2010 Packers and this 2012 team.

In the Packers’ first preseason game, starting middle linebacker Desmond Bishop was lost for the season. After Clay Matthews, Bishop may be the Packers’ best defensive player. Second-year player D.J. Smith replaced Bishop in the starting lineup, but he suffered a season-ending injury in week six at Houston.

In total, the 2012 Packers have eight players on injured reserve, including this year’s first-round pick Nick Perry, starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga and starting running back Cedric Benson. Needless to say, the injury bug bit the Packers hard this season.

But through it all, the Packers won the division and played their way to the No. 3 seed in the NFC.

And now, this team is the healthiest its been since the regular season kicked off. Charles Woodson will return to the field this week after suffering a broken collarbone Oct. 21 in St. Louis. Randall Cobb will be back in the lineup as well, giving the Packers their full corps of wide receivers since week four.

Vegas has the Packers at 8/1 odds to win the Super Bowl. They have the third-best odds in the NFC, behind the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons. The Denver Broncos and New England Patriots currently have the best odds to win the Super Bowl.

Is this Packers team capable of winning Super Bowl XLVII?

In the format of the Packers Beer Mug Perspective, let’s look at the issue from both angles, then determine whether our mug is really “half full” or “half empty.”

THE MUG IS HALF FULL

While this team isn’t at full strength by any means, the team that takes the field Saturday night will be arguably the most talented 46-man roster the Packers have put on the field all season.

At wide receiver, the Packers will finally have their four five core guys on the field.

Greg Jennings is coming off his best game of the 2012 season at Minnesota. He’s back.

Jordy Nelson is dealing with a knee injury but insists there’s “no doubt” he’ll play Saturday. And that makes a difference.

James Jones has enjoyed his best season as a professional in 2012. He led the NFL this season with 14 touchdown catches.

Randall Cobb emerged as the Packers’ go-to receiver when Nelson and Jennings were dealing with injuries. Cobb didn’t play last week, but he’s ready to go for this weekend.

Jermichael Finley has been playing his best football of the year over the past several games. And when No. 88 is playing well, the Packers are nearly impossible to stop.

With Finley, Cobb, Jennings, Jones and Nelson, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has the luxury of identifying the biggest mismatch and pushing the ball down the field. Cobb is versatile enough to play in the backfield, so it will be interesting to see if the Packers go that route in the no-huddle with Jones and Nelson on the perimeter, and Jennings and Finley working the middle of the field.

Cobb hasn’t carried the ball since Dec. 2 against the Vikings, but with the receiving corps back in tact, he could get a couple touches out of the backfield this weekend.

And while the running game still isn’t among the best in football, second-year running back DuJuan Harris has fresh legs and has come on strong late in the season. Alex Green and Ryan Grant give the Packers some depth at the position, but Harris has been the team’s most effective back over the past four games, carrying the ball 34 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

But still, Aaron Rodgers is the engine that makes the Packers go. Tom Brady is great, Peyton Manning is sensational, but Rodgers is the best quarterback in football. He can do things that neither Brady nor Manning can do. Sorry, sister of Greg Jennings, but Rodgers is the best of the best.

On the defensive side of the ball, Charles Woodson’s return will undoubtedly improve the defense. The Packers played the run relatively well last week against the Minnesota Vikings. Adrian Peterson ran for 199 yards, but it wasn’t because the Packers neglected the run defensively. On several occasions, Peterson’s progress was stopped in the backfield, but the Packers simply failed to tackle him.

Pro Football Focus charged four Packers defensive backs with missed tackles in last Sunday’s game. Morgan Burnett missed two tackles, with Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian each missing one. Woodson isn’t the same player he was when he won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2009, but he’s a violent tackler capable of doing the little things against Peterson.

The Packers will need a full team effort to prevent Peterson from taking over Saturday’s game, but getting Woodson back certainly figures to be an improvement for the defense.

It’s a star-driven league, and the Packers have two of the NFL’s best players in Rodgers and Clay Matthews. Today’s league is stacked with talent, but it’s the “star players” that separate good teams from the rest. With Rodgers and Matthews in green and gold, the Packers have a chance to make a postseason run all the way to New Orleans regardless of who or where they play.

THE MUG IS HALF EMPTY

With a first-round bye on the line last week, a motivated Packers team lost to the Minnesota Vikings. So why on earth would they be able to beat the Vikings this weekend at Lambeau Field?

Sure, the Packers are 13-4 in the playoffs at Lambeau, but they’ve lost four of their last six games. And if the cold weather favors anyone, it’s surely the run-heavy Vikings, right? Minnesota has yet to win a game outdoors all season, but the Packers are built to play on fast track with their speedy group of wide receivers. The Vikings will hand Peterson the ball until he’s blue in the face.

If the Vikings rush out to an early lead on Saturday, the Packers could be in a world of hurt for the second-straight week. Minnesota is built to play with a lead, not play catch-up.

But even if the Packers scrape out an ugly win over the Vikings, they’d play at San Francisco next week in the divisional round. The 49ers already beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in the season opener, and they’d surely be favored at Candlestick in the playoffs.

Another lingering question is whether or not this Packers team has maxed out on their potential as a team. The Super Bowl is often won by the healthiest remaining team. The 2010 season was great for the Packers, but that was the exception. Typically, teams with so many injuries to key players aren’t anywhere near a football field come February.

This team is playing with a third-string middle linebacker in Brad Jones. They’re playing with a running back in DuJuan Harris who was selling cars in Florida earlier this year. Both guys have filled in admirably, but come on, is DuJuan Harris really going to be the starting running back on a Super Bowl team?

Not to mention, the Packers offensive line is among the leakiest in football. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked a league-high 51 times. Undrafted rookie Don Barclay is the starting right tackle, and the NFC field is loaded with talented pass rushers. If Barclay is lined up across from 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who had 19.5 sacks this season, Rodgers could be peeling himself off the ground all night.

This year has been a storybook season for the Packers. It’s been filled with ups-and-downs, and players surpassing expectations. It would be a great story if they overcame all these obstacles and won the Super Bowl. But let’s be honest, this team has been beaten and battered all season. The 2012 Packers are not a Super Bowl-caliber team.

GETTING THROUGH THE FOAM

At the beginning of the season, the Packers weren’t a Super Bowl-caliber team. They were a borderline playoff team, scraping out ugly wins and losing to less-talented teams. At 2-3 through five games, many in Packer Country were reaching for the “Panic” button.

But fast forward to the present, the Packers are the No. 3 seed in the NFC and carry an 11-5 record into the playoffs. And looking at the rest of the field in the NFC, the Packers appear capable of beating anyone.

As things currently stand, the two best teams in the NFC might come from the same division. Seattle is on a five-game winning streak and will travel to Washington to play the NFC East-champion Redskins in the wild card round.

The San Francisco 49ers have perhaps the most feared defense in football, and Colin Kaepernick has perhaps the most forgiving starting quarterback job in all of football. Kaepernick doesn’t have to do a lot. He just can’t “screw up.” And if he doesn’t, the 49ers can beat anyone.

The Packers, on the other hand, rely on their quarterback more than anyone in the NFC. But fortunately for Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers is capable of carrying the team all the way through the postseason. If Rodgers gets hot, then so will the Packers.

Green Bay, Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta all appear to have a shot at getting to New Orleans as the NFC representative in Super Bowl XLVII. That’s four out of the six playoff teams from the NFC. So it’s impossible to call the 2012 Packers a Super Bowl team, but it’s entirely possible that they could be.

Don’t give up on the Packers yet. Just as I wrote when the Packers were 2-3, this team is still alive as long as its still playing. After losing to the Colts, the Packers won their next five games and put themselves back in contention to win the NFC North.

And despite losing to the Vikings last week, the Packers are capable of winning their next four games and making a run all the way to Super Bowl XLVII. So stay tuned, Packers fans. It could be another postseason to remember.

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Follow @MJEversoll

Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s AllGBP.com. Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.

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9 Responses to “Packers Beer Mug Perspective: Is this a Super Bowl team?”

  1. Jeff says:

    Dont forget in 2010 Atlanta was the #1 seed just like they are now , asking Matt Ryan to win 2 playoff games after never winning one is too much , it will not happen. Things are setting up very well for the Packers , their next game would be at Frisco against a team that is not playing as well as they were earlier with an untested rookie quarterback. The way you beat Frisco is to get them in an uptempo game , the 49ers can not match the Packer team speed and the fact that the 49er defense never rotates their players it is starting to catch up to them.
    Plus the Packers are 4-1 against the 9ers in the playoffs and should be 5-0 if the refs did not take away Scott McGarrahan’s recovery of Jerry Rice’s fumble. I can remember back to 1977 and the Packers only loss in Frisco was Holmgern’s last game when the Packers were robbed. THe Falcon defense in the Packers last 3 trips to Atlanta have not been able to stop the Packers. This has all the looks of a Packer Super Bowl if they beat the Vikings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

    • HawgNSonsTV says:

      PACKERS have not lost 2 in a row all year and that trend will continue! Atlanta won against 2 play-off teams early. 1 of them was Washington with a rookie QB. They played one the easiest schedules this season. Vikes will be the toughest test but there are to many horses in the Packers stable! Packers WIN BIG!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. Barutan Seijin says:

    Even if at full strength, this year’s team isn’t as strong in the trenches as the 2010 team. I suppose anything could happen, but it doesn’t seem likely that this team would get past SF.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. Jeff says:

    This team will get past San Francisco ! The weather will be good and there is no beating this Packer team in the playoffs in good weather wnd domes , 9ers do not have the firepower to saty with us , there is no way 9ers beat us twice in one year especially with a non playoff tested quarterback. If the Packers play their game and do not lose the turnover battle by 3 or more, nobody is beating them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. PatMc says:

    Very Good Read. Interesting perspective from both sides.

    It’s game time. We fans need to watch and enjoy! GB will score 50 plus. can the vikes match it?

    GO Pack GO!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. mark says:

    I believe we needed the bye to get to the SB. The problem is we have been DOMINATED by the 49ers and Giants or teams with strong defensive and offensive lines. The defense is playing better but the offensive line is a huge question. I think we needed some rest and herculean performances out of both lines to make SB.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. Ron LC says:

    It’s all in the hands of the bi-polar D. If they can play aggressive D on a consistent basis there is no end to their potential. If they play soft, they risk a 3rd straight playoff loss at Lambeau. A record that wil go down in infamy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  7. Jeff says:

    We really needed the bye to win the Super Bowl 2 years ago , not.
    I hope everyone understands that teams with byes do not go far in the NFC playoffs in the last 5 years. The Giants are not in the playoffs and there is no way the 9ers are beating us 2 times in one year. There is not a team in these playoffs that beat the Packers if the Packers play their game.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Shavager says:

    By now Packers fans know that Vikings have been eliminated by the GREEN Goblins of Green Bay. Next up is the Niners-this will be a tough game for Packers. Niners defense is playing just as well or better than first game win against Packers and though GB defense is improved, it has not shown consistency to dominate all season. Keeping Kaepernick under control will be a bigger task than facing Alex Smith-it will require containment by D-line and LB’s to keep him in pocket. Limit Gore’s production on ground and Kaepernick’s scrambling runs will be big test for this team–they contained Peterson of Vikings, time to show they can play consecutive games with pressure, stops and coverage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0