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NFL Sneak Peak – The Green Bay Packers

NFL Football Futures Betting – 2009 NFL PreSeason Analysis – Packers Football Gambling

You could excuse the Packers if they were a bit distracted last season, as fans throughout the country speculated as to whether Aaron Rodgers was going to self-destruct in taking the quarterback reins from Brett Favre.

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In the end, even though Favre got the vote for the Pro Bowl, it was Rodgers who looked like the star and Favre who looked like the clown. However, there were holes elsewhere that were too big to fill, and the Packers dropped seven of their last nine games to finish up at 6-10 (7-8-1 ATS). They were a hard luck team as well, losing seven games by four points or less.

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Odds To Win NFC North

Minnesota Vikings +160
Chicago Bears +180
Detroit Lions +1400

To Win Super Bowl: +2800
To Win NFC title: +1300
To Reach Conference title game: +700
Under 9 wins -135
Over 9 wins +105

Undoubtedly the story that consumed the Packers, and their fans, last season was the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers at the quarterback position. Rodgers, the #1 draft choice who waited for three years to get a chance, came through with flying colors. He completed 64% of his passes for 4038 yards and 28 touchdowns. Now he is the acknowledged and established leader of the offense, and Favre has become a punch line for many.

One of the keys to Rodgers’ success is a receiving corps that is both sure-handed and very capable of gaining big chunks of yardage after the catch. Greg Jennings, his main target, has cemented his status as one of the best in the league, with 80 catches last year for 1292 yards. He had eight receptions that went for 40 yards or more, most in the NFL. Donald Driver is a perennial 1000-yard receiver; he had 1012 yards last season and is enough of a threat that defenses will pay the price if they overplay Jennings.

I would expect Jordy Nelson, a heady possession receiver, will play a bigger role in the offense in his second season. Donald Lee (39 catches) mans the tight end spot, and he’ll be pushed by Jermichael Finely, the second-year player out of Texas.

Ryan Grant came out of nowhere to be the every-down back Green Bay was looking for in 2007, and he was a vital cog in the run to the NFC title game. Last season he got off to a slow start but came on in the second half to finish with 1203 yards. He’ll be even more important this season. Brandon Jackson backs him up, and there is little question that he’ll catch a lot of passes out of the backfield.

The offensive line is not a major strength, and there is little doubt that head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen will be doing some shuffling, looking for a combination that will work. Chad Clifton, the left tackle, seems the most stable member of that line, but he is always a risk because of his knee problems.

The defense is undergoing a period of transition. Well-traveled Dom Capers, who has had head coaching stints at Carolina and Houston, is the new defensive coordinator, and he is switching the alignment to a 3-4 scheme, meaning some people will be playing out of position.

The Packers did not rush the passer well last season (only 27 sacks) and the guy who was able to put the most pressure on the quarterback – Aaron Kampman – is now being moved from defensive end to outside linebacker. Ryan Pickett is the incumbent nose tackle, but the team also spent a first-round draft choice on B.J. Raji of Boston College, which means one of the two will be moved out to defensive end, most likely Pickett. Cullen Jenkins is on the other side, and he is coming off ankle surgery. Johnny Jolly, who would have at least provided depth at the defensive end spot, is undergoing trial on drug possession charges and may not be available at all.

If Kampmann, a Pro Bowl-caliber player, can adapt to his new spot, the linebackers ought to be fine. Nick Barnett is still steady, and he will be one of the inside linebackers, along with AJ Hawk. The Packers also made another big move on draft day, trading into the first round to take Clay Matthews, the outside linebacker out of USC. The idea, as far as Capers is concerned, is to put a stalwart in the middle to occupy blockers, and get some speed to rush the passer and make quarterbacks make decisions more hastily.

The secondary returned six interceptions for touchdowns last season, and is seen by many as the true strength of this defense. Admittedly, there are some questions of age. Charles Woodson, the former Heisman Trophy winner, is 33, and Al Harris, who handles the other corner position, is 35. However, they are still considered well above average. Free safety Nick Collins is a ballhawk; he returned three interceptions for touchdowns last season.

Going to a new defensive scheme is tough, and instability on the offensive line will cost this team. The Packers have a chance to win the division, as do the Vikings and Bears, but +200 (the odds at BetUS) are no bargain. This will be an entertaining team, but rising above .500 will not be the easiest thing to do. Thus, it’s the “under” nine-win prop, at -135 in the BetUS NFL football futures odds.

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