Guess what guys? We get to watch the Packers play football tomorrow! I'm excited and yet very concerned about this season. I just don't see any easy wins on the schedule this year. The team starts with a very tough opponent in the San Francisco 49ers. The same team that knows our fearless Packers out of the playoffs last year and went on to lose the Super Bowl. And while I think the Packers are good enough to win, I just don't see it. There are still so many unknowns with this Packers team. Will the run game really step up this year? Will the D improve over last year? Will they be able to contain the read option so many teams are using so successfully? Will Mason Crosby return to form? Will freshly grilled brats and cheese curds magically appear on my doorstep tomorrow?
I've heard nothing but good things about Eddie Lacy and the Packers running game this year. It's here to stay, they say. Eddie Lacy is the real deal. Not being in Green Bay, I haven't had the chance to see him practice in person. That coupled with the fact that the first team offense didn't play much in preseason means I'm just not sold on the running game yet. We'll see if it comes to fruition like we've been led to believe it will.
The defense took a hit when Casey Heyward was ruled out. Reports are saying he'll miss at least the first month of the season. Micah Hyde has definitely shown flashes in the preseason but the one thing that was iffy was his man coverage. I guess we'll find out sooner than later how much of a learning curve he'll have. I'm excited about a couple of things on the defensive side of the ball though. I can't wait to see what kind of effect Johnny Jolly will have in the rotation at DE. I just hope the comeback continues to build steam. I'm also very interested to see what happens with the guys rotating at OLB opposite Clay Matthews. Mike Neal looks svelte and ready to rush the QB. Nick Perry is also back and playing after missing most of last year. Will the presence of Matthews on the opposite side lead to more sacks for these two? Will they lead to less double teams on Matthews? I know this, pass rush is key to success in the NFL.
Sticking to the defense, how will they stop the read option? The coaches spent time with the coaches at Texas A&M to learn how they deal with it in the college game. They have tape of a certain game in the playoffs last year. I'm sure the players still have nightmares of Colin Kaepernicking all over them on the way to the NFC Championship game. But are those things enough? And if they are, will the D be able to cover the passing that will come once they stop the running out of the read option?
Mason Crosby has been much maligned. He admittedly had a horrible year last year. The team responded by bringing in two different kickers to compete with him during the offseason. From appearances it boiled down to 2 days of kicking competitions during practice. The result? Mason Crosby is your 2013 Packers placekicker, at least for now. He went 14 for 14 on the second day of that competition, including hitting from 64 and 65 yards out. Most people are assuming (hoping really) that the team will have a shorter leash on Crosby this year and not allow things to deteriorate like they did last year. I'm included in that group. Here's to hoping there are some kickers in Ted Thompson's speed dial.
Before we get to my final question, let me give you my game prediction. I think the Packers will keep it close but eventually the 49ers will win out 35-31 but I sure hope the Packers prove me wrong. Now, who's bringing me brats and cheese curds?