Here at last. We’ve waited months since receiving a beating at the hands of the Falcons in January, and the time is now. With the start of the 2017 regular season less than a week away, excitement is in the air, more so even than the cool fall breezes that have rolled in periodically across Green Bay the past few days. Walking in and around Lambeau, the optimism is palpable. Hopes, and expectations, are as high as ever. Standing in the atrium of Lambeau the day after the final preseason game, I looked to another fan and asked, “What do you think, is this our year?” He paused for a moment, looked at me with a smirk and said, “Every year.” It’s a simple statement that encapsulates the beauty of sports fandom. Right now, it is our year. This year, like every year, we have as good a chance as anybody, right? It’s easy to think, “Why not us?” Well, I’m here to tell you why not. Football isn’t about who can sail the fastest on a smooth sea, it’s about who can withstand the inevitable waves of adversity and come out on the other side in one piece. While the Packers have reason to hope, there are reasons to be wary. Let’s take a look at what those reasons are.

Offensive Depth
For as good as the Green Bay offense is, they’re about as top heavy a unit as there is in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers is the offense. He is the team. After him, the team at least has quality players at running back, tight end, line, and wide receiver. At most of those positions the depth is at least satisfactory, but the offensive line is another story. As the preseason has shown, after the starting five offensive lineman there is a significant dropoff. Expecting all five starters to start every game is like expecting the sun to rise in the west. For as good as Aaron is, he isn’t indestructible, and without a line to keep him upright and healthy we could be in for a long, or should I say short, season.

Photo via David Phillip / Associated Press

Pass Rush
There is no hole on the Packers roster more glaring than outside linebacker. The additions of Ahmad Brooks and Chris Odom in the past week emphasize the weakness at the position. Behind Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, both of whom have long injury histories and dealt with injuries as recently as last week, there is little to be excited about. Rookie Vince Biegel is in danger of starting the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning he’ll miss at least six games. The secondary is much improved this year, but even the best secondaries in the league get burned when quarterbacks are given all the time in the world to get a pass off. A struggling pass rush could cripple the defense as much as the secondary did a year ago.


Special Teams
A struggling special teams is becoming a hallmark of the Packers. They have their third punter in as many years and again tried out a new long snapper before inevitably signing Brett Goode. Trevor Davis has shown promise in the return game, but coverage is ultimately the main area of concern. It’s a familiar sight for Packer fans, seeing a long return from an opposing team at a critical time in the game. Assuming the fresh back of rookies working special teams are an improvement on years past, this shouldn’t be an issue. With the history of struggles, it’s something to keep an eye on.

Photo via Mike Roemer / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Coaching
The Packers coaching is some of the best in the NFL. That being said, former players, such as Greg Jennings, have critiqued Mike McCarthy for a lack of killer instinct. It’s typical for the Packers to get up by two or three scores and then seemingly sit back and try to run out the clock, rather than keeping their foot on the gas and extend the lead. Like clockwork, the Packers, up 17, will run on first and second down for a combined two yards, then force a throw on third that everyone in the stadium can predict. Mike, we’re begging you, just keep doing what got you there. There’s no penalty for winning by too much, hell, there’s probably a bonus in it for you. Let Aaron and the offense do what they do for 60 minutes, not just 45.

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I'm a Senior at St. Norbert College, currently studying political science. Born and raised just outside of Green Bay, WI, I'm a lifelong Packers, Bucks, Badgers, and Brewers fan. You can follow me on Twitter @VanAsten77

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