In only half of his seasons as Packers head coach has Mike McCarthy boasted a record better than .500 at the halfway point of the regular season. With the exception of last season and 2007, the McCarthy-led Packers have made a habit of starting slow and finishing strong, tallying five postseason wins in the process. With the bad taste of a home playoff loss in their mouths, how might the Packers open this season?
The Packers have not looked especially strong in the preseason, with question marks at a number of positions. An overall challenging first half of the season – which includes the 49ers, Bears, Saints and Texans – has some fans concerned. Green Bay must also beware of teams like Indianapolis, Seattle and St. Louis. Rookie QBs Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson have the skill sets to pull out an upset the same way Matt Ryan and the Falcons did in 2008.
One factor that should play a large role in first half success is the stability of the offensive line. The Packers will face strong defensive fronts like those of the 49ers and Bears, which will require strong play out of players like Marshall Newhouse and Jeff Saturday. If the offensive line flounders, the result could be a start similar to that of 2009.
Additionally, the Packers cannot expect to win every shootout as they did last season. The drafting of USC defensive end Nick Perry brings high expectations of an improved pass rush. This addition, plus that of defensive lineman Jerel Worthy, is crucial with the Green Bay secondary in such a wobbly state. With the spotlight on the defense, Dom Capers has increased pressure to perform this season.
Could the Jacksonville game be the only guaranteed win in the first half of the season? Who cares? The reality is that, even though they tend to play to their opponents, the Packers are still as power-packed as last season. As we have learned from the past two Super Bowl champions, it’s not how you start but how you finish. Nonetheless, it would be nice to see the Packers start as hot as last season.