Clay Matthews led the Packers defense in ’09 with 10 sacks.
This is definitely not your father’s NFC North.
What used to be the NFL Football 's “Black and Blue” division and the home of smash-mouth football (think Butkus and Nitschke) has been replaced with weekly aerial displays courtesy of Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre. The run is so yesterday. The pass is where it’s at in the NFC North.
Rodgers is the most underrated QB in the NFL but he’s used to getting the shaft by now. He was the guy sitting in green room on draft day 2005, watching team after team pass on him (pardon the pun). He slipped all the way to the Green Bay Packers at No. 24.
The problem was the Packers had a pretty good quarterback in Favre so that mean more waiting for Rodgers who finally got his shot in 2008 after Favre’s messy divorce from the Packers.
In a classic case of patience being a virtue (and rewarded), Rodgers turned out to be the gracious winner.
Since taking over as the Packers QB, Rodgers has quietly had back-to-back 4,000 yard passing seasons and thrown 58 touchdowns to 20 interceptions. He did this while gracefully excusing himself from the circus that surrounded Favre’s many retirements and one nasty exit from Green Bay. Rodgers has remained classy, confident and competent.
The Packers were 11-5 in 2009, including an NFL best 11-4-1 NFL football against the spread, and the success was equal part Rodgers and the Green Bay defense. Rodgers threw for 4,434 yards, 30 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He was fourth in the league in TD’s, fourth in passer rating (103.2) and fourth in passing yards.
As a result, Green Bay enjoyed one of its best statistical seasons ever, finishing 2009 with the fifth-rated NFL football offense in the league. Rodgers' favorite targets are Greg Jennings and Donald Driver who both enjoyed stellar seasons. Jennings made 68 grabs for 1,113 and four touchdowns while Driver had 70 catches for 1,061 yards and six touchdowns. The two have caught 24 of Rodgers' 58 touchdown passes over the past two years.
Ryan Grant had his best year as a Packer with 1,253 yards rushing and led the team in touchdowns with 11. Just about everything went right for the Packers offense in 2009. From Rodgers to the receivers to the running game, there were smiles all around and Lambeau Leaps aplenty.
The Packers' defense is much better than the team that allowed 51 points against the Cardinals in the NFC Wild Card game. During the regular season Green Bay ranked in the top 10 in every major defensive category. The Packers were first against the run, fifth against the pass, second in total yards allowed per game and seventh in scoring (18.6).
Charles Woodson took a big swig from the fountain of youth and was named the NFL defensive player of the year. He and free safety Nick Collins had a combined 15 interceptions between them.
Bet on it
The Packers finished the season on a 7-1-1 ATS mark with the only spread loss coming in the playoff setback to the Cardinals. Green Bay was 7-3 ATS against NFC competition, and 4-2 versus the number against NFC North opponents. The only losses came against Minnesota.
Bet on it again
NFL betting odds list the Packers 14/1 to win the Super Bowl, 7/1 to capture the NFC and the favorite to take the NFC North crown (plus 130).
A team from the NFC North has made it to the NFC Championship game three out of the past four seasons. Something tells me that trend will play out again, but maybe with a Green Bay flavor to it this time.