Great stuff from Cliff Christl over at the Green Bay Press Gazette.
As always, I don't agree with everything Cliff has to say, but I completely agree with the thrust of the column - that the only season-ending injury that makes any difference when it comes to the Packers chances of winning a title in 2010 is the loss of Jermichael Finley.
That’s why they should roll into the playoffs, whether they get healthier or not. Other than Finley, they’re not missing anybody they need.
The Packers have replaced one pedestrian running back with another; a solid inside linebacker with one who has improved enough in a month’s time to be almost as good; some big slugs upfront defensively with some different big slugs now that they’ve added Howard Green. And at right tackle and strong safety, the Packers have found more physical and probably better players.
One quick footnote: Losing rookie defensive tackle Mike Neal was a blow. Typically, ascending young players are the toughest to replace.
I agree with every word there. And the Neal point is a salient one which not many folks in the national media would acknowledge or even be knowledgeable about.
The one quibble I have is with Christl saying the following:
That’s why Finley’s injury alone could derail the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes. His absence could spell the difference in a tight playoff game.
I see what he's saying - imagine the game against the Cardinals without Finley. The guy basically took over the game and his presence opened up everything else. But its worth remembering that the Packers defense was basically non-existent in that game as well and a far cry from what they are currently putting on the field.
I'm on record from before the season saying that the Packers will make the NFC Championship game but are ultimatley still a year away. I've seen very little to dissuade me from that opinion. And just imagine this team getting guys like Finley and Neal back, plus another year of experience for guys like Shields and Bulaga. 2011 shapes up to be the true Year of the Takeover, if you ask me.
The thing that 2010 has going for it, however, is a complete lack of elite teams, especially in the NFC. Every week you think you finally have a handle on who the top two or three teams are - they get beat, ushering in two or three new teams as this weeks "NFC's Best". More than any other year I can remember, this season is the ultimate "Just get into the playoffs - and then anything can happen."
A lot to chew on here. As usual, Christl delivers the goods.
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