Obviously, the Packers need to concentrate on winning the NFC North division and getting a high playoff seed before they look towards the road to Super Bowl XLII. On the other hand, head coach Mike McCarthy preaches the road to the Super Bowl starts Day 1 or at least he implies it by having an empty plaque next to all the other championship team photos.
To have the season they had in 2011 mixed with their Super Bowl championship season of 2010 the Packers will need the entire team to play well. However, the following ten players will need to succeed in order for Green Bay to play for the Lombardi Trophy on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans.
1. Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is coming off the best season of his career throwing for 4,643 yards, 45 touchdowns and six interceptions which gave him an NFL record 122.5 passer rating. He capped off his great performance with a MVP Award but something tells me he would have traded that in for another Lombardi Trophy. It is no secret the only way Green Bay reaches the Super Bowl is if Rodgers excels his level of play for the fourth straight season.
2. Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews will have to be disruptive in the backfield on 85% of Green Bay’s defensive downs this season if the Packers want to succeed. It is quite obvious the only reason Green Bay did not reach the Super Bowl was because of their inability to get to the quarterback. With Matthews being triple-teamed on almost every down and no other pass rusher stepping up the Packers were dead in the water. Matthews will have to be around 13.5 sacks if the defense wants to be worthy of a championship.
3. Charles Woodson
With Nick Collins not playing in the secondary Charles Woodson will have to step his game up even more than in previous years, if that is even possible. He has always been the leader of the team but his play on the field will have to speak volumes in order to energize a demoralized defense. Woodson will have to lineup at several different positions similar to the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He wants another ring before his time in the NFL is up so expect to see a dominate performance from the legend this season.
4. Jordy Nelson
Jordy Nelson had the best season of his career in 2011 and that is after the best performance by a wide receiver in the Super Bowl in Packers franchise history. His stock is rising and it will have to continue to do that if Green Bay’s offense wants to be where it was last year. Nelson has become Rodgers go-to-guy as well as his security blanket. Expect big things once again from the fifth year receiver.
5. Nick Perry
Nick Perry may only be a rookie but there are certainly high expectations for him, which is what happens when you are a first-round pick on a championship-caliber team. Perry will be expected to take the pressure off of Matthews and cause problems for the offense on a consistent basis. Most people think his purpose will be to command double-teams, but that is not the case. It will be nice for him to attract more blockers to take pressure off the rest of the defense but he also needs to be productive on the stat sheet.
6. B.J. Raji
B.J. Raji took a step back in 2011 in his performance, even though he was a Pro Bowler. This was not his fault but rather the lack of production from the rest of the defensive line. When other players are being handled one-on-one consistently then the playmakers (Matthews, Raji) get double- and triple-teamed on almost every down. Hopefully, some of the new players will be able to add something to the mix and improve the play of the defensive line.
7. Tramon Williams
Tramon Williams played almost all of last season with a severe shoulder injury. At the time he did not make it seem like a big deal, but once the season concluded he confessed it really hindered his ability to make plays. Hopefully, a healthy Williams will be able to give a performance day in and day out similar to that of the 2010 postseason. There is no doubt he will play a big part whether the secondary succeeds or fails, which as we found out last year has a big impact on whether the team succeeds or fails.
8. Greg Jennings
Nelson may be Rodgers go-to-guy but Greg Jennings is the home-run hitter. He is one of the biggest deep threats in the NFL and will have to continue to do that as Rodgers thoroughly enjoys getting passing yards in big chunks. The deep threat is a huge part of the Packers offense as it spreads the field and creates all sorts of problems for the defense.
9. Morgan Burnett
Morgan Burnett will have big shoes to fill without Collins playing in the secondary. Burnett did a decent job last season but will have to improve his skills and raise his level of play in order for the Packers to succeed this season. If Burnett is not able to get the job done then Green Bay will be in trouble as the secondary will struggle to hold up, especially if the pass rush is non-existent once again.
10. Jerel Worthy
Jerel Worthy is another top draft pick that will need to have an immediate impact on the defense in order for the Packers to be successful. It is vital Worthy cause disruption along the line so Raji and Matthews have space to do what they do best. With Anthony Hargrove and Mike Neal missing time with suspensions, Worthy is no longer just another member of the rotation but a heavy favorite to start.