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  1. #1
    Benet's Avatar
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    PFT Preseason Power Rankings: 31

    PFT PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS: NUMBER 31

    By Mike Florio

    On Saturday, we identified the team that enters the 2006 season from the lowest spot on the NFL's ladder -- the Buffalo Bills.

    But who's the team in most danger to assume the basement? We give you Number 31 . . . .

    The Green Bay Packers.

    Before a few thousand cheeseheads descend on PFT's world headquarters with pitchforks, torches, and those toothpicks with the plastic tail feathers that hold together the cubes of baby Swiss, hear us out. This is a ranking of where we view the team to be right now. By January, the Packers could be wearing the NFC North crown for the fourth time in the division's five-year existence. (Of course, that's only because the rest of the division is so damn dreadful.)

    The biggest part of the problem, in our view, is the continued presence of the man whom we've lovingly come to know as Lord Favre. The combination of new coach and new offensive system with an aging quarterback more stubborn than an overweight mule on a humid day in Duluth is a recipe for deeeee-zaster.

    That's why we're certain that G.M. Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy publicly paid homage to the future Hall of Famer but privately wished that he'd pack it in so that they then could find out what they have in Aaron Rodgers. Before either Thompson or McCarthy get, you know, fired.

    Instead, Favre is coming back for at least one more "go". Recently, there have been stories about how he's learning new terminology for the first time in 15 years.

    Yeah, this is gonna work. About as well as a grandpa who thinks "Bluetooth" is what happens after drinking too much berry Kool Aid.

    Making matters worse is that the team has otherwise made only modest upgrades on offense. Running backs Ahman Green and Najeh "Dookie" Davenport, neither of whom could muster any interest elsewhere in free agency, took one-year deals after suffering through injury-shortened seasons in 2005. Despite having more cap room than Abe Lincoln with a crew cut, the Packers made no effort to bring in someone like Edgerrin James to give the running game a spark.

    But they did find a way to outbid the Vikings for the services of 30-something fullback William Henderson, yet another guy who'll be learning a new offense from scratch after years in the West Coast attack first installed by Mike Holmgren in 1992.

    At receiver, a bad position got worse when Javon Walker finally forced his way out of town. The only holdovers of note are Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson. Late 2005 arrival Rod Gardner helps, but not much. The only newcomer of note is Marc Boerigter, who once looked to be a promising impact player in Kansas City. But if the wideout-hungry Chiefs let Boerigter walk, then that means his best days are boehind him.

    The offensive line is generally a mess, thanks to bad deals done by former G.M. Mike Sherman and lackluster efforts by current G.M. Ted Thompson to keep the guys who can play around. The Pack managed to keep Kevin Berry, but made no effort at all to lure big-names like LeCharles Bentley and Steve Hutchinson. Though Thompson justified his offseason tightfistedness by explaining that he's not going to spend on guys with name recognition just for the sake of spending on guys with name recognition, he needs to remember that the new CBA will push the cap floor to $95 million in 2007 -- so either the money gets spent on guys who have shown that they can play elsewhere, or it gets spent on guys who have yet to get it done in Green Bay.

    On the other side of the ball, the Packers initially avoided making a strong financial investment, getting safety Marquand Manuel (or is it Manuel Marquand?) for $2 million to sign. They also dropped $5 million up front for defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who showed his appreciation by skipping out on the team's voluntary offseason workouts.

    The Pack kept defensive end Aaron Kampman, who snared a surprising $12 million in guaranteed money.

    Then, after Lord Favre publicly lobbied for a Reggie White-style acquisition nearly a month after the big free agency money stopped flowing, the Pack made a run at linebacker LaVar Arrington. But assuming that the all-hype, low-pay deal he signed with the Giants was better than the offer the Packers made, the guys in Green Bay really didn't try to hard to get him.

    Instead, they took a crowbar to the safe for overrated cover man Charles Woodson, who showed his appreciation by skipping out on the team's voluntary offseason workouts.

    Meanwhile, cornerback Al Harris stayed away from voluntary offseason drills as well because he doesn't like the contract to which he signed his name a couple of years ago.

    The draft brought in 12 new players, with No. 5 overall selection linebacker A.J. Hawk the most likely to make an impact in 2006. If the rest of the defense plays well enough to let him.

    Indeed, the biggest question mark on defense is whether the interior of the line can stuff the run and/or bottle up enough blockers so that Hawk and/or middle linebacker Nick Barnett can get to the ball. The other serious issue is whether Harris and Woodson can play catch up after missing so much of the offseason routine.

    On offense, the questions are pretty much everywhere. Can the line keep Lord Favre alive? Can the running backs loosen up the defense to allow Lord Favre to find receivers? Can the receivers get open and, if so, hold the ball? And can Lord Favre learn a new system or will he revert to the chuck-and-duck ways that got him within shooting distance of the all-time interception record?

    If McCarthy can bring the team together and if they can hit the bye week at 3-2 or better, they've got a chance to let Lord Favre ride off into the sunset by winning the division.

    It's not quite the way John Elway left, but it's a lot better than anyone would expect starting into the season.

    Now for the fantasy grades:

    Quarterback: Sorry, but we wouldn't touch Lord Favre with a ten-foot tractor. D-.

    Running back: Ahman Green has been a stud in the past, but with a quad that got separated from the bone and no clear answer as to when he'll be healthy, we can't give him more than a C- for now. On draft day, it might be a good idea to take a flyer on Dookie, since he might end up getting the bulk of the touches.

    Wide receiver: Donald Driver has had a couple of good years, and he held his own last year without Walker, who tore his ACL in the first game of the season. Driver scored only five touchdowns, but was eighth in the league in both receptions and receiving yards. We'll give him a B+ for now, but if the wheels come off early for the team, his production surely will drop. Robert Ferguson has largely been a disappointment for the Packers. He scored seven touchdowns in 2003 and eight in 2004, but his catches and yards have never been as good as they need to be. He gets a C-. If Gardner or Boerigter manage to win the starting job across from Driver before the draft, give either one a C.

    Tight End: Bubba Franks has the name recognition, but he's caught 50 or more balls only once, and he never has had double-digit touchdowns. Find a third receiver if you can.

    Defense: Pick the Packers defense only if the other ones left are the Saints, Cardinals, Raiders, and Bills.

    Kicker: The Packers let Ryan Longwell leave for Minnesota, and couldn't close the deal with Adam Vinatieri. Billy Cundiff has the job for now, but it wouldn't surprise us if someone else has the gig come September 10. Billy won't be a hero for the Pack, and he gets a D from PFT.

    Again, there's a chance that the Packers could put it together. They lost plenty of close games in 2005; with a little luck, things could have been very different. Still, things just have a more tenuous feel for the Packers this time around -- and team won't begin to improve significantly until Lord Favre finally retires and the team begins life without him.

  2. #2
    Prophet Guest

    Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings: 31

    Not a bad slot for the Packers.

  3. #3
    Ltrey33 is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings: 31

    Whew...I thought it was our Vikes at 31.

  4. #4
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    BadlandsVikings is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: PFT Preseason Power Rankings: 31

    That is where they belong. I'm glad it's not us.

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