It is officially the greatest time of the year. The NFL regular season starts on Thursday night with the Denver Broncos taking on the Baltimore Ravens. The Green Bay Packers have to wait until Sunday for an opening day rematch against the San Francisco 49ers.
No longer is the concern about which players will make the 53-man roster. Now, the only concern is how to beat your opponent. While getting off to a good start is important, the NFL season is not about how you start, but how hot or cold you finish. With all that being said, here are my five BOLD, possibly crazy, predictions for the Green Bay Packers this season.
5. Jermichael Finley will lead tight ends in touchdowns.
It is time for Jermichael Finley to put up or shut up. The Packers’ tight end has been asking for more targets as well as a bigger contract. The good news for Finley is that this is the last year on his contract, which means if he produces big, he will get his money. The main concern surrounding Finley has been his dropped passes. Over the past few seasons, I have been on the edge of my seat every time Finley has been thrown the ball, just praying he can hold onto it.
But this is a new year. Finley is playing for a big payday and when big money is on the line, players tend to excel. This is why I think Finley will lead all NFL tight ends in touchdown receptions.
4. Randall Cobb will lead the NFL in total touchdowns.
Randall Cobb has become a weapon in the Packers offense. He can line up in the slot, or act as a running back standing beside Aaron Rodgers. He also has the ability to change the game with his amazing return moves. He electrifies whenever the ball is kicked or punted his way, and can break a big return in the blink of an eye. His ability to not only affect the passing game, but also the return game, is what makes Cobb special. I think between his receiving and return touchdowns, Cobb will be number one in total touchdowns this season.
3. Eddie Lacy will rush for more than 1,000 yards.
The Packers drafted Eddie Lacy with the hope that he can rejuvenate a running game that hasn’t seen a 1,000 yard rusher since 2009. In his limited preseason action, Lacy showed the talent that made him a dangerous player at Alabama.
The Packers need a running game to slow down the amount of times Aaron Rodgers gets hit. A good running game will force defensive linemen to shift some of their focus on Lacy instead of Rodgers. I predict Lacy will rush for 1,000 yards this season, ending the Packers’ four-year drought.
2. Clay Matthews will lead the league in sacks.
In only 12 games last season, Clay Matthews had 13 sacks, which was only half a sack short of tying his career high. Matthews also got those 13 sacks without having linebacker Nick Perry on the other side of the field.
Perry was the Packers’ 2012 first round draft pick, and was placed on injured reserve after suffering a wrist injury in week 6. Perry, like Matthews, has the ability to rush the passer. With a healthy Perry on the opposite side of the field, some attention will shift away from Matthews. That could pave the way for Matthews to lead the league in sacks. He had 13 last year in only 12 games, so if he and his right hand man Perry can remain in good health, the sky is the limit.
1. Mason Crosby will lead the league in field goal percentage
I have documented Mason Crosby’s struggles from last season many times during the offseason. Crosby had the lowest field goal percentage last season, which is why head coach Mike McCarthy brought in kicking competition during training camp. That decision might have been the best thing that could have happened to Crosby.
Crosby was perfect in the preseason going six for six, and during the week before the last preseason game, Crosby went 15 for 16 during practice, which led Giorgio Tavecchio and Zach Ramirez out the door. Due to his recent success, I believe that Crosby’s kicking woes are behind him; he will be the Packers kicker for the entire season, and he will lead the leagues’ kickers in field goal percentage.
There is a reason why all of these are bold predictions. The Packers don’t necessarily need all of these projections to come true, but if these five players can come close, the Lombardi trophy will be on its way back to Title Town.