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Recent posts by Dan Arkush
When the Saints come marching in to Lambeau Field Thursday evening, Sept. 8, to officially get the football rolling for the 2011 NFL season, the Packers will be exposed to an imposing pressure chamber that will make their challenge last season of overcoming 15 players on injured reserve seem like a very pleasant walk in the park.
Going up against the defending Super Bowl champions will no doubt put blood in the eyes of Drew Brees and his teammates that will be easily recognizable on wide-screen HDTV screens across America.
Ten days later in Carolina, similar shades of crimson will show up in the eyes of new Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and his troops, as they earnestly attempt to knock Aaron Rodgers on his keister with regularity on the way to a potential big-time upset that will make league observers far and wide stand up and take notice.
Week after week, the heavy-duty aggression directed toward the Packers will continue, as they attempt to become the NFL's first repeat champion since the Patriots in 2003-04.
Getting back key players such as TE Jermichael Finley, RB Ryan Grant and SS Morgan Burnett from the injured-reserve list will enhance the Packers' top-dog status among NFL prognosticators. So will the fact that, unlike so many NFL teams at the moment, the Packers won't have to worry about any full-fledged changes in their coaching staff or systems on both sides of the ball that would figure to make the time lost due to the lockout a bigger handicap.
At the end of the 2011 road, however, it says here that the aforementioned pressure chamber the Packers will be dealing with will stand in the way of a Super Bowl repeat. One daunting fact that can't be denied is the 10 different NFC teams that have captured the last 10 conference titles (in reverse order, the 2010 Packers, the 2009 Saints, the 2008 Cardinals, the 2007 Giants, the 2006 Bears, the 2005 Seahawks, the 2004 Eagles, the 2003 Panthers, the 2002 Buccaneers and the 2001 Rams).
While I definitely see the Packers returning to the playoffs, I think the Falcons — a team that has gone out of its way to reinvent itself in more of a Packers mode after being humiliated by Green Bay in last year's playoffs — becoming the 11th different NFC team bound for Super Bowl glory in the past 11 years.
But I promise you I won't lose a moment of sleep if the Packers prove me wrong.