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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

LOCICERO: Packers are still the team to beat

The NFL season is finally upon us. Despite my disdain for the league’s choice of Cowboys vs. Giants for its opening game tomorrow night, it’s still meaningful football, and that’s all that matters.

Of course, the only team that really matters plays Sunday afternoon at the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field against the upstart San Francisco 49ers, who were one game from the Super Bowl last season.

That’s right, Bears fans.

Your team may have traded for Brandon Marshall and drafted Alshon Jeffery, who may well make life miserable for a suspect Packers secondary.

The signing of Michael Bush to ease the pressure off Matt Forte was a good one.

But Jay Cutler is still your team’s quarterback, and J’Marcus Webb is still protecting his blindside. Your team decided to draft Shea McClellin instead of Riley Reiff and did nothing in free agency to ensure Cutler’s health for a full season.

Remember what happened when Cutler got hurt and missed the last six games? Let me remind you. The team went 1-5 and missed the playoffs.

The team that really matters spent its first six draft picks shoring up a defense that ranked last in the league last year.

The team that really matters has the reigning MVP and Superman Aaron Rodgers as its signal-caller.

Let’s assume the Packers don’t go 15-1 in the regular season again. It will be tough to repeat that record, especially with an opening month that includes home games against the 49ers, that team from Chicago and the New Orleans Saints sandwiched around a Monday night trip to the 12th Man in the Emerald City.

If the team that really matters can escape that with a 3-1 record, a 13-3 or 14-2 regular season record will be well within reach.

There are still questions on this team, though.

Can Nick Perry generate the type of pass rush needed to take the focus away from Clay Matthews? Will Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels wreak the same havoc up the middle that B.J. Raji did during the championship run in 2010?

Did they do enough to address the secondary woes that plagued them last year, or can they outscore opponents like they had to do on many occasions a season ago?

There are plenty of quality teams in the NFC that could derail the Lombardi Trophy from returning home for the second time in three seasons.

Oh that’s right, Bears fans. Did you forget your team hasn’t won the Big Game since the Super Bowl-shuffling 1985 team?

The Packers have won two titles since then and had a chance at a third.

The 49ers have the defense to beat anyone and have improved their rush attack by drafting LaMichael James and signing the bruising Brandon Jacobs.

However, they won’t win with Alex Smith as their quarterback. I don’t care how good of a coach Jim Harbaugh is.

The Saints certainly have the offensive firepower to beat anyone. They did it two years ago and can do it again.

Unlike the NFC North, however, there are four quality teams in the Saints’ division.

The Eagles won’t go 8-8 again. And the Lions will remain the second-best team in the NFC North.

The team I’m scared of is the one that knocked off the Packers in the second round last year and went on to win the Super Bowl.

The Pack peaked too early and the Giants took advantage of it. They outclassed the Packers on their home turf and deserved to win, no matter what Clay Matthews says.

The Giants have two elite pass-rushers in Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Pair them with Eli Manning, one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league, along with a top-notch coach in Tom Coughlin and you have the makings of a potential juggernaut.

I’ll never forget what Peter King said last year when he spoke in the basement of Cudahy Hall. “It’s just too hard to repeat.”

I thought he was nuts at the time. Of course the Packers could repeat. But, as usual, Mr. King was right. And he has it right this year.

Oh that’s right, Bears fans. Get used to the Green and Gold dominating the football landscape for another year.

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