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Wednesday, February 9, 2011 3:59:51 AM(UTC)
Detroit News said:
Make no mistake.
Green Bay is here to stay.
And that means the Lions will have to go through an old nemesis in hopes of taking over the NFC North.
The Packers, who beat the Steelers to win the Super Bowl, are built for long-term success.
Consider some of the factors in favor of the Packers, the only team in the NFC North to make back-to-back postseason trips the past two seasons: They are the second-youngest team in the NFL at an average age of 26.2. (The Lions, by the way, will be at 27.1 when next season begins).
The Packers are led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who at 27 is a Super Bowl MVP and just hitting his prime. He's coming off one of the best postseasons in history for a quarterback nine touchdowns, two interceptions and 1,094 yards in four games.
When next season begins, the Packers will have only three starters on their current roster older than 31 Charles Woodson (34), Chad Clifton (35) and Donald Driver (36). Woodson and Clifton were Pro Bowlers this season.
Throw in running back Ryan Grant (28), Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings (27) and tight end Jermichael Finley (23), and there's a nice nucleus of weapons for Rodgers.
On defense, outside linebacker Clay Matthews (24), cornerback Tramon Williams (27) and safety Nick Collins (27) are in their prime. Add defensive tackle B.J. Raji (24), corner Sam Shields (23) and inside linebacker A.J. Hawk (27) to the mix, and the defense has a core group of young, talented players.
They won the Super Bowl despite finishing the season with 15 players that were listed on injured reserve.
Among those hurt were Grant, who was eight carries into his season before breaking an ankle; and Finley, who lasted five games before he suffered a knee injury.
Both are expected to return at full strength next season.
And don't forget about all-pro inside linebacker Nick Barnett, who played in four games.
They have solid leadership in place.
Packers president Mark Murphy indicated this week general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy are in line for contract extensions.
Thompson and McCarthy have two years remaining on the five-year deals they signed after Green Bay's trip to the 2007 NFC Championship.
They don't stand to be hurt too much by free agency, whatever the format ends up being with a new collective bargaining agreement.
Defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, receiver James Jones, guard Daryn Colledge and kicker Mason Crosby would be unrestricted free agents under the current four-year eligibility format. And, Driver also will be a free agent.
But, the Packers have 69 players under contract next year.
Plus, the Packers also have eight picks, plus a likely compensatory selection (loss of free agent Aaron Kampman) in the draft in April.
So, add up those factors for Green Bay, and you can expect the streak of 10 different NFC teams in the Super Bowl the last 10 years to be in jeopardy.
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