The Green Bay Packers are loaded up and ready for another run at the Super Bowl. In fact, they're loaded for the next three seasons. They finished No. 1 in Insider's NFL Future Power Rankings. They have weapons at receiver and tight end. They have a more experienced offensive line, a healthier defense and a new pass-rushing rookie (Nick Perry) to bookend Clay Matthews. Plus, they have the reigning MVP, Aaron Rodgers.
But what happens if the reigning MVP gets hurt?
In the modern NFL, you can't go into a season projecting your team based on a lack of injuries. The injuries are going to happen, and your team must have the depth to withstand them. The Packers, unfortunately, have no depth at the game's most important position. That's a real problem for a team that was essentially one-dimensional last season.
One-dimensional? Yes, a 15-1 record and possibly the greatest passing game in NFL history hid the fact that the 2011 Packers were essentially mediocre or just plain bad in every other aspect of the game.
(OK, we apologize to Randall Cobb. The Packers were essentially mediocre or just plain bad in every other aspect of the game except kickoff and punt returns.)
The 2011 Packers had the highest-rated offense in the league, according to the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. (DVOA is Football Outsiders' defense-adjusted value over average metric, explained here.) However, that offense was almost entirely through the air. The Packers did rank seventh in rushing DVOA, so they were efficient, but the running game certainly didn't power their offense. The Packers ran on just 32 percent of plays in the first half of games, less often than any team except Detroit.
On the other side of the ball, the 2011 Packers were terrible. The Packers ranked 25th in our defensive DVOA ratings: 24th against the pass and 29th against the run. A rebound effect is likely to make the defense better in 2012; after all, the Packers ranked second on defense when they won the Super Bowl in 2010. But even with improvement, this is not going to be a defense that can win games on its own.
So if the Packers need their quarterback to win games, what happens if that quarterback isn't Rodgers?