Sports Illustrated has their NFL Preview issue out this week. Obviously putting QB Aaron Rodgers on the cover (in one of four regions) is a good move. I was expecting to hate their analysis, a lot of time I wonder if the national writers have actually watched the team at all, but SI's was really well done. The section on the Green Bay Packers was written by Lee Jenkins, who I had a chance to talk with on Friday.
Acme Packing Company: The strength of schedule seemed to play a large part in the preseason prediction [the Packers have the 3rd easiest schedule based on 2008 records] that three teams from the NFC North will make the playoffs.
Lee Jenkins: Yes, but I like the Packers best because of their consistency at the quarterback position. The other teams in the division have a fundamental switch to a new quarterback and they can't all succeed. At least one of them will struggle, while Rodgers returns for the Packers.
APC: I've always thought that taking care of the division games was so important.
LJ: It is huge. Playing head-to-head is a two game swing in the standings. [Playing Minnesota] will be more of a motivation for the Packers than it will be for Favre.
APC: Will the switch to the 3-4 transform the defense or will they struggle with it?
LJ: I know the players I talked to are excited about the 3-4 switch. Especially the defensive backs. There is such a premium to get at the quarterback, and LB Aaron Kampman is a good candidate to adapt to the switch. Dom Capers is a good veteran coach to run the defense. The offensive line is more of a wildcard. They are young on the right side of the line, although I believe in the young guys.
APC: SI put the spotlight on TE Jermichael Finley. I'm trying to curb my enthusiasm, but he sure looks good this preseason.
LJ: He's an incredible athlete. He made some incredible catches when I watched him at training camp. He's an X-factor. If they can get the ball to him, he's got some of TE Antonio Gates in him because they are both former basketball players. When I watched him at training camp, there was a wow factor to his game.