It may not be the same as the S.I. cover jinx, but the Green Bay Packers can’t be feeling too kindly toward Peter King these days.
S.I.’s NFL guru has pegged the Packers as the team to beat heading into the 2010 season.
Not even King’s self-deprecating mocking of his own pre-season picks in years past — he had last year’s NFL champion New Orleans Saints ranked 24th heading into the year — can take the sting out of the target King puts on the Packers by giving them the No. 1 position.
But in all honesty, who else would you put up there?
New Orleans? Nah, repeating an NFL title may be the toughest thing to do in professional sports, right next to figuring out Rasheed Wallace.
Indy would be a likely pick, but we think their best shot was last season.
Baltimore is a sexy pick this year with Anquan Boldin riding in on his white horse to improve a passing attack that was bordering on extinction, but they’re getting a little long in the tooth on defence.
So we’ll go with King’s Pack for a host of reasons, none bigger than the fact that Aaron Rodgers only appears to be getting better and the team around him better equipped for a run at its first title since 1996.
Rodgers owned the fourth-best quarterback rating in the league last season, threw for the fourth most touchdowns at 30 and was picked off just seven times, tied for first among starting quarterbacks.
All of this in just his second full season on the job.
Already spoiled with one of the deepest receiving corps in the league — Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones — Rodgers and tight end Jermichael Finley began to develop some real chemistry in the final seven games of last season when the sophomore out of Texas scored four of his five touchdowns.
Finley, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Greg Bedard last week, sounded like a football player who has had the kind of epiphany that can take him from solid producer to perennial All-Pro.
“I want it all,” Finley told Bedard. “I want to be the best tight end in the league, and I want to be a better father, husband and teammate. I want people to know they can look at Jermichael Finley and say, ‘That’s a Packer.’ That’s what I’m shooting for.”
Defensively the Packers go into their second season under Dom Capers so they should be better this year than last. Clay Matthews, still provides their only true pressure, but veteran corners Charles Woodson and Al Harris, assuming he comes back from a serious left knee injury, provide the kind of big play potential from the secondary that should help make up for the lack of a pass rush.
If the offensive line, with first-round pick Bryan Bulaga pushing last year’s starters, can provide Rodgers with even mediocre protection and improve on the 50 sacks they allowed last year, the Packers might just overcome King’s inadvertent S.I. jinx and live up to the lofty expectations.
CANUCK GETS HIS DUE:
King also offered up Canadian Sam Giguere as the guy the Indianapolis Colts should have activated for last year’s Super Bowl instead of Hank Baskett. Baskett failed to come up with that game-turning on-side kick the Saints opened the second half with. King’s point was Giguere, a native of Sherbrooke, Que., with the better hands might have caught that squib kick. The point can be made Giguere had certainly earned the opportunity if nothing else.From Sept. 5, 2009-Oct. 30 of the same year the 5-foot-11, 215-pount speedster was cut from the practice roster and brought back a total of 12 times. Giguere’s CFL rights are owned by Hamilton.
FOURTH AND INCHES:
Houston’s Andre Johnson, arguably the best receiver in the game today, wants a new deal. Problem is Johnson has five years left on his eight-year, $60-million deal. He skipped the first voluntary workout of the season on Monday ... Denver Broncos linebacker Elvis Dumervil hasn’t signed the anticipated long-term deal everyone is expecting, but that didn’t stop him from taking part in the team’s first OTA’s on Monday ... Tim Tebow may have been the darling of the draft, but at Broncos camp he is fourth in line on the depth chart behind Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, and someone named Tom Brandstater.