GREEN Bay, Wisconsin. A city of wharfies, people that wear cheese hats and water so cold that if you fall in, your male pride and joy would could disappear without a trace for days.
When Australian’s think of great American cities, New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Francisco all come to mind. And rightly so.
However the humble city of Green Bay, population 105,000 and situated 440km from the Canadian border, never rates a mention. I mean, most people in Australia don’t even believe a place called Manangatang exists (it really does, Google it). But for sporting fans, the name could be back in the limelight with a bang.
NFL franchise giants the Packers call Green Bay home, as does the hallowed Lambeau Field and arguably the greatest name in the sport’s history, coach Vince Lombardi, led the green and golds.
I’m backing the pack to be back in business and possibly even claim the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.
The Packers’ fitness staff must have fallen under ladders by tripping on black cats with their umbrella open last season. Injury decimated Green Bay and cruelled their attempts at the ultimate glory.
While many pundits are raving about the prospects of the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, and even the Oakland Raiders to go deep this season, I think something is brewing in the USA’s north.
Firstly there is a man there by the name of Aaron Rodgers. He is one of the best quarterbacks in recent history. That statement alone should be enough, but there is more.
The understrength receiving corps last year played above their expected capabilities. Journeyman Jeff Janis was one of the feel-good stories of the season. Now with top man Jordy Nelson returning from an ACL tear, and Randall Cobb and Davante Adams coming into their physical prime, it is a hell of an arsenal at Rodgers’ disposal.
Eddy Lacy is a big, bruising running back. Think of a vending machine with legs and Ferrari motor. However after some second year blues and plenty of prodding at him being ‘a bit fat’ (I’m guilty of that too), he was told to shed some of the excess kilos. All pre-season reports say Lacy is shredded like mozzarella cheese and his tank is even larger. Ouch.
Then look at a healthy defence that includes cult favourite Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers at linebacker, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (that is not a typo), Micah Hyde and Sam Shield in the back field, and you have a team that is right in contention.
Green Bay fans are fiercely loyal – Andrew Lovett and Brayden Rodd, I’m looking at you – and they may just be rewarded with their first Super Bowl win since 2010.
Here are some of my other predictions for the season ahead:
MOST PASSING YARDS: Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints.
The big 4-0 may be rapidly approaching but Brees just knows how to bust out the big numbers. Tom Brady’s four-game suspension to start the New England Patriots’ season put a red line through him.
MOST PASSING TOUCHDOWNS: Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers.
Easy to pick last season’s MVP but it’s for good reason. Doesn’t always have high passing yards but is so dangerous near the end zone by pass or run.
MOST RUSHING YARDS: David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals.
A left field pick considering Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings), Todd Gurley (LA Rams) and rookie Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas Cowbys) have received all the attention so far. But Johnson has entrenched himself as the top guy in a dangerous offence and for the Cards’ sake, they need to create more run.
MOST RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS: Eddy Lacy – Green Bay Packers.
A bulldozer who can will his way through defensive lines near the end zone. Watch out for Tennessee Titans rookie Derrick Henry as well.
MOST RECEIVING YARDS: Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders.
Not expecting any second year blues from this rapidly rising star. He and quarterback Derek Carr could become one of the most dangerous combinations in the NFL. Look for Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown to rack up the yards too.
MOST RECIVING TOUCHDOWNS: Rob Gronkowsi – New England Patriots.
Gronk is my man, and on my Patriots jersey at home. I also picked him because the monster tight end will be hard to stop in the end zone.
MOST SACKS: JJ Watt – Houston Texans.
Surprise, surprise. Back Watt, Khalil Mack (Oakland) and Von Miller (Denver Broncos) to take the trifecta in this field.
MOST INTERCEPTIONS: Richard Sherman – Seattle Seahawks.
The original “Legion of Boom” no longer exists, however one of the integral members in the outspoken cornerback still holds a big key.
He can talk the talk, but his performances in silencing some of the best receivers backs up his words.