Expectations were not high for the Green Bay Packers this season.
The side was coming off a 6-10 showing last season and were faced this year with battling their former franchise player Brett Favre out in Minnesota.
Yet as the 2009 NFL season winds down the Pack find themselves in the thick of the league’s playoff discussion.
Green Bay is a surprising 7-4 and second only to their arch-rivals the Vikings in the NFC North. They are also in the driver’s seat for the division’s wildcard berth.
The Packers have excelled thanks to production on both sides of the ball. The team boasts an offense and defense in the top 10 in the league.
On offense the development of Aaron Rodgers has been phenomenal. He has thrown for 3,136 passing yards thus far and tossed 22 touchdowns.
What stands out most to this reporter is his five interceptions, a much lower number than last year’s double digit total.
On the field he has shown the ability to make decisions under pressure and get the ball to key wide-outs Donald Driver (845 yards and five TDs) and Greg Jennings (722 yards and three TDs).
Defensively the squad has produced a decent sack tandem in Clay Matthews and Cullen Jenkins (who have 9.5 sacks combined).
In addition they have gotten many big plays from guys like A.J. Hawk (56 tackles) and Nick Collins (four interceptions).
All help compensate for the loss of Charles Woodson (seven interceptions) and Aaron Kampman (3.5 sacks) to season-ending injuries.
Now the Packers see another big test in the Baltimore Ravens tonight on Monday Night Football at 8:30pm on ESPN.
Baltimore is hanging around in the AFC playoff discussion at 6-5 and a win tonight is equally important for their season.
The Ravens showed a lot of guts and confidence in their passing game last Sunday in beating a demoralised Pittsburgh team 20-17.
However the defense will have to step up once again for Baltimore to succeed. More than likely Rodgers will get help from Ryan Grant (890 rushing yards) on the ground.
The Ravens defend the run well but Mendenhall did run for 95 yards for Pittsburgh.
Tonight should see a physical game that this reporter feels the Packers find a way to steal 18-10.