Proving once again the NFL season never ends, Vegas released the over/under victories lines for the 2012 NFL regular season. Predictably, the Packers lead the pack (terrible, unintentional pun turned intentional after I caught it) with the over/under on the 2012 season set at 12 (same as The Hoodies). Easy money, right? After all, this is the same offense that set all kinds of records last season, but now should have a much better defense after the infuse of talent via the draft. But, there’s a few things you need to consider before putting down your next mortgage payment on the over.
If you don’t learn anything from history, you are condemned to repeat it. History repeats itself, and the numbers aren’t favorable to a repeat of last season. To begin with, remember that the Packers just won 15 games, but set a franchise record in doing so. Prior to last season, the Packers had won 13 games only four times in franchise history, including repeating this effort in 1996 and 1997. Never a 14-win season. In order to win the over-bet, the Packers would have to do something that has only been done once before in franchise history – back-to-back 13+ win seasons.
Admittedly, franchise records are more illustrative than instructive. After all, the Dan Devine and Lindy Infante years are included. But, league history is also not favorable. Since 1990, there have been only 46 teams that went 13-3 or better. Of those 46 teams, only five had faired better than 12 wins in the prior seasons, with another five teams winning 12 games in the prior season. Why do you ask? Simple – parity.
2. League Parity
As the saying goes: Any given Sunday. What makes the NFL the best pro sports league is that every team has a legitimate shot to win every week. Need I remind you that the seemingly invincible and undefeated Packers got embarrassed at Arrowhead last season? I also remember the eventual Super Bowl champs getting absolutely thrashed by the T-Jax led Seachickens 36-25 at home (I remember because this was my King of the Hill pick).
Since 2000, there have been 9 different Super Bowl winners and 16 different teams to play in the big game. On average, half the teams that make the playoffs fail to make the playoffs in the very next season. It is this parity and unpredictability that make 13-wins easier said than done, even for an Aaron Rodgers led squad.
Also working against the 2012 Packers is the schedule. Because of its success last season, the Packers face a sterner test this season. The Packers play the defending Super Bowl champs on the road and three other division champs (SF, NO, and Houston). Packers also have a few trap games that will be harder games than they should: at Seattle – sandwiched between the Thursday night Bears game and hosting Who Dat nation – and hosting the Vikes – sandwiched between two Sunday night games at NYG and at home against the Motor City Kitties.
The Packers also play in one of the toughest, if not the toughest, divisions in the league. The Lions are THE up-and-coming young team primed to be perennial playoffs contenders. Da Bears should be much improved on offense now that Cutler got his favorite old target, Brandon Marshall, and spent a second-round pick on Alshon Jeffery, a beast WR from South Carolina. Da Bears are getting a little long in the tooth on defense, but they always play Rodgers tough. And the Vikings are, well, a rebuilding project. But as Ponder proved when they hosted the Pack last season, he’s not afraid to go right after Woodson & Co. Sweeping the division again will be a tough feet for the Packers to duplicate in 2012.
4. Flukes, Injuries, and the Unexpected
Finally, there is always the unpredictable. The Packers have great depth at numerous spots on the roster; but, as the case with most teams, there are a few positions thin in depth. A few injuries along the offensive line like last season – think Sitton, Bulaga, Saturday – would result in continued line shuffling and likely inconsistent play. The Packers are banking on James Starks and Alex Green shouldering the load at running back, but both players are coming off injuries. And, the obvious, an injury to key players like Rodgers, Clay, Woodson, etc. would be absolutely crushing.
Beyond just injuries, though, are the flukes that occur throughout the season. A perfect example of this is the UW Badgers 2011 season. But for a hail mary and another long completion under a minute left, the Badgers would have been playing in the BCS Championship Game (assuming the SEC bias wouldn’t have still prevailed). It’s a long season and crazy things can happen. And even an easy mid-season stretch like St. Louis, Jacksonville, and Arizona could result in players taking the games a little easier, making the Packers vulnerable.
The bottom line is that it is hard to back-up a franchise-best season with another stellar season. 13+ wins is tough to accomplish in today’s NFL. I’d like to think that the over-play should be the right play. But, as you can see, it will be quite the accomplishment if they do. And even if they don’t, an 11- or 12-win season is just fine too; because all that matters is ending with a win!