Matt Becker/Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy and the rushing game are crucial to the Pack's future.
Conventional NFL wisdom says that the keys to a Super Bowl championship are defense and a solid rushing attack. The Seattle Seahawks certainly followed that model last year with the top-ranked defense as well as the top-ranked rushing offense on the way to their first Super Bowl title. Does this year's Packers squad have what it takes to become a Super Bowl champion?
Take a look back at Green Bay's last conference championship in 2010. A crucial element in the Packers' playoff run was development of a rushing attack, which the team hadn't shown in the regular season. After finishing the regular season 24th in the NFL in rushing at 100.4 yards per game, the Packers revved up the ground game to 120 yards per game in the playoffs that year.
In 2014, behind Eddie Lacy, the Packers ranked 11th in the league in rushing, at 119.8 yards per game.
On defense, the 2010 Packers finished fifth in the league in yardage allowed and forced 32 turnovers during the regular season. This season Green Bay is just 15th on defense, giving up 346.4 yards per game, barely above the league average.
So what's on the horizon as the Pack begins the playoffs on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys? The rushing offense is better than in 2010, but the defense doesn't measure up. It also doesn't meet the standard set by last year's Seahawks.
The common thread between the 2010 and 2014 Packers is the MVP-caliber play of Aaron Rodgers. The fate of the 2014 Packers rests predominately on how Rodgers controls his potentially powerful offense and overcomes his sometimes shaky defense. Numbers and history lead me to believe Packers fans can expect a date in the NFC championship game. But if that game is played in Seattle in front of the Seahawks' "12th Man" crowd, Rodgers is going to have to move beyond MVP level and do something approaching super-human for the Packers to advance.