2011 NFL Forecast: Packers face large obstacles in return to Super Bowl

Green Bay Packer fans remember the obstacles their team overcame in winning the Super Bowl championship in January.
While there were many obstacles, many things went about as well as the Packers could have hoped too. So, while Packer fans are caught up in the Super Bowl afterglow, it won’t be as easy as many think for the Packers to win a second straight Lombardi Trophy.
Another Super Bowl championship surely isn’t impossible. The Packers still have Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and many other gifted players. But injuries at key positions could easily derail the Packers’ dreams.
Here’s a rundown of our predictions for the 2011 National Football League season.

NFC North: Champion – Green Bay, followed by Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota.
The Packers have the deepest talent pool in the division. If Detroit can keep Matthew Stafford healthy for the full season, they could be a wild card team.

NFC East: Champion – Philadelphia, followed by Dallas, Washington and New York Giants.
This division isn’t as strong as some say. Philadelphia and Dallas are playoff caliber, then there is a huge dropoff in talent.

NFC South: Champion – New Orleans, followed by Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Carolina.
New Orleans is starting to show its age and this might be the Saints’ last hurrah. There are three teams capable of winning this division and going far into the playoffs.

NFC West: Champion – Arizona, followed by St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle.
The winner of this division could have a sub-.500 record again this year. If Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald develop any chemistry, the Cards could run away with the division.

AFC East: Champion – New York Jets, followed by New England, Miami and Buffalo. This is the year the Jets leapfrog the Patriots. New England is trying to patch its holes with retreads like Chad Johnson and Albert Haynesworth while the Jets have spent money to get top level talent.

AFC North: Champion – Pittsburgh, followed by Baltimore, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Pittsburgh isn’t flashy, but the Steelers find a way to maintain their high level of play year after year.

AFC South: Champion – Houston, followed by Indianapolis, Tennessee and Jacksonville. This is the year the Texans finally live up to their promise. They should win the division easily, unless Peyton Manning makes a miraculous comeback.

AFC West: Champion – San Diego, followed by Oakland, Kansas City and Denver. San Diego is poised to make up for its flop last season, while Kansas City could easily make the biggest drop in the league standings.

NFC Championship Game: Philadelphia 21, Tampa Bay 17.
AFC Championship Game: New York Jets 21, San Diego 16.

Super Bowl: New York Jets 17, Philadelphia 13.