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Pack to Back: Second consecutive title likely for Green Bay

The potent-on-paper Eagles who can't get out of their own way at 1-3 ... Tony Romo not closing out a game, just when you think he's closed the door on the old criticisms ... Matt Forte playing lights out in search of an extension ... the Steelers looking old, tired and hurt ... and Peyton Manning watching his 2011 slip away.

It's all white noise.

THE story in the NFL is the one you're not hearing enough. Green Bay's quest to repeat looks healthier, and likelier, every day. That's the logline of the 2011 season, plain and simple.

Pack to Back. Sounds pretty cheesy, huh? Well, that was the intent. That's where we're headed, folks. Forget that the Packers are 4-0. Forget that Aaron Rodgers is chucking nerf footballs to wideouts frolicking around without a care in the world.

This is the best team in football. Who's going to stop them?

Chicago? Nope. Atlanta? We saw what happened last year. Detroit? If Jim **has the Schwartz**, maybe ... but awesome Mel Brooks flicks aside, someone besides Calvin Johnson has to step up on offense. Dallas? Maybe when Romo decides the game situation is kind of important when the ball leaves his hand.

New Orleans? The Saints are the best hope to thwart the Packers, but the reality is Sean Payton's guys are already down one tick in the loss column, courtesy of those same Packers.

Then there's the AFC. The Patriots loom as the biggest challenge, but frankly, the Packers are not a good matchup for Bill Belichick's group. Two quick reasons:

1.) Tom Brady hasn't faced a team with a consistent pass rush yet. Green Bay has one of the best pass rushers in the game and can get to the quarterback. The Packers are eighth in the NFL with 11 sacks, and that's with all-pro Clay Matthews only accounting for one.

2.) New England's secondary has played terribly this year. That doesn't bode well if Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver and company are coming up on the schedule.

Even clubs that thought they had a decent pass defense -- like the Saints or Bears, or the Falcons and Steelers in last year's playoffs -- found out otherwise after watching grown men in green-and-yellow tights run around their secondary like kids at a public swimming pool. The Pack's passing attack makes every team look silly right now.

But back to the first point: What happens if Dom Capers gets the defense on track, a unit that only allowed 15 points per game in 2010? What happens if Matthews really gets going? He's already been disruptive, as his five quarterback knockdowns and seven-and-a-half "hurries" can attest. Wait until he gets productive.

That's when this whole deal gets more interesting, as teams like the Saints, who played well coming from behind at Lambeau, will find it more difficult when their quarterback is running for his life.

Now this is not to say the Packers don't have some leaks. Like the Patriots, their secondary has been torched at times, especially with the loss of safety Nick Collins. But take a wild guess which team leads the NFL in interceptions? Yep, the club that has Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams manning the corners.

Some felt the running-back-by-committee situation would be a problem, with neither Ryan Grant nor James Starks wowing anyone. But the ground game has been quietly effective when needed, averaging 4.2 yards per carry and a very healthy 109.5 yards per game, despite being an afterthought in Mike McCarthy's spread-'em-and-exploit-'em offense.

I thought the schedule and league-wide parity would spread dominant play so thin that no team would win 14, or even 13, games this season. While the playoff picture and the who's for real debate are very much murky topics just a quarter of the way into the season, one emerging fact is not. The Packers are damn good, and it's beginning to look more likely than not that they'll repeat.

Green Bay plays at Atlanta **on Sunday night** and still have two games with the undefeated Lions. Other than that, the schedule has more Arkansas Techs than LSUs. The Bears pay a visit on Christmas, when the Packers at worst should have 12 wins, and Chicago always plays Green Bay tough at Lambeau.

Getting past 12 wins usually spells h-o-m-e-f-i-e-l-d. Atlanta had it with a 13-3 record last season. If the Falcons fall to the Packers this week, and considering the Saints' loss in the Kickoff Game, who is going to overtake the Pack? And who is going to beat them at Lambeau?

So take Arian Foster's hamstring, the upstart Bills and Todd Haley's histrionics, and absorb accordingly. But only take in those stories for a minute, because the storyline in the NFL resides with those dudes in green-and-yellow tights running around declaring jihad on every defense in the league.

Pack to Back. We might have our first repeat champion in seven seasons.

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