The Green Bay Packers are coming off a 2014 season which they won their 4th straight NFC North title with an overall record of 12-4, but a devastating 22-28 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship put a damper on what could have been.
The Packers went into CenturyLink Field and took a commanding 16-0 halftime lead on the defending Super Bowl champs. They later led 19-7 with less than 5-minutes to play in regulation, but things went south from there, including a botch onside kick that led to a Seattle touchdown. The Packers were able to rally for a field goal to force overtime, but would allow a 35-yard touchdown pass to seal their fate.
Needless to say, Green Bay has had plenty of motivation in the offseason, which is a scary thing for one of the better teams in the league. Sticking to their blue-print of success, the Packers focused more on retaining the players on their roster, instead of signing free agents. Almost the entire nucleus is back for what will be a Super Bowl or bust season in 2015.
2016 Roster Changes
Top Draft Picks
|NT Kenny Clark, OT Jason Spriggs, LB Kyler Fackrell, LB Blake Martinez, DE/DT Dean Lowry|
|TE Jared Cook|
|WR James Jones, NT B.J. Raji, DE/OLB Mike Neal, CB Casey Hayward|
2016 Schedule & Odds
|Week||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: 10.89|
As long as Aaron Rodgers is under center in Green Bay, the Packers will almost assuredly have one of the best offenses in the NFL. That was the case in 2014, as Green Bay ranked 6th in total offense (386.1 ypg) and 1st in scoring offense (30.4 ppg). They did so behind a balanced offensive attack, averaging 119.8 ypg on the ground (11th) and 266.3 ypg through the air (8th).
Rodgers put up another staggering season on his way to winning his second MVP, throwing for 4,318 yards and 38 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions. Those numbers are great, but had it not been for a left calf injury that Rodgers suffered in Week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we could very well be referring to the defending Super Bowl champs.
Rogers will have all of his primary weapons back for 2015, including the dynamic wide receiver duo of Jordy Nelson (98 catches, 1,519 yards, 13 TDs) and Randall Cobb (91 catches, 1,287 yards, 12 TDs). These two will remain the focal points of the passing game, but the Packers are hoping to get more of 2nd-year wide out Davante Adams and 2nd-year tight end Richard Rodgers.
Eddie Lacey returns as the feature back out of the backfield and is coming off another strong season, in which he rushed for 1,139 yards and 9 touchdowns, while also catching 42 passes for 427 yards and 4 scores. James Starks returns as a reliable backup in case Lacey were to go down.
One of the keys to last year’s big numbers offensively, is the fact that Green Bay managed to avoid any major injuries on the offensive line. The starting five of left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Josh Sitton, rookie center Corey Linsley, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Bryan Bulaga played in 17 of 18 possible games. All 5 are back which is great for continuity, but can the Packers go another season without losing at least one of their starters to injury?
Part way through last season, defense looked to be the one thing that would keep Green Bay from making a title run. The Packers poor play at inside linebacker was resulting in opposing teams running all over them. Then came the brilliant decision of head coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers to move star outside linebacker Clay Matthews to the inside. It worked to perfection, as Matthews instantly improved the run defense.
The hope is that Matthews will be able to move back to outside linebacker, where his ability to put pressure on the quarterback can be taken advantage of, but I don’t think the Packers will hesitate to keep him inside if it comes down to it. Where Matthews ends up will come down to the play of 4th round rookie Jake Ryan out of Michigan, as well as unproven holdovers Sam Barrington and Carl Bradford.
The biggest losses on the entire team this past offseason came in the secondary, where Green Bay lost starting corner Tramon Williams and top backup corner Davon House. They are set at one starting corner spot with Casey Hayward, but will need either veteran Sam Shields or 2nd round rookie Quinten Rollins to emerge as the other starter. Green Bay does have a talented 1-2 punch at safety with Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but went ahead and used their 1st round pick on Arizona State safety Damarious Randall. It will be interesting to see how the Packers incorporate Randall into their defense.
Regular Season Win Total
to Win the NFC North
to Win Super Bowl
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Much like we have seen with Tom Brady in New England and Peyton Manning with both Indianapolis and Denver, the elite quarterbacks typically deliver for their teams. We are already seeing it unfold with Rodgers and the Packers, who I believe are well on their way to a 5th straight division title and 7th consecutive playoff appearance.
While the schedule isn’t easy, as the NFC North is matched up with both the NFC West and AFC West, plus Green Bay draws two more division winners in Carolina and Dallas in their two cross-conference matchups, the Packers should be well on their way to another double-digit win season.
With that said, I do think the schedule will keep them from topping last year’s 12-wins. I have Green Bay going 11-5, though I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them finish 12-4 or even 13-3.
NFC North Finish
Win Total Prediction
Packers 10-Year Recap