Green Bay Packers
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy
2014 record: 13-5 overall, 5-1 NFC North
2014 Postseason results: Beat Dallas Cowboys 26-21 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, Lost to Seattle Seahawks 28-22 (OT) in NFC Championship
Odds to win Super Bowl 50: 5/1
Odds to win NFC Championship: +320
Odds to win NFC North Division: -300
Regular season wins: over 11 -130 / under 11 Even
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Last season, the Green Bay Packers advanced all the way to the NFC Championship Game. The Packers jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead, thanks to numerous turnovers by the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. With just over two minutes to go in the fourth, Green Bay still led 19-7 and appeared well on their way to returning to the Super Bowl. However, Seattle would score two touchdowns in 44 seconds to take a 22-19 lead. Green Bay tied it up on a Mason Crosby field goal with 14 seconds left. The Seahawks would win in overtime 28-22 on a 35 yard touchdown pass.
Although the season ended on a sour note, Green Bay still went 12-4 in the regular season. The Packers lost the season opener at the Seahawks 36-16, which was why the NFC Championship game was in Seattle instead of Green Bay. Both teams finished with identical 12-4 records. The Packers beat the Detroit Lions 30-20 in a winner take all battle for the division title at Lambeau in the regular season finale. Green Bay clinched a first round bye with the win. After the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions in the wild card game, Green Bay beat Dallas in a thrilling divisional playoff game 26-21 at Lambeau.
This year Green Bay, coached by Mike McCarthy, is again one of the favorites to win both the NFC Championship and the Super Bowl. The Packers are prohibitive favorites to win the NFC North Division for the fifth straight season.
Green Bay averaged 386 yards per game on offense including 266 passing and 120 rushing yards. The Packers were #11 or better in all three categories. Green Bay led the league in scoring at 30.4 points per game. The Packers led the league in turnover differential at +14. Edgar Bennett was promoted to offensive coordinator, when last year’s coordinator Tom Clements was promoted to Associate head coach. Bennett had been the running backs coach.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers won his second League MVP award last year. He threw for 4,381 yards with 38 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, and also rushed for 269 yards on 43 carries with 2 touchdowns. Back-up Matt Flynn is now with the New York Jets. Former Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien will likely serve as the back-up in 2015. The Packers also drafted Brett Hundley out of UCLA in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft. Chase Rettig and Matt Blanchard are also on the roster.
Running back Eddie Lacy had 246 carries for 1,139 yards and 9 touchdowns, and also had 42 catches for 427 yards and 4 touchdowns. James Starks had 85 carries for 333 yards with 2 touchdowns, and also had 18 catches for 140 yards. Besides Rodgers, no other running back had more than 24 carries. Fullback John Kuhn had 24 carries for 85 yards with a touchdown, and caught four passes.
Receiver Jordy Nelson had 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns. Randall Cobb had 91 catches for 1,287 yards with 12 touchdowns. Davante Adams had 38 catches for 446 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tight end Andrew Quarless had 29 catches for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns. He could face a suspension after being arrested in Miami for firing a gun twice during an altercation. Tight end Richard Rodgers had 20 catches for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns. Besides the running backs, no other receiver had more than 4 catches last year.
The offensive line started the same five players in 17 of the Packers 18 games last year. All five players are back including center Corey Linsley, guards Josh Sitton & T.J. Lang, and tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. The Packers have one of the league’s best offensive lines along with the Cowboys.
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Green Bay allowed 346 yards per game on defense, including 226 passing and 120 rushing yards. The pass defense was #10 in the league and the rush defense was #23. The Packers allowed 21.8 points per game. Dom Capers is the defensive coordinator.
B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion will split time at nose tackle. Raji missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his bicep during the pre-season. Guion is suspended for the first three games after being arrested for drugs and weapons. The ends are unproven for the most part, starters Datone Jones and Mike Daniels need to create more of a pass rush after combining for only 7 sacks last year. Jones is suspended for the season opener for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Josh Boyd and Khyri Thornton will also see time at end.
The linebackers are once again headlined by future Hall of Famer Clay Matthews. Last year he moved from his natural outside position to the middle/nickel back late in the season. The move helped plug the leaky run defense. Matthews had 61 tackles and 11 sacks in the hybrid role. He will mostly play on the outside again in 2015, but he will play in the middle on certain downs. Julius Peppers is back after making 44 tackles, 7 sacks, forcing 4 fumbles and he also added 2 pick sixes. Sam Barrington and rookie Jake Ryan will start at the inside positions. The Packers did lose A.J. Hawk (Bengals) and Jamari Lattimore (Jets) to free agency.
Safeties Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix led the team in tackles with 129 and 94 respectively. Cornerbacks Tramon Williams is now with the Cleveland Browns and his primary back-up Davon House is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sam Shields and Casey Hayward will start at the corners. The Packers drafted defensive backs Damarious Randall (Arizona State) and Quinten Rollins (Miami-OH) with their first two picks.
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Kicker Mason Crosby made 27 of 33 field goals last year. Punter Tim Masthay looks to rebound from a sub par year averaging only 37 yards net per punt. Micah Hyde had two punt returns for touchdowns last year. Cobb will also return some punts. Look for rookie Ty Montgomery out of Stanford to return kicks.
The Packers open the season at the rival Chicago Bears, before hosting the Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs on a Monday night. October brings a road game at the San Francisco 49ers, and home games against the St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers. The Packers have their bye in week seven before a difficult November schedule. Green Bay has road games at the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers, and Minnesota Vikings during the month, along with home games against the Lions and Bears on Thanksgiving. December brings road games at the Lions, also on a Thursday, the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals. The Packers host the Cowboys in that month and close the season at home against the Vikings.
Every starter is back for the offense, and it will be explosive again barring injuries. The defense needs to improve against the run. Still, this is an elite team and any thing less than 12 wins would be a huge disappointment. The Packers and Seahawks look again to be the class of the NFC, with the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles right behind.
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