Aaron Rodgers has certainly followed in the footsteps of Brett Favre in Green Bay: five of six seasons in the postseason and a Super Bowl Champion. The Green Bay Packers will hope for another ring, something Favre couldn’t even deliver.
The Packers have had trouble returning the team to its dominant peak, but the Packers’ defense is still lacking, which ultimately could be its downfall this season.
Odds to win Superbowl: 10/1
Odds to win NFC: 6/1
Odds to win NFC North: -125
Betting Odds courtesy of Bovada
Last season brought about something of a pleasant surprise for the Green Bay Packers. While the team struggled with Rodgers missing seven games with a broken collar bone, it allowed the Packers to realize the potential of second-round draft selection Eddie Lacy. The offensive line did a solid job creating holes for Lacy, and with a better ground attack, the Packers should be a very formidable offensive threat.
Last season, the Packers ranked in the top-10 in passing and rushing. Rodgers finished with a passer rating of 104.9 last season, which was his lowest in three seasons. He threw too many interceptions (six in just nine games).
While Rodgers is an elite QB, he does tend to hold onto the ball for too long and that is a big part of why he incurs to many sacks. However, Rodgers does scramble well and finds receivers while doing so. There is good competition for the No. 2 QB slot with Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien. Flynn went 2-2 last season and has a great command of the offense, but a suspect arm.
Lacy had a tough year last year physically, despite his strong games. He suffered a concussion and a bad ankle sprain. He accounted for 1,178 rushing yards and 11 TDs, and he’s going to always be on the field on first and second downs. James Starks rushed for 493 yards and 5.5 per carry, so he is a solid option for the run too. Both Lacy and Starks are physical pounding backs, and will wear down defenses.
The receiving corp is young and unproven. The Packers drafted Davante Adams in the second round of the draft, and he could be the rare rookie receiver to make an immediate impact. He has very long arms and is a great athlete, and that will make him a strong red zone receiver for Rodgers. Jordy Nelson is Rodgers ace, and he is seldom injured. He works the sidelines well, and Rodgers hits him with precision on those routes. The two click extremely well. James Jones was very impactful last season, and his loss will hurt. He accounted for 817 receiving yards with 13.8 yards per reception. The hope is that Adams completely replaces that, but it isn’t guaranteed.
The offensive line is strong once again, but the center is a weak spot again. Rodgers has had four centers in four seasons, and hasn’t yet found anyone as good as Scott Wells was. The Packers have a couple of mid-round picks who will vie for the position: J.C. Trettor and Corey Linsley. Both are solid prospects but neither has ever played before. Trettor has plenty of size at 6’4” 307 and he’s a smart player. He tore ligaments in his ankle last year. Linsley is 6’3” 303, and he’s very strong. It is important that Bryan Bulaga stay healthy, but it may be a longshot that he is.
The Packers defense last year was abysmal. It finished 25th in the NFL and defensive coordinator Don Capers tried too big of a playbook. The D didn’t attack enough, and a big problem and reason why was the number of injuries. Inexperience also played a huge role.
Capers wants to spread the playing time around more with the unit this year so guys are ready if the starters go down. It makes sense on many levels, as giving the starters less playing time also increases the chance they remain healthy. The defensive line boasts a lot of depth, with eight or nine players who can get time.
Julius Peppers sold his soul to the devil in the eyes of Chicago Bears’ fans, and now playing for their most heated rival, he will fortify the Packers D nicely. He chose the Packers so he’ll get the opportunity at linebacker, and he will like the return to a 3-4 scheme. His 6’7” 287 body is one of the best in the NFL and he’s great at blocking passes.
The linebackers and secondary are both about average. The team really could have used C.J. Mosley or Ryan Shazier, but missed out on both in the draft. A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones are decent, but neither has much higher of a ceiling than they’ve exhibited thus far. Impact plays are rare. Jamari Lattimore may get some time here, but he blew a lot of assignments last year, so he’s a risky play. The secondary was horrible last season, with zero interceptions the entire season. None.
Clinton-Dix could help turn this around, as just about all of Nick Saban’s defensive players showed they had a head for the game. He’s one of many Alabama defensive players who are due to make big NFL impacts, and this was by far the biggest need for the Packers. Burnett, Thompson and Shields will fight for the other cornerback spot.
Mason Crosby had a good year again last year. He hit just 63 percent in 2012, but hit 89.2 percent last season and made 5-of-7 from beyond 50 yards. He took kickoff duties too.
Tim Masthay did well punting. He averaged 43.9 yards per punt gross, and 36.7 net. Green Bay’s field conditions temper those numbers, so keep in perspective that they would be better in a warmer environment. Randall Cobb may not do returns this season with an increased role in the Packers’ offense.
The Packers are the favorite to win the NFC North, but something of a longshot to win the Superbowl at 10/1. The defense should be better, but that isn’t really saying much. It will still most likely be what costs this team eventually in the postseason. The injury situation can’t be as bad either, or the Packers won’t even finish higher than the Chicago Bears (+275 to win division). If healthy, this team can beat both Seattle and San Francisco, but with so many injury prone players, 10/1 isn’t much of a value pick at all.