Last season was a huge disappointment for the Green Bay Packers. After starting the season 4-1, Aaron Rodgers was lost to injury in a Week 6 loss to the Vikings. Rodgers made it back from his broken collarbone, but not until Week 15, and by then it was too little, too late with regard to Green Bay’s playoff hopes. In the end, the Packers finished 7-9 and third in the NFC North, as their streak of eight consecutive playoff appearances came to an end.
Of course, the Packers are a completely different team if Rodgers is healthy, and that will be the case as the 2018 season kicks off. The Packers know that competition within the NFC is stiff. But if Rodgers is healthy, they like their chances to go up against any team in football.
The oddsmakers are certainly buying into Rodgers and the Packers this year. Green Bay is listed at +1300 to win the Super Bowl, the best odds of any team that missed the playoffs last year. The Packers are also projected to win 10 games this season, which is more than the division rival Vikings are projected. That may sound like a lofty goal. But when you consider that the Packers were essentially 2-7 without Rodgers last year and 4-2 with him, 10 wins sounds like a fair estimate.
Of course, the Packers can’t count on Rodgers to do everything for them. Longtime safety net Jordy Nelson was cut to save money, which will make Rodgers’ job a little harder. Davante Adams is coming off a solid season and the signing of Jimmy Graham should give the Packers a quality red-zone target. However, the Packers are going to need more from Randall Cobb and the other wide receivers on the roster.
Meanwhile, the Green Bay running game figures to be solid but unspectacular. The duo of Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones was viable last season. Ty Montgomery also gives the Packers nice depth at the position. But few teams are going to fear Green Bay’s backfield, which will end up putting more pressure on Rodgers and a set of receivers that are average at best.
The Packers may have just as many questions on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Pettine is taking over for longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers, so it could take some time to adjust to a new voice. The defensive line is in fine shape, but the Packers don’t have many pass rushers outside the tandem of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.
Green Bay’s secondary also has some issues to sort out. The Packers are counting on the two cornerbacks the took in the first two rounds of the draft to contribute right away. They also need Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to bounce back after a mediocre season in 2017.
At first glance, Green Bay’s roster doesn’t look like one that can win the NFC North, much less the Super Bowl. But a healthy Aaron Rodgers changes everything. He’s still one of the few quarterbacks in the NFL who can make an average team a great team. It’s hard to project the Packers making a lot of noise in a competitive NFC. But if Rodgers is healthy, you can’t rule them out.
|Sep 9||Chicago Bears||8:20 PM|
|Sep 16||Minnesota Vikings||1:00 PM|
|Sep 23||@ Washington Redskins||1:00 PM|
|Sep 30||Buffalo Bills||1:00 PM|
|Oct 7||@ Detroit Lions||1:00 PM|
|Oct 15||San Francisco 49ers||8:15 PM|
|Oct 28||@ Los Angeles Rams||4:25 PM|
|Nov 4||@ New England Patriots||8:20 PM|
|Nov 11||Miami Dolphins||1:00 PM|
|Nov 15||@ Seattle Seahawks||8:20 PM|
|Nov 25||@ Minnesota Vikings||8:20 PM|
|Dec 2||Arizona Cardinals||1:00 PM|
|Dec 9||Atlanta Falcons||1:00 PM|
|Dec 16||@ Chicago Bears||1:00 PM|
|Dec 23||@ New York Jets||1:00 PM|
|Dec 30||Detroit Lions||1:00 PM|
Green Bay’s schedule will be challenging but manageable. They have several winnable games early in the season against Chicago, Washington, Buffalo, and Detroit. As long as the Packers start the season well, they have a chance.
However, following their bye week, the Packers play four out of five on the road. To make matters worse, those road games are against the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks, and Vikings. That’s a brutal stretch, to say the least. Things get a little easier in December. But the Packers need to survive November so that they’re playing meaningful games down the stretch.
If you squint hard enough, you can find 10 wins for the Packers on their schedule. However, that’s going to require Rodgers being healthy for 16 games and giving an extraordinary effort. The NFC may be too good for Rodgers to carry such an average roster. Also, 10 wins may not guarantee a playoff spot in the NFC. Green Bay should be in the hunt for a playoff spot, but there’s a good chance they fall short, making them a long shot to win the Super Bowl.