Ahead of the 2018 NFL season, we’re bringing you a series outlining which teams are getting too much hype and what rosters are sneakily going under the radar.
Disclaimer: I hate your favourite team, regardless of who they are. Please use this rationale if it makes you feel better after hearing about how your team aren’t half as good as they think they are.
If you’ve missed our previews, check them out here:
- What’s not to love about the New York Giants?
- The Minnesota Vikings should be Super Bowl favourites
- Are the San Francisco 49ers overrated?
Green Bay Packers
Projected Win Total: Under 10 – 8/11
In 2005, unbeknownst to themselves, Green Bay selected the most talented player to ever play the quarterback position. While being a massive bonus, they also involuntarily subscribed to an era that demanded multiple Super Bowls off the back of that selection.
To date, they’ve won one. That was back in 2010. Since then, the front office have compiled mediocrity for Aaron Rodgers to work with and felt content to ride on his coattails season after season. As he turns 35 during this season, it seems the penny has finally dropped. Now it looks like the Packers may not have to score 30+ points to win a game, nor will Rodgers have to prolong plays using his IQ and his feet in order for one of his targets to shake their coverage.
There hasn’t been a Green Bay better-built to win a Super Bowl than the current one over the last seven years. It’s just unfortunate for them that their divisional rivals Minnesota are the best team in football and they’ll have to play an extra game in the playoffs because of it. Those are the breaks, Brian Gutekunst.
Let’s get the key losses out of the way from last year. Jordy Nelson, now 33, has departed for the Oakland Raiders. His rapport with Rodgers was era-defining, but it looks like he’s set for a retirement home in Oakland under Jon Gruden, before they up and leave for Vegas. There are worse ways to end your career. Last year was the first season since 2012 in which he recorded under 1,000 yards (483).
Of the ten players released by Green Bay from last year’s roster, three were picked up by other teams. One was the aforementioned Nelson and the other two are a quarterback and a punter. I think they’re safe.
It’s the off-season additions that should excite fans. They brought in Mo Wilkerson from the Jets and while he’s not the wrecking ball of old, he’s a consistent performer on the defensive front and should be a terrific mentor for fellow lineman Kenny Clark. Mike Daniels completes their front three – he’s long-been underrated in the league and is most frequently cited by interior offensive lineman as the toughest player to block in the NFL.
Behind them, the multi-talented Clay Matthews and the tackle machine that is Blake Martinez. The issue with Green Bay has never been their front seven, but their back four. Or given how many offences now run four receiver formations – their back six.
In the space of one draft, Green Bay went from questionable depth at cornerback to one of the deepest units in the league. My favourite corner in this year’s draft class was Jaire Alexander from Louisville – and he picked him up at #18 overall. They then doubled up by taking Josh Jackson from Iowa in the second round. Adding them to last year’s pick Kevin King, they’ve now got the back-end support to complement a dominant front seven.
On the flipside of the ball, Green Bay’s offensive line is the prime example of average. Interior-wise, they leave a lot to be desired, but Rodgers’ movement within the pocket is so unique, that long-term pals Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari are key cogs in keeping him upright. Bakhtiari’s injury was a key concern for everyone in the organisation, but it appears he’s ready for the season ahead after he returned to training on Tuesday.
Any offensive line protecting Rodgers doesn’t need to be elite – it needs to be functional.
Here is where the fun begins. For so long, Rodgers would throw receivers open. Now, with the signings of Marcedes Lewis and Jimmy Graham, he can toss the ball up under pressure and expect them to catch it. They’ve already got an elite thrower and two good route runners in Adams and Cobb. They also picked up my favourite receiver in the draft class – the brilliantly named Equanimeous St. Brown. Now, they have the complete set and I wish any opposing secondary the best of luck.
Schedule-wise, they’ve got favourable out-of-division opponents. Let’s take it that they beat the Lions twice because they’re at least four-point favourites either way in my book. They should beat the Bears at least once if not twice and could split the series with Minnesota. That leaves them 4-2, being conservative.
They play Washington, Buffalo, the Rams, San Francisco, Miami, Seattle, New England, Arizona, Atlanta and the Jets. Conceivably, only Atlanta, New England and the Rams would be favoured – and they play Atlanta at home.
To me, they win ten of those games off the back of Rodgers’ brilliance. With this supporting cast, they should be good for twelve.