We hate them. Everyone outside of Wisconsin hates them. They’re good and both their players and their fans make damn sure we know it. The Packers should be the favorites to win the NFC North again this year, but a little bad luck could give the other three teams hope. Jordy Nelson’s torn ACL alone won’t be enough for the other teams to catch up as the Packers still have a roster that stacks up with the best in the league.
Why They’ll Win The North:
Even without Nelson, the Packers can beat opponents in so many different ways. If they want to throw it, they still have Rodgers with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and their third-round pick Ty Montgomery or second-year receiver Jeff Janis. Losing Nelson is a blow, but don’t be surprised if Adams explodes this year and Nelson never gets his starting job back.
And, if they want to play it more conservatively, would anyone be surprised of Eddie Lacy led the league in rushing? Or touchdowns? The dude is a beast and they have the best interior offensive line in the league, helping him get to the second level, facing players he outweighs by 30 pounds.
Defensively, the Packers get after the quarterback with a variety of looks and they take the ball away. When you have the best offense in the league, that’s really all you need.
Clay Matthews is easy to dislike because he’s as arrogant of a player as there is in the entire league, but he’s good. Julius Peppers proved he wasn’t just stealing their money last year and Mike Daniels is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league.
Why They Won’t:
Speaking of that defense, they finished 16th in DVOA last year and could be substantially worse this year.
While Peppers didn’t steal their money last year, but he might this year. He’s a year older and by having a good year last year, he guaranteed himself a large chunk of money this year with his base salary jumping $7.5 million.
Peppers isn’t their biggest worry. The Packers let their best cornerback, Tramon Williams, and his primary backup leave in free agency. They’re entering this year with a major lack of experience.
When it comes to injuries, the Packers were the luckiest team in the league last year, ending the season with the same 22 offensive and defensive starters they started the year with. That never happens and likely won’t this year. Nelson’s injury may not be a killer in itself, but if they were to lose another offensive starter for any length of time, you could start to see them have issues.
Rodgers has been injured each of the last two seasons. Their offensive line hasn’t been able to block anyone in their practice games. If that continues into the regular season, Rodgers and the Packers could be in big trouble.
While Nelson’s knee injury isn’t a deathblow to the Packers, it is a chink in the armor. Their margin for error just got a little bit smaller. Small enough for the rest of the team’s to catch up? Not likely, but a few more blows or bounces that go the wrong way and the Packers could find themselves playing for their season again this year.
Of course, injuries and bad luck are impossible to predict. And if that is what anyone is basing their hopes on, the reality if clear: The Packers are the dominant team in the division and everyone else is far behind.