Packers XLV

Will Pack's 100th Season Be A Magical One?

Posted September 5th, 2018 @ 03:09pm

As we get set to embark on the Pack's 100th season, Packer fans find themselves in unfamiliar territory: dealing with a lot of unknowns about this year's team.

After a decade of stability, there's a new leadership model, with Mark Murphy the CEO and Mike McCarthy a senior VP, along with newly promoted VP Brian Gutekunst.

First, McCarthy. He has two new coordinators under him: one a comfortable old pair of slippers (Joe Philbin) and one a stylish new sport coat (Mike Pettine). When Philbin was around, the Packers' offense was at its most prolific. He's a brilliant football mind who is precisely who Aaron Rodgers needs to lean on right now. I ran into Matt Birk at KFAN a couple of weeks ago and he repeated the story he told me years ago: that Philbin was the best coach he ever had on any level. I believe he's the right guy to breathe life into the Pack's offense.

Pettine won me over in his opening press conference and it sounds like he accomplished the same thing with the players. His simpler approach to defense is proven, given his track record in New York. Now, obviously, you have to have players to make it work. And it looks like he'll be counting on a number of young, unproven guys to catch on quickly.

How far the Packers go this season will depend upon whether Pettine's unit can take a major step forward. There's no doubting the firepower on the other side of the ball. As long as Aaron Rodgers stay healthy, the Packers will be able to score on anybody. Much is made about the depth of the offensive line, but 31 other teams can say the same thing. There just aren't that many great tackles out there and the Pack need to have Bakhtiari and Bulaga stay upright.

While the running game is unproven, the trio of Williams, Montgomery and Jones will benefit from the prolific passing game--and will never have to face eight man fronts, as most strong running teams do. While Williams will get the bulk of the work early, I'm in the camp that says Aaron Jones will prove to be to electric to keep off the field and will be the primary back by the time the schedule turns frightening around Halloween.

The biggest concern defensively is the pass rush, where just four outside linebackers made the team, two of whom have found it difficult to stay on the field for 16 games, one who appears to be on the rise and one who has yet to prove he belongs. You have to think either the team will look to add a veteran here if they find one they like, or Pettine will count on the guys up front to assist. The strength of the unit is on the D-line and I'm excited to see Daniels, Clark, Wilkerson and Adams thrive under Pettine's direction.

To me, the biggest reason for optimism is the young cornerback group. There's reason to believe the first two picks, Alexander and Jackson are ready to step in and produce. Jackson was the league's highest rated corner in the preseason, while Alexander's snaps were more limited. There will be growing pains, as there are for all corners, but with veteran Tramon Williams back to school them in Pettine's system, Davon House on hand to provide depth and Kevin King poised to handle one of the outside spots, it's likely that we'll see much better play out of this group than we saw in 2017.

There are some question marks on special teams, with a rookie punter and long snapper, but Mason Crosby remains one of the league's most consistent kickers and the Pack appears to be committed to Trevor Davis on returns, which frees up guys like Alexander and Montgomery to concentrate on their A jobs and hopefully stay healthier.

The key to staying in the NFC North race will be getting off to a fast start. If the Packers don't lead the division after week 6, they'll be in deep trouble. The schedule is very favorable early--they'll likely be favored in their first six games leading into the bye. A 5-1 start seems possible, despite the fact that McCarthy's teams have generally gotten off to slower starts. Four of the first six are at home, with road games in Washington and Detroit. The Lions game may be toughest test leading into the bye, not counting the Vikings in week 2, but you gotta believe Rodgers will be up to that challenge.

While the Packers play home games and reasonable road games early, the Vikings have tough road tests: Green Bay, Philly and the Rams. A 3-3 start seems likely, giving the Pack an early lead in the division--something they'll need when the tables turn in November.

I can't remember a tougher stretch, on paper, than the one the Pack faces, beginning with a late afternoon road test at the Rams. They follow up with three road prime time games in the next four weeks against the Patriots, Seahawks and Vikings. That's a murderer's row (though the Seahawks may not look like the Seahawks this year) and it's why it's essential that the Packers get out of the gates quickly. If they lose three of those five games, they'll likely be sitting somewhere around 7-4 with five December games left.

As of right now, they'll likely be favored in their final five games: home games against the Cards, Falcons and Lions and road games at the Bears and Jets. I figure they'll slip up once and finish at 11-5, which may be good enough to reclaim the North. I have the Vikings finishing at 10-6 and claiming a wildcard spot.

Obviously, the Pack needs key players to stay healthy and all that, but look no further than the preseason MVP race: Rodgers is the favorite and most believe he will lead this team back to the postseason. Here are my playoff predictions:

AFC Division Winners: Pats, Steelers, Chargers, Texans

AFC Wildcards: Broncos, Jaguars

AFC Championship: Chargers over Pats

NFC Division Winners: Packers, Saints, Rams, Giants

NFC Widcards: Vikings, Eagles

NFC Championship: Packers over Saints

Super Bowl: Packers over Chargers

My Packers-Bears preview will be posted here on Friday morning. Don't forget: "Packer Preview" returns for a 23rd season on KFAN and iHeart Radio this Sunday. Tune in at 7am, or podcast it whenever you wake up. I'll be posting "Packer Review" podcasts on the morning after games which you'll find on this site or on iHeart and iTunes.

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Comments (13):

Get off my lawn. Also, Denver doesn't make the playoffs, their coach and qb suck, the Chargers and Cheifs are both better, but the Chargers ain't making it to the SB. The Jags are winning their division, Houston will be lucky to make the wild card. The Giants aren't winning the East, perhaps a wildcard though. The Packers aren't winning the North. Minnesota's roster is better and deeper top to bottom by a wide margin. The Packers are better at QB and Oline but worse at every other position group. Maybe the Packers have an advantage with the specialists, I haven't really done a deep dive on the kickers/punters/LSs. Packers make the postseason via wildcard, but aren't making the SB. I have to wonder if your head is literally filled with cheese when I read this clearly uninformed drivel. Also, your site is not secure, you should probably get that corrected.

on September 10th, 2018 at 09:47am

Hi.

on September 5th, 2018 at 01:26pm

The Packers and their know-nothing "owners" have wasted the greatest QB since Dan Marino. If not for Raji's pick-six against a 3rd string QB in the NFCCG Rodgers wouldn't even have one Super Bowl appearance. Rodgers won 1 time, Marino made it a single time and lost, that will be the only difference between the two of them. Both great, HOF QBs of their respective eras. Dan Marino doesn't have a ring but at least he isn't the very definition of douchebag.

on September 5th, 2018 at 01:47pm

Oh Davey, take the cheddar from your ole noggin, pack are no better then a wild card,and that is a big IF.. arod has to carry them again and no room for error, relying on rookie cornerbacks hahahaha oh please, just like your fan base, delusional as fuc/k, and always living in the past..

on September 5th, 2018 at 02:10pm

8======D - - - () .... Straight in the pooper just how you sconni's love it... 8-8 at best season for da pack.. no defense= no playoffs. Aaron alone gets you to .500 unless his glass collarbones crack again

on September 5th, 2018 at 02:13pm

I don't think the Packers will make the playoffs this year but I'll be hosting hot tub parties at my place on game day throughout the season.

on September 5th, 2018 at 02:15pm

Nice work on giving the trolls, or possibly it is all just one very dedicated troll, something to troll about. One even managed to sw/ear, very convincing. Good thing THC isn't very strict or ambitious about reaching a larger audience with this blog. At last the troll(s) may be the most dedicated followers.

on September 5th, 2018 at 03:40pm

"Packer fans find themselves in unfamiliar territory: dealing with a lot of unknowns about this year's team." Gotta disagree. There's a lot of things we know about this team -Head Coach sucks -Defense sucks -Skill positions mediocre at best -Olivia Munn is hotter than Danicka Patrick -The average Packer fan is still eating Eddie Lacey portioned meals Looks like another season of wasting the talent of a top 10 all-time QB.

on September 5th, 2018 at 03:41pm

Your old buddy Roscoe Lombardi here, I've been away for a while, my apologies. As my old friend Lao Tzu once said, "Those who have knowledge don't predict. Those who predict, don't have knowledge." But one thing my daddy never did understand is why there have been so many Wisconsin serial killers. He'd say to me, "Boy, how can a serial killer survive in Wisconsin? Fat people are harder to kidnap." But I guess they're good eatin's, can I get a "Dahmer" on that one? But your predictions are off a bit, the Giants won't win the East and the Chargers won't make the Super Bowl. But the rest of your predictions are slicker than snot on a doorknob. Anybody who doesn't believe the Packers will sweep the NFC North and win yet another WORLD Championship is nuttier than a squirrel turd.

on September 5th, 2018 at 11:09am

Let's see...........1) hoping rookie CB's will come in and produce right away 2) relying on older washed-up players like Matthews, Bulaga, and Cobb to stay healthy 3) Lack of any running game and 4) Still relying on Rodgers to somehow superman his way through the year carrying the team by himself. Yeah........I'm pretty sure that Ted Thompson never actually retired/stepped down, because all of his proven failed philosophies of yesteryear are still very much being practiced by this "new" regime. Too funny.......

on September 5th, 2018 at 11:13am

The Packers are old in their front 7 on defense and young in the back, you lost your best receiver to the Raiders. Enjoy 3rd place in the North, maybe you can watch past highlights of good packer teams...from the 60's on your VCR.

on September 5th, 2018 at 12:24pm

Oh Synner - You know the definition of insanity is trying something over an over even if it didn't work previously. All those CB picks since 2015 and you still think young guys or rookies will just step right in be the solution. Not to mention that Goldilocks and whatshisname can't rush from the outside. You better hope A-a-ron can score 45 every game...that's the only way the Pukers can win. And that don't fly in the playoffs.

on September 5th, 2018 at 12:58pm

Seeing all the statements saying nothing here by apparent Queens' trolls I can see why Tony Kornheiser said they were the "most rabid, self-delusional" fans in all of pro sports. Thanks for providing the evidence and demonstration guy(s.) As for some intelligent & informed football talk: The Packers this season should return to what they were during the 8 year playoff run preceding last season. Provided the injury bug doesn't bite as hard and there are no more flukish or dirty hits to take out Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay should see at least a 10-12 win season and return to the playoffs. Beyond that it will be wait and see. With Rodgers they averaged nearly 27 ppg in 2017 but dropped off more than 10 ppg without him. With all being well again with Number 12 they will return to top 5 in the league offensive form. The defense doesn't have to go as far as people think to reach top ten themselves. They were actually only 12.4 ypg from reaching the top 10 last year. But terrible third down performance & insufficient turnovers and sacks were their undoing. New personnel and new coaching can make positive difference there. Take out the two Detroit games, in which they were pathetic, and they held the rest of their opponents to 18.2 ppg in 2017. If the offense had maintained its 26.8 ppg with Rodgers it would have been an entirely different season. In 2018 it will be. The Pack comes back to the top of the NFC North and into the playoff circle.

on September 6th, 2018 at 05:49am

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