The Green Bay Packers come into the 2018 season feeling much more energetic with the return of starting QB Aaron Rodgers. The Packers finished the 2017 with a 7-9 record and backup QB Todd Hundley had to steer the ship after Rodgers went down in week 6 with a broken collar bone. Rodgers only lasted 2 series in the Week 6 contest against Minnesota, but the Packers had a 4-1 record going into that game. Packers fell to the Vikings 23-10 and the loss of Rodgers showed up immediately. The Packers with Hundley at the helm only won one out of the next five games. The season still had life after Green Bay reeled off two consecutive wins against the Buccaneers and Browns in weeks 13 and 14. Rodgers returned for a desperation attempt in week 15 to rattle off three straight winners with only three games left on the schedule. The Packers lost the week 15 game against the Panthers and sat Rodgers for the remaining two games left on the schedule. The Packers would lose the final two games of the season and the season went as a disaster for the Green Bay faithful.
Green Bay should better this season all around, but how much better is the question. For the record I’m a diehard Packers fan and have been for 30+ years. I will not let a bias affect my professional handicap.
Let’s take a deep dive into the 2018 schedule.
I guess it’s a good idea before we dig into the regular season schedule to take a quick glance at the preseason schedule. The Packers will finish the preseason with back to back road games with the third to final contest with a west coast trip to Oakland. Packers finish up at Kansas City to close out the preseason schedule. Is it a huge negative that the Packers have to play back to back road games to finish out the preseason schedule? Well it might not be that big of a deal, but any professional handicapper should make note that it is a small negative in some way, shape, or form.
Speaking of back to back road games, the Packers will have three separate sets of back to back road games during the regular season. This is never an easy task and the games should be tough. Take a look below at the three sets of back to back road games.
*WK8 @Rams (Rams will be off 3 Straight Road games prior) benefits GB
*WK9 @Patriots = Could be the top team in the league
**WK11 @Seattle = Short Week for GB following home game Vs. Miami
**WK12 @Minnesota = Off @Bears, but a BYE prior to Bears game.
***WK15 @CHI = Tough Division Game
***WK16 @NYJ = Packers generally poor with road AFC visits
We do have some small negatives for each game and the big factor is three of the road games are TV night games. Seattle, Patriots and Minnesota all will be played during prime time. Although the Seahawks have slipped, they still hold one of the leagues largest home field advantages. Green bay is fortunate though that prior to the Week 8 road game against the Seahawks, they get a BYE in week 7. I see the Packers going 2-4 or 3-3 at best for these 6 games combined. The Packers still have two other road games which will include the Redskins for week 3 and the Lions for week 5. The Packers can win both games, but they can also slip up against the Lions being a division game. I will chalk them as winning both games, but my feeling is about 65% they go 2-0 for those games. My Packers final road record will be 4-4 or 5-3 at best.
The Packers home schedule looks to be easy at first glance, but I see a bunch of teams that will be looking to bounce back this season. I also see some teams that Vegas has agreed on that should be much better according to this season’s team win totals. Packers Team Total Wins is 10u15
Packers home schedule looks like this.
Week 1 – Chicago
Week 2 – Minnesota
Week 4 – Buffalo
Week 6 – San Francisco
Week 10 – Miami
Week 13 – Arizona
Week 14 – Atlanta
Week 17 – Detroit
I’ve locked in the Packers to win three of these games for sure. Chicago in week 1. Buffalo in week 4. Miami in week 10.
I can see the Packers dropping home games to the Vikings, Falcons and maybe the 49ers. Arizona will be a team that looks to rebound with the return of David Johnson and new QB Sam Bradford. Cardinals could very well be a pesky bunch this season. Lions to close the season won’t be easier either.
My projections through a public’s eye without any issues or professional handicap are as follows.
Away games 5-3
Home games 6-2
Total Wins = (11*)
The problem with the schedule projection is this is what the public will see when they look at the schedule. Facts are facts and the Packers have issues. Let’s tear the Packers apart piece by piece and I’ll show why the actual season wins might not be as high as most might think.
Let’s start with the front office. Big change with Ted Thompson moving from GM to Senior Advisor. This might not stir up things for the season, but it should be noted that the Packers made some changes at the top of the food chain for this season.
Next in line is the Head Coach Mike McCarthy. He retained his job after a losing season, but he got the benefit of the doubt with Rodgers going down early in the season. Fact is McCarthy was once good when he had a great team. The years have gone by and it’s one bone head call after another. Someone who watches the Packers every game will know that McCarthy at some point during the season is going to cost the Packers a game. The Packers did a complete rebuild around McCarthy. This is a sure-fire sign that if he doesn’t get the job done this season, he will be making his exit if the Packers fail to make a deep playoff run.
Green Bay has brought in or shifted a total of thirteen coaches.
Joe Philbin – OC
Mike Pettine – DC
James Campen – Run Game/O-Line
Jim Hostler – Pass Game CO
Patrick Graham – D-Run Game/ILB
Joe Whitt – D Pass CO
Frank Cignetti – QB Coach
Ryan Downard – D Quality Control Coach
Maurice Drayton – Asst Special Teams
Scott McCurley – D Asst Coach
Jerry Montgomery – D Line Coach
David Raih – WR Coach
Jason Simmons – Secondary Coach
I’ve seen this act a thousand times in the NFL. This is a tough situation to get used to for professional football players. You now 14 new chiefs entering the building including the new GM Brian Gutekunst. Professional football players with ego’s and pockets filled with cash don’t take to extreme changes in seniority. I can only view this move by the Packers as a negative for the new season. The Packers will need to gel with all these coaches and as a team.
Overall the front office and coaching tree should be looked at in a negative light. How much is uncertain, but the beginning of the season could be rather rocky with all these changes in place.
Green Bay tried to make a offseason splash with some of the signings they made. It turned out to be a belly flop as they only signed 4 players who they could actually play. Two new additions for each the offense and the defense.
TE Jimmy Graham – He is far from what he once was.
TE Mercedes Lewis – Just in case Graham doesn’t work out.
DT Muhammad Wilkerson – The Packers best free agent signing who will start.
CB Tramon Williams – Green Bay dumped him last season and now they bring him back.
Let’s give credit to the Packers for dumping some dead weight in free agency. They dumped a few players who barely played and made room for the depth chart for the draft.
My grade for the Packers was a C+
Green Bay addressed the secondary which had some big holes to fill. They signed some pretty good CB with the first two choices, but they failed to really fill in the defensive line which needed major attention. Two rookie CB’s in the starting lineup could be dangerous. I expect Jaire Alexander (pick 18) to start at some point this season. Josh Jackson (pick 42) could also be in the mix if the Packers secondary shows little improvement this season. I would say the odds are high for one or the other or perhaps both to play this season in a starting role.
Green Bay needed to draft some higher value DT’s in the draft. They failed to get that done by addressing the CB issue with the first two picks. The Packers didn’t draft a DT until the 7th round. Green Bay passed over this spot over and over again for players they really didn’t need. 3 WR’s, 2 OLB’s and a long snapper and a punter. Not one RB was taken, but they did address the tackle spot which needed help in the 5th round selecting Washington State OT Cole Madison. I thought the guard spot was more of a need, but my guess is Madison was the best available who can play the guard spot as well.
Between the draft and free agency the Packers did little to impress me. Sure they addressed a few needs, but not that major signing or two that most fans desire and the Packers really need.
Aaron Rodgers is back so we can all R-E-L-A-X !!!
Fact is the Packers need to put this offense in over-drive and no relax talk needs to be had. We all know that Jordy Nelson has departed for the Oakland Raiders and that was Rodger’s #1 target. DeVonte Adams will now assume the #1 role this season. Before we get to the WR’s, let’s talk about Rodgers. He is coming off a broken collar bone and he missed 65% of the season last year. We have to worry about his mental well-being after suffering that type of injury and rust as well. This can only be viewed as a negative entering this season.
The WR’s as I mentioned will be led by Adams and followed by Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allision. Rodgers at one time back in 2013 and 2014 used Cobb as a big part of the offense, but has gone away from him more and more as the years have gone by. I wonder if Cobb is going to fit right back in like the years of 2014 and before. Cobb had a total of 23 catches with Rodgers in the first 4 games last season that Rodgers played in. That might seem like a good amount, but Cobb’s targets and receptions had slipped with each game and that’s not at all surprising to me. Nelson had 20 catches on 29 targets. So, it was clear just from last year and the 1st 4 games of last season, that Nelson was still his #1 guy. How will Rodgers react to his main man being off the field? Adams and Rodgers have been good when they played together for the lost part. Adams almost had 1000 yards back in 2016 with 75 catches. So, Rodgers won’t be worried about going to him one bit. The 3rd guy now with Nelson not stretching the field for Rodger’s has to be Allison. He only caught a total of maybe 15 passes from Rodgers in 2 seasons. Are we really banking on Jimmy Graham and Lewis to fill the void of departed TE’s Martellus Bennet and Jared Cook? Rodgers TE production has slipped over the last three seasons and now we bring in Jimmy Graham? His production over the years has slipped and him being and upgrade is another question mark. I’m not pinning any high hopes that he is going to get back to that top-level performer like he once was. If all else fails with Graham, I guess we can lean on Lewis having another pro bowl season like he had in 2009 which was his last. Lewis is now in his 12th season and coming from Las Alamitos, I wonder how much longer before he’s sitting at the race track in his retirement.
Overall with a healthy Aaron Rodgers these guys could be above average as a group. I see a bunch of questions with timing and reps not being had. I also see questions with the TE’s fitting in and getting to know the system. It won’t be easy with 8 new guys coaching either for the WR or TE group. The Packers depth in these two areas looks to be very old and very young. One injury could really hurt the Packers if the four key parts don’t stay healthy.
The backfield as one person said looks like a car crash. I think it looks like a car crash on drugs. Starting RB Aaron Jones has tested positive for abusing drugs and will serve a two-game suspension to start the season. This is the last thing the Packers needed especially with the issues they have in the backfield. Jamall Williams will assume the role as starter and I predict he will remain the starter unless he gets injured or his play is just non-productive. Here’s my concern with Williams. Rodgers has very limited reps with him in game situations. He only touched the ball 10 times in actual games with Rodgers since he entered the league. Now you add in another part of this offense that the coaches and Rodgers has to get used too. From what I’ve seen with my own eyes, Williams is average at best. Jones is just as good as he is. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he will look to do a committee thing this year. How is that going to help the Packers with Rodgers having very limited reps with just one of these players in the backfield. Yes, Ty Montgomery has been in the backfield with Rodgers, but he is already listed as the 3rd string RB. That’s exactly where he belongs. Montgomery is a WR who they converted into a RB after they realized they had no RB to begin with. Yet again, the Packers failed to address this in free agency or the draft. Perhaps when Jones comes back after his suspension the Packers backfield will be better. I still have some major concerns however with the Packers RB’s properly pass blocking. One of the reasons Rodgers got killed in his 5 games was missed blocks by the running backs. Lack of work with these guys will rear it’s ugly head once again. Let’s not forget how short the minicamps and training camps are. They don’t go through full contact like they once did and the Packers need reps.
The Offensive line has to be the bright spot for the Packers right now besides the return of Rodgers. Rodgers last year was sacked a total of 22 times in just his 5.2 games. He was tied for the top 25 in the league with sacks and only played 5 games. That’s not very good is it? Hundley on the other hand played the remaining 11 games and was sacked 29 times. That’s a total of 51 sacks allowed by the GB O-Line TE and RB’s. That would rank the Packers only behind Indy with a total of 52 sacks. Packers have issues at the guard spot and the lack of rushing offense and sacks might continue because the Packers are putting out the same squad again this year. Jimmy Graham is a decent blocking TE, but he can only do so much. I think the big key is the RB spot being very spotty coupled with limited playing time with Rodgers. Missed blocks get QB’s killed in this league and I’d suspect we see Rodger’s get blind-sided because of the lack of reps with this backfield. This offensive line has question marks and so does the protection for Rodgers.
I won’t post the Packers offensive numbers for the season because they wouldn’t be very accurate with Rodgers missing 11 games last season. I can only use the RB and O-Line stats coming into this season. The offense did a very good job on offense not committing penalties in 2017. One big reason was because they didn’t have the ball all that much. Although, they did commit just about half of the 32 offensive flags when Rodgers played in his limited action. They would have been right at the top had Rodgers played all season long with flags against the offense. The Packers finished ranked 17th in the league for rushing.
Please don’t say Clay Mathews !! He is a good player, but his level of play has slipped down the last 3 years. Packers have issues in the secondary, but they drafted well to sure up some holes. Issue with the back end is the inexperience at CB as I touched on in our draft section of this handicap. I’m not sold on this D-Line either for Green Bay. They have some things that say this should be the prime years for front three guys, but Daniels, Clark and Wilkerson are about as average as it gets. The LB core is the key for Green Bay. That unit is led by Nick Perry and Mathews. Both have injury concerns because neither has played a full season the last three years. The Packers LB depth chart is slim on talent, but they do have some bodies now after the draft.
Also have a new DC in Mike Pettine and his process is going to be another adjustment period. Packers had a very good defense four years ago with Peppers, younger Mathews, Neal, Jones and the secondary. This defense isn’t anything better than average this year. One or two injuries to the D-Lne or LB spot could mean well below average. The lack of a pass rusher should have been addressed in the draft and it wasn’t. Packers waisted two picks on a punter, long snapper. Packers needed more defense and they drafted only three other players for defense besides the two CB’s that went 1st and 2nd.
Packers defense last year finished overall total defense at 22nd in the league. That’s well below average.
Pass defense #23 & Rush defense #17. Below average for both areas.
Sacks #17 = Just about average
Fumbles forced #28 = Very Poor
INT’s #20 = Below average
#26 3rd down conv % against defense = Very poor
Green bay finished last year dead last with only 15 FG’s on the season. Mason Crosby had limited chances with this offense, but he finished just 78% on the season. He missed a few 30yd FG’s and few 50yd FG’s as well. He missed only two extra points on the season. I feel Crosby will be solid as usual this upcoming season.
Punting #22 – Brand new Punter and LS drafted and they will l be starting. We will be sure to see a blunder or two from these two rookies this season.
Punt and kickoff coverage was average for both units last season.
Aaron Rodgers is back and that alone has the media and public loving the Packers. Real cheese heads know this is one of the weakest Packers teams we’ve seen in years. I see a ton of question marks surrounding this entire team. We have new coaches all over the place and new schemes for this upcoming season. We have to hope the Packers can adjust to all the changes. Rodgers is coming off his second collar bone break and that could cause him some mental timidity. The rushing game is a huge problem and a big question mark. Lack of reps and not knowing the offense is one thing, but now working with Rodgers and a new coaching staff could be a disaster for this group. They have to get things in order quickly and with guys being suspended, it won’t be easy. WR Jordy Nelson is gone and everyone now moves up the ladder. Can Cobb rekindle that old flame he once was back in 2013 and 2014 is going to be tough. How will Rodgers feel having a new No. 1 guy that he needs to depend on. Wide receiver depth isn’t shy, but they are shy on talent because they are loaded with youth. Tight end Jimmy Graham isn’t the same and you have to wonder how he will feel playing in the cold and snow. TE depth isn’t slim after Graham because Lewis is waiting in the wings. He comes from the nice cozy area of Jacksonville, Florida. The offensive line is ok, but they have to protect Rodgers along with the TE and RB’s as well. The guard spot for GB could be musical chairs this season. We just have to wait and see how things pan out. The O-Line is scarce right now talent wise if one of these five starters go down or under perform. The defense could be good in another few years, but the youth won’t help them out right now at this level. The LB’s are getting older and injured more frequently. The defensive line hasn’t had a solid pass rusher since the departure of Peppers and that stingy Green Bay front from years ago. The addition of Wilkerson could create a spark, but I doubt it’s anything great. He has played four full seasons in his first seven so that’s a big plus. What will the new DC Mike Pettine do with this defense as well is a question mark. Mike McCarthy is on the brink of the hot seat and I can see this being his final season if the Packers don’t make a big playoff push. He hasn’t helped the Packers with his bone head play calling and mental lapses over the course of the last few seasons. At some point he will cost the Packers a game because his mistakes have become more frequent. Insert a new punter and long snapper and they are just a botched punt away from throwing away game with that unit. I see the Packers as a slightly above average team with nothing but question marks surrounding them It’s a long season and the Packers have to hope they don’t suffer any injuries this year. They have to hope the coaching staff and players all buy in and can work together. I feel the list of hopes, maybe’s and needs is very long with them.
I’ve asked around about the Packers and I’ve gotten the same answer from about five different guys. All of which are public bettors and they all think Green Bay is back because of Rodgers and Rodgers lone. “Rodgers is back, you’ll be fine”. I even heard someone say when is the last time the Packers didn’t win 11 games with Rodgers at QB. My answer to that is simple. When was the last time the Vikings were favorites to win the division? In fact, Green Bay has only won 11 or more games with Rodgers at QB 4 times out of his 10 seasons. Green bay hasn’t won 11 games the last three years and this is perhaps the weakest Packers team since 2008 when Rodgers first started.
Looking at the schedule and the current team with all these issues I discussed. I can only think Green Bay will lose a game they should win and lose perhaps another one of those tough road games most might just chalk up as a win. I can guarantee you two things for the Packers this season. They will be in a dog fight in almost every game they play this season unless Rodgers goes out with another injury. Packers WILL NOT win 11 games. My professional handicap on paper says no and my gut says no. I’m a Packers fan so I’m quite confident in my work and knowledge of this team.
Best Bet – Green bay Season Wins – Under 10
Secondary Bet – Will Green Bay WIN NFC North – NO
Final Prediction – (9-7) 50/50 on making the playoffs this season.