That mountain starts at the top with their game against the best team in all the league in 2013 – the world champion Seattle Seahawks. But should the Packers withstand the Seahawks’ defense and their 12th Man, the rest of the way certainly won’t be a downhill ride – first off, they have to compete with the other three NFC North teams that have done a ton themselves to improve their rosters.
Winning a fourth straight NFC North Division title will certainly be Green Bay’s first and foremost goal, then making the playoffs and, of course, riding the wave to the Super Bowl.
If Peter King of Sports Illustrated is correct, that’s the way things will happen. To get there, the Packers head into the season with a deep roster that was developed after a strong preseason that Head Coach Mike McCarthy said was one of, if not the best he has seen in his nine years in Titletown.
Key offseason moves
Packers General Manager Ted Thompson seemed inspired this offseason, actually diving into a concentrated and focused foray into free agency.
Of course, Thompson’s forte is the draft, and he didn’t disappoint in that venue either, picking up three solid wide receivers (though Jared Abbrederis is out for the year with a knee injury), addressing the safety position, as well as tight end, linebacker and defensive line needs.
Free agent acquisitions:
• DE Julius Peppers, DT Letroy Guion
Early Draft Picks: • S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, WR Davante Adams, DE/DT Khyri Thornton, TE Richard • Rodgers, ILB Carl Bradford, C Corey Linsley, WR Jared Abbrederis and WR Jeff Janis
Key losses: WR James Jones, OT Marshall Newhouse, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, DE/DT C.J. Wilson, S M.D. Jennings.
Here’s the Packers’ 2014 53-man roster
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis
Richard Rodgers, Brandon Bostick, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor
David Bahktiari, Bryan Bulaga, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, J.C. Tretter, Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor, Derek Sherrod
Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Josh Boyd, Mike Pennel, Letroy Guion
Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Andy Mulumba, Jayrone Elliott, Carl Bradford
Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Demitri Goodson
Morgan Burnett, Micah Hyde, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sean Richardson
P/K/LS: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Here’s a look at the Packers schedule
Here is how we are calling the season*
Packers at Seattle Seahawks: For the first time the Packers play in Seattle since the infamous “Fail Mary” game. A win to kick off the season on the road against the world champion would be a huge start. If have a gut feeling that Aaron Rodgers gets protected this time and lifts the Packers to a win. 1-0
Packers vs. N.Y. Jets: Opening at home against an inferior Jets team should be the tonic the Packers need, regardless of how they do in the opener. With a win in Seattle, the Packers open the season at 2-0.
Packers at Detroit Lions: The last time the Packers played at Detroit they were destroyed. This time will be different. The Lions will score points, but the Packers will simply outscore them with their power and speed. I figure this game to be high scoring. The first team to 40 wins. Packers raise their record to 3-0.
Packers at Bears: This is one of those trap games for the Packers. They should beat the Bears, but they will be playing on the road and the Bears will be out for blood following last year’s loss to the Packers on the Rodgers-to-Cobb bomb that left the Bears without an NFC North Title and shut out of the playoffs. It will be close, but the Bears somehow win this one. 3-1
Packers vs. Vikings: After a stinging loss to the Bears on the road, the Packers come out on fire against the Vikings at home just four days later. The Packers take their rivals from the west to the cleaners and get their offense back on track. 4-1
Packers at Dolphins: Eddie Lacy and the Packers running game will be balanced by a solid pass game as the Packers head to South Florida and come away with an inter-conference win in the October warmth. 5-1
Packers vs. Carolina: Playing against one of the stiffest defenses in all the NFL won’t make much difference to Aaron Rodgers as he protects the home field. He outplays Cam Newton and the Packers raise their record to 6-1.
Packers at New Orleans: This will be a shootout in the Super Dome, but Drew Brees will have enough in his tank to win a close one. This Sunday Night Football game could even go into extra innings. Saints win on a field goal. 6-2
Packers vs. Bears: Redemption from that early season loss comes here with a huge performance by Rodgers, who doesn’t like to lose to Chicago. 7-2
Packers vs. Eagles: Last year the Packers couldn’t contain the Eagles’ running game and Philadelphia stole a win at Lambeau. That won’t be the case this year. Not only that, but Rodgers plays this time around instead of Scott Tolzien. 8-2
Packers at Vikings: The Vikings defense comes to play as they entertain the Packers at their temporary “home,” TCF Stadium. However, it’s still not enough and the Packers come away with a sweep of the Vikings to bolster their standing and goal to win yet another NFC North championship. 9-2
Packers vs. Patriots: What can be better than a showdown of Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady at Lambeau Field? The last time Brady visited Lambeau he crushed the Packers. That won’t be the case this year as Rodgers wins the showdown. 10-2
Packers vs. Falcons: Last year the Packers had to come back from a big halftime deficit to beat the Falcons at home in the cold. But that was without Aaron Rodgers under center. This year, the Packers easily handle Atlanta with yet another big passing day by Rodgers as he outplays Matt Ryan. 11-2
Packers at Bills: The Packers begin their final three games by facing the Bills on the road. If everyone is healthy on the Bills’ defense, they might put a scare into Green Bay, but I see the experience factor under center as the difference in this one. 12-2
Packers at Buccaneers: This one won’t even be close as Tampa Bay under new coach Lovie Smith continues to try to find its identity. Again, Rodgers, Lacy and company lead the Packers to a big win on the road. 13-2
Packers vs. Lions: The final game of the season might see a lot of Packers starters sitting or playing only a portion of the game as the team preps for the playoffs. The Lions? Their offense will once again show up, but their defense will still be looking for answers as to why they can’t stop anyone. 14-2
The Packers finish at 14-2, win the NFC North
and qualify for a first round bye in the playoffs
* Injuries always play a huge role in the NFL; How our predictions play out will be determined by the injury situation
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