Green Bay Packers
Over/Under Wins Forecast: 10.5
The Aaron Rodgers-led eight-game winning streak that culminated in an NFC Championship appearance against the Atlanta Falcons in late January was the stuff of legend and would have earned the 33-year-old triggerman a third MVP trophy if not for the exploits of Matt Ryan.
Overall, the NFL’s fourth-most prolific offense should continue to light up the scoreboard after finishing the year averaging 34.8 points in the six games leading up to their playoff ouster in the Georgia Dome.
Most of the same weapons will be returning with added reinforcements at running back and tight end, which should offer Rodgers a few more options with which to cut up defenses.
The wildcard in Packers News is the defense, particularly a porous defensive backfield that was primarily responsible in the defense giving the third-most passing touchdowns in the league (32) and making jobbers like Matt Barkley and Brock Osweiler appear competent in the process.
Though the Packers don’t quite have a whole lot of depth on the back end, newcomers Kevin King, Davon House and Josh Jones, who’ll split his time at safety and linebacker, are surefire upgrades over last year’s struggling group.
Another concern is whether Dom Capers has enough in the front seven to help out a young secondary with a consistent pass rush?
If the season-leading sack master, Nick Perry, suits up for 16 games, it will be his first. To that end, fellow edge rusher Clay Matthews must bounce back from an injury-riddled year and return to being a double-digit sack producer … or at least come very close to that total.
And who will replace the 7.5 sacks provided by current Carolina Panther Julius Peppers?
Yes, the questions are many, but the roster is deeper than it was a year ago and the key will be keeping more players off the injury report this time around.
Second-year players, such as Blake Martinez, Kenny Clark, Kyler Fackrell and Dean Lowry will also be expected to ratchet their respective games up another notch.
The schedule is littered with matchups against formidable opponents, including Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle and Pittsburgh.
Rodgers and friends have the firepower to outduel every one of those teams, but back-to-back road dates versus Dallas and Minnesota will be quite test for Green Bay in the middle of the year.
The final three-week stretch featuring matchups @Carolina, versus Minnesota and @Detroit will also present their own sets of challenges. But maybe this year’s squad won’t need wins in every one of those tilts to ride into the postseason as the NFC North champion.
Projected Record: 12-4. While opposing offensive coordinators will suffer many a sleepless night figuring out how to keep Green Bay’s multitude of weapons in check every week, the defense will gradually come together and show tangible signs of improvement as the season wears on. 10.5 is a lofty win total, but a bountiful offseason should have the diehards hoping for more.