Five reasons why the Packers can win the Super Bowl.
There are plenty of takeaways from the first half of the Green Bay Packers‘ 2020 season.
There’s one major one though: this 6-2 team is a serious Super Bowl contender.
Let’s examine why.
Relatively healthy roster
Thursday’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers was a great example of how devastating injuries can be in the NFL, and how fortunate the Packers have been to avoid any major ones. The team that trampled the Packers twice last year was barely recognizable as Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Bosa, Raheem Mostert, George Kittle, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Deebo Samuel, and more were missing.
The Packers are not entirely healthy, but they have to feel good about where they are, relatively, halfway through the season. Kevin King has missed the last four games, David Bakhtiari has missed the last three, Jaire Alexander could be out for a few weeks upcoming with a concussion, and Allen Lazard still hasn’t returned from injured reserve.
But those players should all return within the next few weeks, and the team is otherwise fairly healthy heading into the second half of the season.
Stars at key spots
There’s plenty of weak spots on this team. But they also have stars at some of the most important positions, which will position them well for a playoff run.
Aaron Rodgers, David Bakhtiari, Davante Adams, and Jaire Alexander are all among the top one to five players in the league right now at their respective positions. Kenny Clark has a fair argument to that claim, too. Za’Darius Smith has lately been playing closer and closer to his game-wrecking level during 2019.
And most importantly, Matt LaFleur has firmly established himself as one of the NFL’s top play-callers and all-around head coaches.
Yes, the team has plenty of room to improve at positions such as ILB, DE, WR3, CB2 and CB3, and defensive coordinator. But overall, their stars are making plays and changing games though individual excellence at the most crucial positions in the game.
Weaknesses that can be overcome
Of course, there’s a reason this team is 6-2, rather than 8-0. Two ugly losses exposed some serious weaknesses.
The Packers’ porous run defense got them shredded in last year’s NFC Championship Game. GM Brian Gutekunst reacted by changing essentially nothing, and the results have been predictable. Dalvin Cook racked up more than 200 all-purpose yards in the Minnesota Vikings’ Week 8 victory.
Against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, meanwhile, two consecutive Aaron Rodgers interceptions completely flipped the tide of the game, and the defense wasn’t able to make up for the offense’s mistakes.
But in today’s NFL, poor run defense can be overcome by a good offense and a solid pass defense. And Aaron Rodgers is historically good at avoiding turnovers, making a repeat of the Buccaneers’ performance unlikely.
The team of course has other vulnerabilities, but none have manifested yet that are necessarily debilitating to a Super Bowl run. If they can avoid turnovers and falling into big deficits, they’ll be in every game.
No dominant presences in NFC
This Packers team looks better than the 2019 version, thanks to a much better passing game and a defense which is only slightly worse. And the 2019 Packers only missed out on the Super Bowl because of the San Francisco 49ers, a team which was thoroughly better than them.
This year, there appears to be no such unbeatable presence. The Bucs’ defense will be challenging, but an adjusted gameplan and better performance from Rodgers should lead to a much closer contest should they meet again. A Seattle Seahawks matchup, meanwhile, would likely result in a shootout that either team could win.
The Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs, and Pittsburgh Steelers all look like formidable opponents, but they luckily wouldn’t become relevant until the Super Bowl.
Homefield advantage remains attainable
The best way to improve your odds of winning playoff games? Play them at home after a first-round bye.
This year, only one team in each conference will receive a first-round bye. The teams that do so will have a huge advantage in the path to the Super Bowl. For the Packers, that spot is certainly achievable.
The most challenging games remaining on the Packers’ schedule are against the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, two very beatable opponents. It seems likely that they’ll lay a dud or two down the stretch (they already lost to the 1-5 Vikings), but a 13-3 record is still within reach. That could be enough to secure the first seed in the NFC.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, still have challenging games remaining against the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Rams. The Bucs face the New Orleans Saints, Rams, and Chiefs down the stretch. So a 7-1 second half of the season, though challenging, could result in a #1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the NFC postseason.
Of course, it’s unclear whether this season will even be finished, with rising cases of COVID-19 washing over the world and the NFL. But provided that it does, this Packers team certainly has the potential to be the Super Bowl champions.