For the first time in nine seasons, the Green Bay Packers did not make the playoffs in 2017. And while the biggest reason for that was Aaron Rodgers made just seven starts, the defense had plenty of issues of its own.
Green Bay's rebound from a 7-9 showing last season starts with Rodgers staying healthy, which means the offensive line must stay intact and do its job. Favorite target Jordy Nelson is gone but Rodgers has a new tight end in Jimmy Graham and the running game could surprise, especially if someone emerges as a consistent threat.
The defense features bigger changes, starting with Mike Pettine taking over as coordinator. Former Jet Muhammad Wilkerson was added to beef up the defensive line and the secondary will move forward without cornerback Damarious Randall and safety Morgan Burnett.
So are the Packers ready to reclaim their spot as one of the best teams in the NFC? Athlon Sports asked several experts to share their predictions for how Green Bay's 2018 season will play out and what the team’s record will be when all is said and done.
Green Bay Packers Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Rob Doster (@AthlonDoster)
The healthy presence of Aaron Rodgers gives the Packers a puncher’s chance against anybody — they were 4–1 last season when Rodgers went down with a fractured collarbone — but there are too many questions in Green Bay to expect Super Bowl contention. The Pack will need to cobble together a respectable running game to take some pressure off their quarterback, and receiver Davante Adams will have to emerge as a true No. 1. The defense was abysmal for much of last season and will have to adjust to a new coordinator (Mike Pettine) while integrating a lot of new faces in some key spots. There are simply too many variables here, and the Pack’s collapse last season indicates that this team is one Rodgers injury away from utter catastrophe.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Aaron Rodgers coming back and staying healthy is easily enough to get the Pack back into the playoffs but the roster changes around the edges will determine if this group can get back to the big game in a loaded conference. There are a ton of options in the passing game thanks to the addition of Jimmy Graham and that will help the run game in turn with some better numbers out of the backfield. I’m not quite sold on the offensive line holding up a full year but they’ve had worse groups in Green Bay but that could be balanced out by a re-tooled defense. I think Mike Pettine will have a big impact on the overall record and especially when it comes to getting the young guys on the back end up to speed. If everything breaks right, this group will be right in the thick of the Super Bowl chase once again.
John Gworek (@JohnGworek)
As long as Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone stays intact, I’m betting on him to keep the Packers in the NFC playoff picture. Rodgers wasn’t happy the team let Jordy Nelson go, but he won 10 games plus a playoff game when Nelson was hurt in 2015, so he’ll get over it. In fact, Rodgers has won at least 10 games in seven straight seasons when he’s played at least 10 games. As long as the offensive line holds up, the Packers will stay right on the heels of the Vikings all season in the NFC North.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMark)
It's no secret that if Aaron Rodgers stays healthy the Packers will be a threat in the NFC. But even if Rodgers plays like an MVP, the defense needs to show some pretty drastic improvement if this team wants to challenge Minnesota for supremacy in the NFC North. Barring another major injury to Rodgers (or along the offensive line), Green Bay will be a playoff team in 2018, but I'm not quite sure these Packers will be able to compete with the NFC's best.