Aaron Rodgers and the Packers look to defend their NFC North crown
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers looked rejuvenated under first-time head coach Matt LaFleur, winning as many games in 2019 as they had in the last two years of the Mike McCarthy era.
Could more be in store in 2020? Well, that depends on how good you think the Packers actually were last season.
Although Green Bay won 13 games for just the second time with Rodgers, the team needed extraordinary luck to get there. The Packers were 8-1 in one-score games and only had a plus-63 point differential, good for ninth in the NFL and fifth in the NFC.
Still, Aaron Rodgers remains an elite quarterback despite an underwhelming supporting cast. The 36-year-old was surely hoping for more help this offseason, but instead the team spent its first three draft picks on his heir apparent (Jordan Love), a power back seldom used in the passing game (AJ Dillon), and an H-back (Josiah Deguara). Devin Funchess was the biggest free-agent addition, and he opted out of the 2020 season.
But Rodgers has to be used to it at this point. He still has one of the league's top wideouts in Davante Adams and will make the most of his other options. And as he gracefully ages, Dillon and Aaron Jones will be able to pick up some of his slack.
Even if the Packers didn't make any big splashes this offseason, the rest of the NFC North tread water at best. The Vikings lost their best receiver and most of their secondary, while the Bears still haven't figured out a good solution at quarterback. The Lions almost have to be better than last year but won't factor into the playoff race.
So what do the Packers have in store for this season? Athlon Sports asked several experts to share their predictions for just how the Eagles' 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 2020
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
As long as Aaron Rodgers is taking snaps and playing at a high level, Green Bay has to be considered a Super Bowl contender. However, the Packers had some good fortune in coach Matt LaFleur’s debut last season and didn’t surround Rodgers with additional weapons at receiver to take some of the pressure off of Davante Adams. The combination of Rodgers, Adams and Aaron Jones is good enough to carry this team to a division title, but the defense has to get better against the run and more playmakers at receiver need to emerge to reach Tampa in early February.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMark)
As long as Aaron Rodgers remains upright (don't buy into the hype that the team is ready to move on from him just yet), Green Bay will be a threat. However, Rodgers isn't as elite a player as he used to be, which puts more pressure on his supporting cast. The fact that Green Bay didn't address wide receiver in free agency (their one signee, Devin Funchess, opted out) or the draft is a little concerning, but barring a major step back by the defense, the Packers should remain in the playoff hunt. It doesn't hurt that NFC North neighbors Chicago and Detroit appear to be spinning their wheels somewhat. A tough opening stretch will test Green Bay early but I think Matt LaFleur's team can cobble enough wins together to punch their ticket to the expanded postseason.
Ben Weinrib (@benweinrib)
The Packers could be just as good as they were last year and finish with 10 or 11 wins this season. You can't expect them to win so many close games this year, even if Aaron Rodgers has a great late-game reputation. Their defense has plenty of questions to answer and will have to work without linebacker Blake Martinez, who had nearly twice as many tackles as any other Packer. The secondary is more talented than it played last year, but the run defense needs to step up the most. The schedule is pretty manageable despite having to play a first-place schedule, just don't expect anything close to 13 wins.