Last Updated: 2019-06-12
A perennial Super Bowl contender – having made eight straight Playoff appearances dating back to 2009, the Green Bay Packers now find themselves in a minor rebuilding phase of sorts – having posted two consecutive losing seasons and finally parting ways with 13-year Head Coach, Mike McCarthy.
Aaron Rodgers will still be around through 2023 at least, however, and with the six-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XLV MVP still running the show, the Packers can’t necessarily qualify as a team in rebuilding.
While posting his second highest passing yardage total of his career in 2018 (4442), Rodgers put together one of his worst statistical performances altogether: posting a 62.3 QBR (18th NFL), the 2nd worst of his career, and an 821 in Football Outsiders’ Defense Adjusted Yards Above Replacement metric, which was good for 10th in the NFL, far below what we’ve become accustomed to seeing from A-Rod.
Overall, Green Bay finished with the 7th most efficient Offense in the NFL according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Defense finished 29th, and it’s therefore evident where the real problem lied. As we will see, the Packers took some efforts in the offseason to shore up the defense, especially in the draft, where their two first round picks were used on defensive talent.
New Head Coach, 39-year-old Matt LaFleur, from the Sean McVay tree, is expected to bring some innovation to the Packers Offense, and this may be just what the doctor ordered – as an antiquated Offense has long been the knock on McCarthy. Whether LaFleur and Rodgers gel will be paramount in determining the success of the 2018 season, but much remains to be proved from the young coach, who has only one year of experience calling plays – last year, for Tennessee.
With a season win total set at 9.5, via BetOnline, the Packers are expected to turn things around in 2019, and a nine or ten-win season would theoretically put them back in the Playoff hunt. Sometimes a little change can be a good thing, and for Green Bay, whether that means a turnaround year is the question for season win total bettors to answer.
Super Bowl Odds: +2200
Odds to Win the NFC: +1200
Odds to Win the NFC North: +200
Season Win Total: 9.5
(lines Weeks 2-16 from CG Technology as of May 16, 2019)
||@ Chicago (TNF)
||@ Kansas City
||@ LA Chargers
||@ San Francisco
Total Expected Wins: 8.94
No longer a shoe-in for the NFC North crown, the Packers were as active as any team in the division this offseason.
OLB Clay Matthews and WR Randall Cobb are among the biggest names moving on -names we’ve become accustomed to associating with Green and Yellow. Jake Ryan and Nick Perry are also gone from the linebacking core, while CB Bashaud Breeland, and DL Muhammad Wilkerson round out the list of departures – that are all, aside for Cobb, from the defensive side of the ball.
Clay Matthews is a big name, but isn’t quite what he once was, only logging 3.5 sacks last year, in 16 games. Moving to sign OLB Za’Darius Smith – who is off an 8.5-sack season with Baltimore – along with OLB Preston Smith, a four-year starter for Washington – who logged 24.5 sacks of his own in his four seasons with the Redskins – should, in actuality, upgrade the pass rush in 2019.
Free Safety Adrian Amos was the other key signing on the defense; coming from that vaunted defense of Chicago last season, Amos graded out as the 8th best Safety in the NFL and should do wonders to shore up a leaky Green Bay secondary that finished 29th in Football Outsiders’ Pass Defense DVOA %.
Upgrading the pass rush and the secondary were obviously key considerations in the draft; for with their two first round picks, the Packers selected OLB Rashan Gary (12th overall) from Michigan, and S Darnell Savage (21st) from Maryland. They got another DE in the 5th round, Kingsley Keke, who many analysts consider a steal – someone with the potential to start in year one.
In the 3rd round, the Packers went Offensive line and nabbed G Elgton Jenkins, who played both tackle and guard at Mississippi State, and should add some much-needed depth to a line that suffered injury concerns last season. Adding him, along with G Billy Turner, from Denver, solidifies is offensive line that finished 21st in adjusted sack rate last season, but was a top-10 rushing unit.
The Offense, which always has that potential to be an elite one with Aaron Rodgers, will finally get the revamping its been speculated to need for quite some time with the departure of McCarthy and the signing of new Offensive-minded Head Coach, Matt LaFleur.
Not that it was bad by any stretch of the imagination in 2018, finishing 7th overall in efficiency per DVOA, but the Passing numbers were down (12th), by Green Bay’s standards, and maybe an update is what has been needed to bring this Offense more in line with present day innovations.
Whether there will be a learning curve for Rodgers, and if what system he and LaFleur devise will take some time to reach its full potential is a major question surrounding this Offense for the upcoming season.
As it has been the last few seasons for Green Bay, the Defense (29th DVOA) was one of the worst in the NFL in 2018, and it was subpar both in terms of stopping the run (23rd) and the pass (28th).
It appears that the major focus of the offseason was on upgrading this defense; specifically, the pass rush and the safeties – both position groups that could have an impact on run defense as well.
Adrian Amos was a great addition, and with the depth of edge rushers they now have, I’d expect this unit to improve in 2019. Mike Pettine now has the key ingredients to create a more pressure-oriented defense – his forte – and given his propensity for use of man coverage, the pass rush is crucial for its success.
Notes & Nuggets
The Packers are projected to be favorites in 10 games this season, with two of these spreads under a field goal in essentially coinflip situations. One of those games with a spread under three, in week three, will be a home Thursday night game, which historically have been very favorable situations for the home team.
Though only playing seven games on the road this season, according to the current posted spreads, they are theoretically better team in only two of these seven games – with spreads greater than three points in five of these games.
The lean is with the under here, for I believe, though subtle, there is still an Aaron Rodgers/Green Bay tax on the number that comes with the success that lingers in the minds of those who continue to hold on to what they were prior to these passed few seasons.
The defense was a bottom three unit last year, and though some improvements may have been made in the off-season, I don’t think it was enough to completely patch the train wreck that is was. 10 wins is a big step forward for a team that only won six games last year, with a defense that allow 25 points per game (22nd NFL).
And yes, LaFleur may breathe some new life into what has been a stagnant organization as of late, but I wouldn’t be confident in guessing that everything will simply click right away on Offense, in introducing an old dog to new tricks; and thus, it remains to be seen whether he and Rodgers will gel, and if so, how long that will take.
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