The Packers have gone to the playoffs eight years in a row with Aaron Rodgers, including two losses in the NFC title game (2014 in Seattle; 2016 in Atlanta), but there’s good reason to think they’re headed back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010.
- The Division is a joke. The rebuilding Bears haven’t made the playoffs since 2010. The Lions have a rich history of futility, but were 7-2 last year in games decided by six points or less; expect a regression. (Hell, the Lions could be toast after their first six games, a lethal stretch vs Arizona, at NYG, vs Atlanta, at Minnesota, vs Carolina, at New Orleans.) The Vikings ended last year 3-8, Teddy Bridgewater isn’t back yet, they lost two offensive linemen, and I’m not a believer in dink-and-dunk king Sam Bradford.
- There are plenty of defensive concerns about a Packers unit that gave up 27+ points six times during the regular season and didn’t get demonstrably better (but spent its first four picks on defensive players). A positive spin: Of the 12 best defenses in the NFL last year (using yards per play), seven are in the AFC. Two of the five best NFC defenses missed the playoffs because their offenses were so bad (Arizona, Los Angeles)
- Rodgers can cover up a lot of warts (4,428 yards, 40 TDs, 7 INTs, finished 3rd in MVP voting). That includes an anemic running game that was led by converted WR Ty Montgomery (457 yards). The Packers drafted three running backs. Jordy Nelson finished last season scorching. Added to Rodgers’ arsenal this year were athletic tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks.
- Vegas loves the Packers. They’ve got the 2nd best odds to win the NFC (Dallas is 1st).
How I’d rank the best NFC teams:
Green Bay Packers
Tampa Bay Bucs
New York Giants
New Orleans Saints