Coming off of an underwhelming and injury plagued 10-6 season, the Green Bay Packers are heading into 2016 with high expectations. Green Bay lost to the Minnesota Vikings in week 17 last season which dropped the Packers to the wild card spot and gave the Vikings the division crown. This season though, with most of the roster healthy, the Packers are ready to make a run at Super Bowl 51 and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to “Titletown” The Packers have one of the easier schedules in the league and as long as they stay healthy, Aaron Rodgers and company should have no problem in earning an 8th consecutive playoff appearance. Predicting what will happen in a NFL season is something that’s nearly impossible. Everything changes from week to week and the parity is clearer in football than in any other sport. Which is why it’s the most popular sport in America. In this two part series, I pull out my genie lamp and try my best to predict the Packers final record come January.
Week 1 – at Jacksonville Jaguars
To start off the regular season with a September game in Florida is going to take a toll on the Packers. Much like when the Packers played in Miami a few years back, the hot weather is going to play a big impact on this game. Staying hydrated to avoid cramping will be a key for Green Bay. Besides the heat, the Packers will have their hands full in dealing with an up and coming Jaguars team. An improved Jacksonville defense will be looking to get Aaron Rodgers out of rhythm early in a game where we will most likely see the return of Jordy Nelson for the first time since last preseason. There will be a lot of action in the middle quarters of this game but expect it to slow down in the 4th with the two young defenses locking down. In the end, the Packers will come out with a victory and start off 1-0.
Week 2 – at Minnesota Vikings
The Packers will have the pleasure of being the first road team to enter into the brand new U.S. Bank Stadium and play against the Vikings. The energy throughout the city for this game will certainly have the Vikings pumped to play their biggest rivals. Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson will be looking to channel that energy and beat down Green Bay’s defense early and set the tone in their new home. Meanwhile, the Vikings defensive front will be challenging the Packers and trying to get their hands on number 12 all night long. Last season in week 17, the Vikings did a great job of shutting down anything the Packers were able to get going on offense and it was a struggle the entire game for Green Bay. I expect this game to be a similar feel. This game is going to be a tough one from start to finish and will likely take an all around great game to come out with a win. I don’t think they’ll be able to do that and they will leave Minnesota with a loss.
Week 3 – vs Detroit Lions
After opening with the first two games on the road the Packers will finally return to Lambeau Field for the first time in the 2016 regular season against the Lions. The last time these two teams met, the game was ended on the very last play with the memorable hail mary catch by Richard Rodgers. But the Packers had to make a large comeback in that game after trailing by 17 at the half. During that comeback Aaron Rodgers and the offense was firing on all cylinders. 46% of the passing plays the Packers ran were short yardage plays and they were successful in executing them. Rodgers will be looking to hit his receivers out of the shotgun quickly throughout this game and move the ball down the field efficiently. The defense shouldn’t struggle too much facing a Lions offense that will be hurt by the loss of Calvin Johnson due to retirement, and Eric Ebron with an injury. The Packers will come home and take care of business and start a new streak of Lions’ losses in Wisconsin.
Week 4 – BYE
Week 5 – vs New York Giants
Coming out of the bye week Green Bay’s secondary will have their hands full with Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz coming at them with big plays all game long. Last season, the Giants were able to throw for 20 touchdowns while playing away from home. But, Eli Manning struggled all season during road games. Manning threw 11 interceptions on the road last season, compared to just 3 at home. With a less than impressive 89.1 passer rating in road games. With guys like Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, and Mike Daniels crashing into the pocket Eli will be rushed and the Packers should have opportunities to create turnovers. On the flip side of the ball, New York gave up 31 passing touchdowns last season. Which bodes well for Rodgers and his wideouts to get the ball moving downfield and score a lot of points. I expect Green Bay to take care of the G-Men with a flurry of big plays throughout.
Week 6 – vs Dallas Cowboys
Two years ago when these teams met in the playoffs they played one of the most exciting back and forth games in recent memory. Last season however, with Tony Romo out due to injury the Packers dominated and came out with a 28-7 victory. In that game Green Bay operated in the no huddle for 53% of their snaps and strangely enough the majority of those came running the ball. The Packers ran the ball 44 times compared to 39 pass plays in that game. If the offense can get this same type of offensive flow going, they should be able to move the ball and put up some points like they did last season. Barring injuries, Romo will have Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliot on his side of the ball which could create problems for the Green Bay run defense. On first and second down last season the Packers gave up 1678 rushing yards and around 4 yards a rush. With Dallas’ strong offensive frontline and Elliot running through them, they’ll be able to attack and pound the ball down the field. This game will not be an easy one if everyone on the Cowboys’ side is healthy. In the end it could go either way but Green Bay should be able to use the home field advantage and come out with a win.
Week 7 – vs. Chicago Bears
Ah yes, it’s every Packer fan’s favorite team to pick on. Our friends from Chicago, the Bears. Last year when the Bears came into Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving Night and won a very sloppy played game, new levels of embarrassment were reached by Cheeseheads all around. When they meet this time around, Green Bay will have all of their weapons back with them and will be definitely looking for some sweet revenge. This could be one of the highest scoring games for the Packers during this season because the attack will be on from start to finish. Based off of their preseason game against Denver, Chicago’s defense doesn’t have very good talent on the outside to compete with the Packers’ receivers. Mike McCarthy will recognize that and exploit it with some manipulative play calling and Rodgers will have no problem in executing it. The Packers will win this one, big.
Week 8 – at Atlanta Falcons
Coming into the halfway point of the season with a 5-1 record will be a nice start for the team known to have their struggles early in the season. Feeling good about themselves, they might be walking into a trap here in week 8. The Falcons have the offensive ability with Julio Jones to dominate a game on the offensive side. They showed this last season when they were the only team to defeat the Carolina Panthers in the regular season. But, they were also a team that got off to slow starts. In first quarters last season the Falcons only scored 5 touchdowns all season. Compare that to Aaron Rodgers, who threw 9 of them all by himself last season. The Packers will have to look to get off to a hot start early here to quiet the Georgia Dome crowd and set the tone. In the end, i think Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman will put a lot of stress on the Packers defense and squeak by with an upset win over Green Bay in week 8.
Week 9 – vs Indianapolis Colts
These two teams were supposed to meet in the Hall of Fame Game to start off the preseason, but that game was cancelled due to bad field conditions. Andrew Luck and the Colts are going to provide a challenge to the Packers defense with their big play abilities. Receiver T.Y. Hilton has a great deep ball chemistry with Luck and with Phillip Dorsett on the other side, Sam Shields and Damarious Randall will have their work cut out for them. This game will likely be a shootout of sorts with both offenses being high powered. The Packers are a little more consistent however. Which will push them towards the win.
Stay tuned for part 2, and the second half of predictions coming soon.