The Comeback is previewing all 32 NFL teams from worst to first leading up to the start of the 2017 regular season on Sept. 7. Only three teams remain before Thursday’s season opener. At No. 3 on our preseason rankings are the Green Bay Packers, who are trying to prove that they’re more than just a quarterback.
2016 in a nutshell: Crippled by an injury-plagued defense and an offense that all too often lacked rhythm and balance early, the Packers dug a hole with a 4-6 start. They got it together in time to win six straight games to sneak into the playoffs, but Green Bay had to travel to Atlanta for the NFC championship game, where they ran out of gas.
What’s different: They lost a slew of veterans on the free-agent market.
Why they could be awesome: Momentum. They finished 2016 strong, with the offense averaging 34.8 points per game in six victories leading up to that conference title game loss in Atlanta. And during that stretch, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was performing an an unprecedented level.
— PirateLife Football (@PirateLifeFF) August 29, 2017
Why they could suck: They did suffer some key losses in the offseason, the secondary remains shaky and the running game might be a problem. Right now, the depth chart at that position contains converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery (who has one game in his career with double-digit carries) and three rookies.
Major additions: Veteran tight end Martellus Bennett replaces departed veteran Jared Cook, while 34-year-old six-time Pro Bowler Jahri Evans steps in for the departed T.J. Lang at right guard.
Major losses: Cook, Lang, center JC Tretter, running back Eddie Lacy, versatile defensive back Micah Hyde and linebackers Julius Peppers and Datone Jones.
Kenny Clark really starting to flash. Takes on the guard w/ ease and makes the tfl. Nice play by Clay as well. pic.twitter.com/z8JuwBEtnZ
— Andy Herman (@SconnieSports) August 15, 2017
Breakout watch: They might not miss Peppers and/or Jones in the front seven if 2016 first-round pick Kenny Clark can emerge at defensive tackle. There’s been a lot of buzz there this offseason after he put together some strong performances late in 2016. Additionally, watch for 2012 first-rounder Nick Perry to play a huge role after they signed him to a lucrative extension in the offseason.
Position to watch: That line lost two starters in Lang and Tretter, both of whom had strong 2016 campaigns. Can Evans hold up in his old age? He did start 16 games in New Orleans last year. Meanwhile, they’re hoping
Prediction: Rodgers and top target Jordy Nelson won’t need as much time to establish chemistry this season (Nelson was coming off a torn ACL last fall), and I think that’ll help them get off to a better start. They aren’t perfect, but the law of averages says they should be healthier this season. And I do think the secondary and offensive backfield will hold up. They’ll be in the Super Bowl convo.
12-4, 1st place in the NFC North