By, Faux John Madden (Special to OddsUSA.com)
Once upon a time, Houston Oilers coach Jerry Glanville had the famous description of the NFL standing for, “Not For Long,” and that’s precisely that verbiage that one could describe the Green Bay Packers and how much longer they will have the fortune of having Aaron Rodgers suit up at quarterback for them.
Rodgers and the Packers entered unchartered territory in the 2019 NFL Season when they made their first change at head coach since 2006 when Matt LaFleur was hired in place of the fired Mike McCarthy, who was only the second-winningest coach in team history trailing only some guy named Vince Lombardi in that department.
McCarthy was fired after the Packers limped their way to a 6-9-1 record in 2018, and multiple questions circled the hiring of the inexperienced LaFleur who was only 39-years old at the time of his hiring, in particular about how he and the longtime superstar Packers quarterback would co-exist.
Any of those concerns would be quickly laid to rest, as Green Bay would have their most successful regular season since 2011 when the Packers finished that season 15-1 before Eli Manning began one of his magic carpet rides to a Super Bowl. Green Bay would finish the 2019 season with a 13-3 record and advanced to the NFC Championship Game before the 49ers would essentially disembowel them on national television for the second time last season.
It’s because of that success in 2019 that made their 2020 offseason so bewildering to Packer supporters and non-supporters alike. As the Glanville quote so eloquently lays out, the time in the NFL is often now, and building for the future seems foolish when you have a team on the doorstep of a Super Bowl.
Yet the Packers approached their 2020 offseason like they were a team that is on the brink of needing to rebuild and not one that has one of the best quarterbacks of all-time playing out the last few years of his career needing just a couple pieces to have a chance to deliver another championship to a historic franchise.
In a draft that saw thirteen wide receivers be selected in the first 64 picks, and one that was considered the deepest wide receiver class of all-time, the Packers drafted approximately zero of them, and instead drafted a quarterback that was considered too raw to start in his rookie season, and even traded up to do so. The only wide receiver the team would add in the offseason is that of the massively underwhelming Devin Funchess, and Funchess eventually elected to opt-out of the 2020 NFL Season entirely due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s almost like the Packers are punishing Aaron Rodgers for all those State Farm ads he’s put out in the last several seasons.
Leaving arguably the best quarterback in franchise history with only one wide receiver (Davante Adams) that anyone will want on their fantasy team was one of several head-scratching moments in the 2020 offseason from a team that was a game away from reaching the Super Bowl, and the biggest reason why many are asking what exactly the Packers are planning to do this year and beyond.
Packers 2019 Season Review
No one in the NFL had done less to capitalize on having a superstar quarterback than the Green Bay Packers. The team had essentially taken the prime of Aaron Rodgers’ career, coated it in ranch dressing, and then promptly set it on fire.
After multiple seasons of frustration from Rodgers, Mike McCarthy was finally fired by the team and because the 2019 coaching carousel essentially became the equivalent of going onto Sean McVay’s LinkedIn and hiring anyone that was connected to him, Green Bay turned to Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, and former offensive coordinator under Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur to be the team’s next head coach.
The decision to hire LaFleur seemed to have paid off immediately, as the Packers offense was noticeably less reliable on Rodgers’ arm and finally began to tap into the talent of running back Aaron Jones. Jones was oft-forgotten in McCarthy’s offense, especially when McCarthy would seemingly ditch the running game either out of frustration from Rodgers or because he just abandoned the run entirely for no real reason at all.
This was not the case at all under their new coach, and Aaron Jones would reap the benefits with 1084 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns, tied for the league lead with Derrick Henry in 2019.
The Packers would not suddenly become a run-first offense though, and Rodgers would still air the ball out throughout the season. The veteran quarterback threw for just over 4,000 yards in 2019 with a phenomenal touchdown-to-interception ratio of 26 to four. This coming off a 2018 season that saw Rodgers throw for 4,442 yards, 25 touchdowns, and two interceptions.
In other words, if Rodgers is coming up on the twilight of his career, he’s not showing many signs of regressing, and in five of his last six seasons, he has played all 16 games of a season while failing to top 4,000 yards just once (2015) while not throwing double-digit interceptions in a single season since 2010.
It was that precise type of consistent play that allowed for the Packers to start the season with a 7-1 record, headlined by a road-win over Dallas where Rodgers was his usual efficient self and Aaron Jones rushed for over 100 yards and an Al Bundy approved four touchdowns on the day.
But despite the Packers’ impressive record, they still never quite looked the part of a bonafide contender for the Super Bowl. The Packers were aided greatly with a surprisingly weak schedule, as entering the season they had the second-easiest schedule in football and eventually got additional support from facing the Chiefs without Patrick Mahomes, the Lions with assistance from officiating, the Lions again without Matthew Stafford, the Bears with Mitchell Trubisky, and so forth.
While you can’t knock the Packers for winning the games on their schedule, they were widely seen as one of the weaker 13-win teams in recent memory. The lone time they matched up against a true contender in the league came in Week 12 on a Sunday night in late November against the 49ers.
In a scene that would foreshadow their eventual playoff fate, the 49ers smothered an overwhelmed Packers offense and made a couple of big plays on offense to rout Green Bay 37-8. The Packers would bounce back with a five-game winning streak to close out the season, but their lone opponent with a winning record was against a Minnesota Vikings team that also had their share of flaws and were without star running back Dalvin Cook.
Green Bay finished 13-3 and managed to clinch the second first-round bye in the NFC by virtue of a tie-breaker over the Saints. As a result, they matched up against a battered Seahawks team that was a shell of its regular-season self by the time they got to the postseason. After narrowly escaping another Russell Wilson comeback attempt with a 28-23 NFL Divisional Round victory, the stage was set for Green Bay to return to Santa Clara for a date with the 49ers.
Rodgers and the Packers would not stand a chance. The 49ers ran all over, through, and around the Packers defense and the vaunted Niners defense once again suffocated LaFleur’s offense. Green Bay would trail 34-7 heading into the 4th quarter before getting a couple of garbage-time touchdowns to make the scoreboard look more respectable. The final score was 37-20, but the distance between Green Bay and San Francisco was even wider.
That’s precisely why the Packers approach to their offseason has been so maddeningly confusing, as instead of adding a few more pieces to ensure teams like the 49ers don’t end their chances before they truly begin, they elected to basically run it back in 2020 and take another crack at it with the same personnel from two games they failed to even show up in.
Approximately None of These Guys Will Help Aaron Rodgers Out
WR Devin Funchess (Colts/COVID-19 Opt-Out)
LB Christian Kirksey (Browns)
RT Ricky Wagner (Lions)
DE Treyvon Hester (Washington)
Excited They Can Finally Switch to GEICO
LB Blake Martinez (Giants)
LB Kyler Fackrell (Giants)
TE Jimmy Graham (Bears)
RT Bryan Bulaga (Chargers)
LT Jason Spriggs (Bears)
LB B.J. Goodson (Browns)
WR Geronimo Allison (Lions/COVID-19 Opt-Out)
WR Jake Kumerow (Free Agent)
CB Tramon Williams (Free Agent)
Packers 2020 Offensive Preview
Thanks to Packers GM Brian Gutekunst, we don’t have to do a lot of research for the Packers 2020 offense because it’s going to be exactly the same as a season before, only with even fewer targets for Aaron Rodgers to throw the ball to!
Inexplicably, the Packers made approximately zero additions to their wide receiving corps from 2019, even after Devin Funchess told the team he would sit out the 2020 season. And even then, Funchess was not going to be the addition to really resurrect the Packers passing offense.
Green Bay managed to somehow lose more targets for Rodgers than they gained, as WR’s Geronimo Allison and Jake Kumerow are no longer with the team, and the team released 2018 free-agent flop Jimmy Graham who moved over to Chicago.
That leaves Green Bay with star wide receiver Davante Adams and a lot of nothing behind him entering the 2020 NFL season. Allen Lazard figures to start opposite of Adams at wide-receiver in 2020, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown providing the team with more consonants than catches.
At running back, the Packers are in slightly better shape, as Aaron Jones returns to the starting lineup and will be joined by fellow 2017 Packer draft pick Jamaal Williams and 2020 2nd round pick A.J. Dillon out of Boston College.
Blocking for Jones and the rest of the Packers offense will be long time Packers David Bakhtiari and Corey Linsley. The team will need to replace right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who left for the Chargers in free agency, and will turn to 2019 free-agent addition Billy Turner to man that role with one of their few 2020 free-agent signees Ricky Wagner providing additional depth.
The cornerstone of the Packers offense again will be that of Aaron Rodgers, as the 36-year old quarterback enters his 16th season with the team. 2020 1st round pick Jordan Love is unlikely to see any playing time unless something happens to Rodgers, once again reiterating we have no idea what the Packers are trying to do here.
Packers 2020 Defensive Preview
The Packers defensive unit was boosted by games against some pretty shoddy competition in 2019 and looked to come unglued in the playoffs where Russell Wilson was only slowed down by a crushing dropped pass in the waning moments of their NFC Divisional Playoff game before the 49ers would rush for 285 yards a week later in the NFC Championship.
Once again, the Packers’ attempts to remedy that in the offseason were puzzling at best. Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell both departed the team in free agency, and the team will start 2018 3rd round pick Oren Burks and free-agent addition Christian Kirksey to replace their spots in the lineup.
Beyond that, nothing else is changing on the Packers defense. Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith will once again look to put some heat on opposing quarterbacks, as they combined to post 25.5-sacks in 2019 and provided one of the best pass-rushing duos in football.
Kenny Clark will be the centerpiece of the Green Bay defensive line and will be sandwiched in between Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster upfront. However, this is the same defensive front that was abused early and often by Kyle Shanahan’s rushing attack, and you can bet teams on the Packers’ schedule will attempt to replicate this in 2020.
The strength of the Packers defense outside of their upper-echelon tandem of pass rushers comes with the Packers secondary, as Jaire Alexander is one of the best cover cornerbacks in the sport with 2017 2nd round pick Kevin King showing marked improvement a season ago. The Packers tandem of Adrian Amos and 2019 1st round pick Darnell Savage Jr. returns at safety in 2020.
Packers 2020 Outlook & Prediction
It’s a good thing the Packers still have Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams because we still have no idea what they were thinking as they embarked on the new season. This is a team with a very narrow championship window, and one that showed they were not remotely close to hanging with the likes of San Francisco as the roster is currently constructed. If it weren’t for a battered Seahawks team in the divisional round, the Packers likely would have been a one-and-done team in 2019 despite finishing the year 13-3.
Fortunately for Green Bay, outside of Minnesota, the rest of their division doesn’t show many signs of knowing what they’re doing either. Aaron Rodgers still has some juice left in the tank, it just sucks that the Packers front-office isn’t doing everything they can to maximize the last few seasons of a great career.
With all of that being said, we like the Packers to scrape together enough wins with another soft schedule on the horizon in 2020. We just don’t think they’re going to last very long in January if they return to the playoffs unless they spring a trade to bring Rodgers some help. Look for Green Bay to edge out Minnesota for the division, but to be quickly disposed of in the playoffs.
Packers 2020 Projection: 10-6, 1st place NFC North
Packers 2020 Betting Preview
Unlike the Packers offseason strategy, we like these Green Bay Packers futures bets
- Packers to Win NFC North — (+180) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The Packers’ current win total is set at 8.5-games, but with juice hovering between the -140 and -160 range. That’s too rich for our blood, as beyond Rodgers/Jones/Adams there is a whole lot of nothing on the Packers offense. We will take a stab at the Packers winning the division at +180, but we definitely are not in love with this bet.
- Aaron Rodgers OVER 3850.5 Yards Passing — (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
When Rodgers has played a full 16-game season, he has only failed to top this number once as a starting quarterback. We’re very well aware of the lack of weapons in the Packers arsenal this season, but if Rodgers can stay on the field all 16-games, we think he still finds a way to hit 4000 yards on the year.
- Aaron Rodgers UNDER 7.5 Interceptions — (-110) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Aaron Rodgers last three seasons starting the entire year? Four interceptions, two interceptions, and seven interceptions. The man simply does not turn it over very often, regardless if he is throwing the ball to the worst wide receiving corps in the league. This feels like a gift.