Packers resume Super Bowl chase after tumultuous offseason
GREEN BAY PACKERS (14-4)
New faces: Defensive coordinator Joe Barry, LB De’Vondre Campbell, WR Randall Cobb, C Josh Myers OG Royce Newman, WR Amari Rodgers, CB Eric Stokes
Key losses: LB Christian Kirksey, C Corey Linsley, special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, OT Rick Wagner, RB Jamaal Williams
Strengths: Reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers leads an offense that features All-Pro WR Davante Adams and Pro Bowl RB Aaron Jones. The Packers scored a league-high 31.8 points per game during the regular season. All-Pro LT David Bakhtiari tore his anterior cruciate ligament on Dec. 31 but will be back at some point to protect Rodgers’ blind side. Jaire Alexander is one of the league’s elite cornerbacks. OLB Za’Darius Smith has 26 sacks over the last two seasons. Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage form a quality safety tandem.
Weaknesses: The Packers lost an All-Pro center when Linsley left for the Chargers. Green Bay could be starting two rookie offensive linemen in Myers and Newman. Although K Mason Crosby made all his field-goal attempts last season, the Packers struggled so much in other aspects of special teams that head coach Matt LaFleur fired Shawn Mennenga as coordinator and replaced him with Maurice Drayton. Special teams remained an issue during the preseason. The Packers also lost two of their better special teams performers in camp when they placed Randy Ramsey and Will Redmond on injured reserve.
Camp Development: Packers fans breathed a collective sigh of relief when Rodgers reported to camp after skipping Green Bay’s organized team activities and mandatory minicamp in a standoff with team officials. Rodgers has said he doesn’t know whether this will be his final season in Green Bay. The Packers acquired Cobb at the start of camp after Rodgers suggested making that move. One camp surprise was the emergence of Newman, a fourth-round pick from Mississippi who seemed on the verge of locking down a starting guard spot.
Fantasy Player To Watch: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Adams, Jones and Rodgers are the obvious fantasy picks on this team and will get selected early. But if you’re looking for a potential sleeper late in the draft, take a look at Valdes-Scantling. Consistency has been an issue for Valdes-Scantling, but he led the NFL in yards per catch last year and followed that up with a quality training-camp performance. TE Robert Tonyan also is worth noting, but it’s tough to imagine him matching the 11 touchdown catches he accumulated last season.
FanDuel Says: Win Super Bowl: 12-1. Over/under wins: 10 1/2.
Expectations: The uncertainty surrounding their MVP quarterback’s future makes this year vital for the Packers as they chase the Super Bowl berth that has eluded them since their 2010 championship season. The Packers have lost in the NFC championship game four of the last seven years, including each of the last two seasons. This may be their best shot at reaching the Super Bowl for quite some time.
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