GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-9)
EXPECTATIONS: It’s been quite some time since the Packers entered a season with this much uncertainty. That’s mostly due to the trade of four-time MVP QB Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets. The Packers benefited from three decades of Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback production with Rodgers following Brett Favre. Now they’re turning to 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love, who has made one career start. Love will be passing primarily to rookies and second-year pros, which will put more pressure on Green Bay’s rushing attack. The questions on offense will force the Packers to lean heavily on a defense that underachieved last year but has plenty of talent. Green Bay produced 12 takeaways during a four-game winning streak late last season. The defense will need to deliver more of those types of plays for the Packers to contend for a playoff spot.
NEW FACES: K Anders Carlson, TE Tucker Kraft, S Tarvarius Moore, TE Luke Musgrave, S Jonathan Owens, WR Jayden Reed, OLB Lukas Van Ness
KEY LOSSES: S Adrian Amos, WR Randall Cobb, K Mason Crosby, WR Allen Lazard, TE Marcedes Lewis, DL Dean Lowry, DL Jarran Reed, QB Aaron Rodgers, TE Robert Tonyan
STRENGTHS: Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon have the ability to emerge as one of the NFL’s top running back tandems. The Packers should be in good shape at cornerback, particularly if Eric Stokes makes a successful return from a foot injury to team up with Pro Bowl selection Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas. Keisean Nixon, an All-Pro kickoff returner last year, also can help out at cornerback. Green Bay is strong on the left side of the offensive line with David Bakhtiari at tackle and Elgton Jenkins at guard.
WEAKNESSES: The complete lack of experience in the passing game is a major concern. Love’s lack of a track record makes it hard to know what to expect from him. Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs showed promise as rookie receivers last year, but they’ll need to take a major step forward to help out the first-year starting quarterback. Safety is a major issue. The only clear-cut starter there is Darnell Savage, who is coming off a disappointing season. Green Bay historically has struggled to defend the run and will try to upgrade in that area even after losing a couple of veteran defensive linemen in Lowry and Reed.
CAMP DEVELOPMENTS: The Packers opted to move on from the franchise’s all-time leading scorer when they drafted Carlson out of Auburn in the sixth round to take over for Crosby. Carlson has been inconsistent this preseason. The defense got the better of the offense in most of the early training camp workouts, something that also happened last year during Rodgers’ final season in Green Bay. Sean Clifford, a rookie fifth-round pick from Penn State, has settled in as the backup to Love. Clifford, 25, is actually 3 1/2 months older than Love, who’s entering his fourth season. Versatile offensive lineman Zach Tom, a 2022 fourth-round pick from Wake Forest, seems close to nailing down a starting spot.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: Musgrave, a second-round pick from Oregon State, figures to contribute more than most rookie tight ends. The Packers need someone to step up at that position after losing Tonyan and Lewis in free agency. Musgrave has shown plenty of pass-catching potential in camp and likely will open the season as Green Bay’s starter.
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK SAYS: Win Super Bowl: 40-1. Over/under wins: 7 1/2.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
The Associated Press