The Green Bay Packers have the highest of expectations with training camp set to begin tomorrow. It’s Super Bowl or bust yet again, as the only satisfactory end to the 2105 season is to bring the Lombardi trophy back home. They have all 11 starters back on offense and only lost one on defense. Even though Green Bay is perhaps the most talented team in the NFL, the NFC has numerous challengers and poses a much tougher threat than the AFC would if the Packers resided there.
The AFC saw the Indianapolis Colts make its championship game last season, and they lost in resounding fashion to the New England Patriots 41-7. Andrew Luck is an amazing young talent, but it was clear the Colts belonged nowhere on the field with them with many holes on the team. Look at the contrast in the NFC Championship game between Green Bay and Seattle. Clearly, New England had not one legitimate challenger last year in the AFC, and they haven’t had one in their own division either for the better part of the last decade and a half. This is why it was pretty surprising to me when New England beat Seattle in the Super Bowl. I suspect health had a lot to do with it or maybe the Packers took a lot out of Seattle in that NFC Championship game.
Like New England, the Packers have been dominating their division lately winning it four consecutive seasons. The Vikings are the sexiest choice to challenge them this year for good reason. Adrian Peterson returns following a year off, which should be a big help for him as he enters his thirties. Teddy Bridgewater should continue to make strides and Mike Zimmer will continue to lead the rise of Minnesota’s defense with its very talented front-seven.
Detroit’s loss of Ndamukong Suh is a big blow, but its defense is still very talented to go along with all the threats it has on offense. Although, you wonder if Matthew Stafford will ever be consistent enough for them to take over the Packers. The Bears should finish last again as they continue their rebuild and still employ Jay Cutler at quarterback.
Outside of the division, Seattle is back again and armed with tight end Jimmy Graham to bolster the weakest part of their team. Now it will be tougher to stack the box against Marshawn Lynch and of course the Seattle defense will remain outstanding. Arizona will be a force to be reckoned with if Carson Palmer can stay healthy, although it remains to be seen the impact of losing Todd Bowles will have on its defense. The Rams hope quarterback Nick Foles and running back Todd Gurley can bolster their offense to go along with their nasty defensive line.
The Dallas Cowboys will hope to ride their elite offensive line and weapons to another playoff berth, although it will be interesting to see if the Dallas defense can hold up another year if they don’t run the ball as well without DeMarco Murray. Murray goes to the Eagles, where there is a lot controversy over what Chip Kelly is doing. Most pundits are looking at what they lost, but they also brought in a lot of guys and are still very talented. Carolina will hope Cam Newton is healthier this season to help support its defense. Also, the Giants could return to the postseason with a full season of Odell Beckham Jr.
All of these teams mentioned are threats to the Packers. If they were in the AFC the threats would probably stop after the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. Maybe the Denver Broncos as well, but they might be candidates to take a step back if Peyton Manning isn’t healthy like at the end of the season. The Packers may be the best of the bunch, but an extremely deep NFC will not make it easy for them in 2015.——————