OK, I’m sure they’ll lose in 2016 – but should they?
The Packers strength of schedule based on opponents’ over/under win totals gives them the easiest 16-game season. According to CG Technology Sports Book, the opponents they’ll face in 2016 average a three percent chance of winning the Super Bowl LI, which ties the Packers with the Dallas Cowboys for the lowest level of championship-caliber teams they’ll face.
Among those facts – the Packers return Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson, have a slimmed down Eddie Lacy after an offseason program with Tony Horton, a bolstered offensive line after moving up in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft to grab Jason Spriggs, and a defense that is another year experienced and used the draft to fill front seven voids.
All things considered, the Packers should be vastly improved from their disappointing 2015 campaign (that still left them a shovel pass away from the NFC Championship Game).
But when we examine the 2016 season, which game is a legitimate concern? According to Bovada, the Packers presumed over/under win total opened at 10.5, tying them with the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots for the highest mark.
Let’s look at all 16 regular season games and try to form a reasonable argument that the Packers will falter.
Week 1 – Sunday, September 11 @ Jacksonville
Green Bay starts on the road for the fourth consecutive year, and aside from last year in Chicago, the Packers lost all of those previous contests. They were walloped by Seattle in 2014, and lost one possession games to San Francisco in 2012 and 2013.
But the Packers are not playing the defending Super Bowl Champion Seahawks like they did in 2014 … or a team that at least advanced to their conference championship game like the 49ers did in 2011, 2012 and 2013. They’re playing the Jaguars.
And although the Jaguars had a nice draft, they have a long way to go to drastically improve their 5-11 2015 mark.
The Packers could let this one get away, but they won’t.
Week 2 – Sunday, September 18 @ Minnesota
One could forge the argument that this will be the toughest test of the season for the Packers. Although they won convincingly in Minnesota last season, Green Bay lost (at home, and for the NFC North title) in week 17 last year. But a lot of last season was not an accurate reflection of the team the Packers are/should be.
The Packers might lose, but probably shouldn’t.
Week 3 – Sunday, September 25 vs. Detroit
The Lions pretended to be good for a little bit, and now they’re not again. And the Packers are at home. And Calvin Johnson retired.
The Packers will not lose.
Week 4 – Bye
The easiest schedule in the NFL warrants a week 4 bye (I guess).
Week 5 – Sunday, October 9 vs. New York (Giants)
The NFC East is a joke, and the Packers happen to be playing the NFC East Division this year. First up, the New York Giants. They were 6-10 last season and have a brand new head coach. Ben McAdoo’s return to Green Bay! The guy who spent eight years working with Aaron Rodgers will now stand with his clipboard on the away sideline. And Aaron Rodgers is a guy you’d like to coach, not coach against.
Week 6 – Sunday, October 15 vs. Dallas
It’s the NFC East again. With a healthy Tony Romo, the Cowboys will fare much better than they did last season. But the Cowboys still have glaring defensive issues.
Week 7 – Thursday, October 20 vs. Chicago
This is payback for the embarrassment that was Thanksgiving night last season. No prayer the Packers let the Bears leave Lambeau with a W. Plus … Jay Cutler.
Packers win big.
Week 8 – Sunday, October 30 @ Atlanta
This will be the first road game for the Packers since Week 2 in Minnesota. And after a Thursday night game the week prior, you’d like to think they’ll be refreshed for this one. I actually like what Atlanta did in the draft, but Rodgers will carve up their mediocre secondary where they ranked 22nd in defensive efficiency according to Football Outsiders.
Packers win, in a pretty high scoring affair.
Week 9 – Sunday, November 6 vs. Indianapolis
We have to assume the Colts will be better this year than they were last. 8-8 in what is arguably the worst division in football (the AFC South at least gives the NFC East a run for its money), is not how you want to follow up a trip to the AFC Championship game the year prior.
But the Packers are back at home and should take care of business. The Colts literally had the worst offensive efficiency in the NFL last year and got consistently worse as the season progressed.
Packers win because the Colts can’t score points.
Week 10 – Sunday, November 13 @ Tennessee
Mobile quarterbacks have been problematic for the Packers in the past. But this is typically only the case when said quarterback has competent and capable supporting cast around him. Colin Kaepernick made routine of gouging Green Bay on the ground. That was not the case last year in the Packers’ 17-3 victory over the 49ers.
Tennessee is not yet competent nor capable.
Week 11 – Sunday, November 20 @ Washington
The Packers won convincingly in Washington in January, but this game could give them a little trouble this time around. It’s the second of three consecutive road games, and Jordan Reed still scares me. But at this point I’m basically grasping at straws to find a reason Green Bay should lose. I still can’t.
Packers win, but might lose, but probably won’t.
Week 12 – Sunday, November 28 @ Philadelphia
The situation in Philly is not a good one particularly. A first year coach with a first year quarterback is rarely a recipe for success. And it appears that the Eagles didn’t get much better after the draft. Carson Wentz might be the answer, and he also might not be. But he certainly won’t be the answer in 2016.
Packers earn another W.
Week 13 – Sunday, December 4 vs. Houston
Houston managed to win the AFC South last year with a 9-7 record. They were the best of a bad bunch. They did add a quarterback who actually has a chance, though. And added one of the fastest, if not the fastest, wide receiver from the draft class (Will Fuller), to compliment DeAndre Hopkins. If the Packers’ secondary can stay on top of those two, the Texans should not pose much of an issue.
Week 14 – Sunday, December 11 vs. Seattle
I really don’t think the Packers are going to lose this game. But they have to lose at some point.
Seahawks win, I guess.
Week 15 – Sunday, December 18 @ Chicago
There’s usually a fluke divisional game where the Packers don’t show up, and the last three foes of the regular season for the Packers happen to division opponents. Even though the Bears added a lot of of weapons in the off-season (Danny Travathan being a big one that comes to mind), I just do not see this fluke happening in Chicago.
Packers win and sweep the Bears.
Week 16 – Saturday, December 24 vs. Minnesota
You have to imagine that Green Bay will lose of their two contests against the Vikings. The Vikings could be scrapping for a playoff berth at this point, so we’ll say this is the game. Minnesota also had one of the more impressive drafts out of all 32 teams this year. And we have to remember that they are the reigning NFC North champs.
Week 17 – Sunday, January 1 @ Detroit
The fluke could happen here due to some karmic reciprocity for the hail marry last year. But unless Megatron comes out of retirement and also plays free safety for the lowly Lions, I like Green Bay’s chances here. We also need factor in what each team will be playing for at this point. The Packers could have everything wrapped up…they could be playing for a first round bye. Hell, though I’d say it’s unlikely, they could be fighting for their playoff lives.
Packers win and sweep the Lions.
Now, even taking into consideration that I typically think the Packers will win at least 13 games…based on their cupcake schedule they have a really good shot of achieving that this year. Pending injury (knock on wood), Green Bay should surpass Vegas’ over/under prediction. I’m not saying this is Packers team is the best in the NFL (because I don’t think that they are), or even the best Packers team we’ve seen in the past few years.
But if you’re going to bet on the Packers and their regular season success…this is your year.