Matt LaFleur could not have dreamt up a more perfect start to his NFL coaching career (short of bringing home one or two Lombardi trophies). Two seasons in with 26 regular season wins in addition to two playoff victories. Reason for optimism in year three, right? Or is it a sure sign that the Green Bay Packers are due to regress? A good idea might be to look at the betting on Unibet to see what the odds might be like.
At this point in summer it’s natural to be wearing your rose colored sunglasses. Patiently waiting for the training camp battles to unfold and to make predictions not about *if* the Packers will make the playoffs, but will the NFC’s path to the Super Bowl run through Titletown? It goes without saying that Green Bay will win the division, of course!
As a football fan, the easiest thing to fall victim to is assuming that what you knew about last year’s team equates to what will become of this year’s team. It doesn’t. Injuries and ineffectiveness sneak up at a moment’s notice, you see it every year.
Over the past two seasons the Packers have been beneficiaries of pretty good luck in the injury department. Obviously, losing all-world left tackle David Bahktiari to an ACL tear at the end of the regular season probably colors that opinion for some, especially with his status for the beginning of the ‘21 season up in the air.
An interesting unit of measurement for injuries is Football Outsiders Adjusted Games Lost metric. In 2020 the Packers were the 10th healthiest unit in the NFL (if you remove players lost to COVID-19 protocol). In 2019 the Packers checked in at 14th on the list. Better than league average by a considerable margin over the course of two years.
Perhaps this is the football world’s karmic balance swinging back in favor of the Packers after years of being injury plagued. Unfortunately, the odds favor the green & gold missing some key pieces for stretches of this upcoming season.
Moving Up Or Moving Out
Heading into the 2020 season, it seemed as though the Packers had two stud pass rushers in Preston & Za’darius Smith. At the end of the regular season the Packers DID have two stud pass rushers except Preston Smith wasn’t one of them. Enter Rashan Gary.
The disappearing act perpetrated by Preston Smith and the emergence of Rashan Gary is just one example of what can go wrong (and right!) during the course of an NFL season. We’re certainly salivating now at the idea of Rashan Gary hunting quarterbacks in Green Bay for the next 10 years, but how many forecasted that Preston Smith’s play would fall off a cliff?
The reality is that so very few NFL players have a career trajectory that just perfectly crescendos. Most career arcs more closely resemble the stock market — some years you’re flush and others you may be picking up a second job.
Packer fans are spoiled to have players like Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers & David Bahktiari that can be easily predicted for success, a luxury many teams do not have. But what happens with the players in the margins is what makes the difference between a 13 win season and scrapping for a Wild Card playoff berth.
If the Packers are to have continued success, they need to have a net-positive impact from their 2nd- and 3rd-tier players. Undoubtedly there will be a player or two that we’ve already assumed will take a critical step forward that ends up faltering. There must be three or four players that step up and play meaningful snaps at a high level if the Packers hope to maintain the level of excellence they’ve become accustomed to in the past two seasons.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.