The Green Bay Packers, as they have been for many of the last few seasons, have been seen as one of the leaders to win the NFC crown and represent their conference in the Super Bowl But falling short on the doorstep for two consecutive years certainly can make it tough for a team to be able to pull through, especially when they were favored to do so.
But with QB Aaron Rodgers on a slight revenge tour that could also double as his going away party, combined with head coach Matt LaFleur needing to prove that he is not just a coach that can get his team to the precipice but cannot get them over it, the 2021 version of the Packers looks to be quite dangerous yet again.
The NFC has its fair share of dangerous teams, but there are also some teams that will likely regress in the standings this year, playing with more of an eye towards next year’s draft as they slowly start to fall more and more behind in the playoff race. This article dives into the main areas of competition for the Packers on their quest to finally getting back to another Super Bowl with Rodgers in Titletown.
Los Angeles Rams
No slight towards the San Francisco 49ers (who are currently undergoing an identity change at QB), but the Los Angeles Rams used this offseason to shore up one important area of their team with a player that the Packers are all too familiar with – Matthew Stafford.
After the Detroit Lions and Rams connected on a blockbuster off-season swap that sent incumbent starter Jared Goff to the Motor City, the Rams were able to address the one area that seemed to be holding them back the most in their chase for postseason relevancy. Not to mention, Stafford’s desire to actually be on a competitive team with realistic postseason aspirations should help his play and make him and the offense a better unit moving forward.
With the season-ending injury to RB Cam Akers slowing down the offense’s planned breakout, the onus may ultimately fall more on the three-headed monster that is Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods, with the two latter options in line for their own, respective 1,000 receiving yard seasons.
The defense is the strongest part of this team, and how could it not be with Aaron Donald the most dominant defensive lineman this league has seen in a long time, and with Jalen Ramsey regularly taking on opposing WR1’s all year and turning them into footnotes. While not on the same level as the other two teams on this list, the Rams will be fighting for a chance to win the NFC West, a tall task even with their roster.
The second of two NFC West squads on this list, the Seattle Seahawks look to have the inside track to the divisional title, even if the Rams look to be the better team on paper.
The Seattle offense is now run by Shane Waldron, who was a member of LAR’s offensive staff last year, and hopes surrounding the offense are focused on helping both D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett continue to form one of the league’s best 1-2 WR combinations. Couple their outputs with another healthy season of Chris Carson, and you have the makings of a stout offensive attack, offensive line issues be damned.
Russell Wilson supersedes Stafford at this point in time, mostly due to Wilson’s familiarity with his weapons and expectations, even with the change at OC. The massive impact Wilson has on this team helps overshadow the defensive liabilities they have, even after safety Jamal Adams’ record-setting contract extension was finally taken care of recently.
While HC Pete Carroll may slowly be fading out being on the good side of management, this team is surely built to take hold of the division this season – their familiarity with each other and cohesion is the biggest reason why they can hold off the Rams and earn a high postseason seat at the table.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Hello darkness, my old friend.
Tom Brady continues to defy the odds of old age, the team was able to basically bring back every single free agent this offseason, and the continuity of both sides of the ball makes them tough to stop in any game situation.
There is a reason why this team was able to dethrone Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in last season’s Super Bowl, continuously putting pressure on currently the league’s best QB and making him play from behind for a good chunk of the game. As they were able to use their defense to wreak havoc all game, it was their offense that experienced an absurd amount of success last season, all led by Brady and Father Time.
The Bucs are going to need to find more of an offensive balance between the run and the pass this season, and with their stable of RBs (Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, Giovanni Bernard), they certainly can create favorable situations that help take pressure off of Brady while maintaining a strong offensive attack.
If Green Bay wants to get over that final hump, they will likely need to go through at least one of these teams, if not all three. GB’s roster construction is one of the league’s best, but if they decide not to show up yet again when the lights are the brightest, preseason projections mean absolutely nothing.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23