With training camp just about a month away, it’s the perfect time to survey the field of competition in the NFC. There are rosters that run the gambit in the conference, from teams doing a complete rebuild to the reigning Super Bowl Champs. In this exercise, I created four large categories to rank the Packers biggest threats to a potential championship run. Each team is placed in one of the following categories: Not really a threat, might be a threat, likely a threat, and major threat.
Not really a threat: Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons
All of these teams are either midway or just beginning a rebuild. Additionally all three teams have huge question marks at quarterback. Justin Fields was inconsistent during his rookie campaign in Chicago. For Seattle and Atlanta, they traded away their franchise quarterbacks (Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan) and did little to replace them. They both seem to be in a full teardown and rebuild. The Panthers continue to have nothing in the way of effective talent at quarterback.
The Packers only play Chicago this year as an NFC North Division rival, so unfortunately, they won’t get the opportunity to play against Seattle, Carolina or Atlanta.
Might be a threat: Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Commanders, New Orleans Saints
About half the NFC falls into might be a threat. They all have significant questions but have potential to make a playoff run with development at key positions. Both Washington and New York have question marks on offense, specifically the quarterback. However, they both boast effective defenses. For the Giants and Cowboys, these are good teams who need to learn how to close out games. The overall rosters have significant talent on them, but the ability of their stars to take over in key moments will define their season more so than some of the later teams.
Detroit is making a lot of good decisions in their rebuild. They are bringing in culture changers and have drafted well. They still look to be a season or two away, but they could surprise some people this year.
Arizona has the makings of dominate team but seem to falter as the season progresses. They have brought in veterans like JJ Watt to augment an already good roster and provide leadership. While Kyler Murry didn’t take the step forward they wanted in 2021, he could do that this year. If he does, along with a little development from their defense, they are poised to make some noise in a crowded NFC West.
Green Bay plays everyone in this category outside of Arizona. While each of these squads have question marks, they each will pose a challenge to stack wins.
Likely a threat: San Fransico 49ers, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings
This category is reserved for teams that are nearly complete but seem to have one big question going into the season.
The 49ers continue to have one of the deepest rosters in the league but have question marks at quarterback. With the number of key playmakers, they have at critical positions, coupled with their continued ability to defeat the Packers, they are likely a very real threat if they make the playoffs.
New Orleans is a team at a crossroads. They have moderate success over the past few seasons but seem to be headed towards a period of transition. Similar to last year, if New Orleans figures out their quarterback room learns how to close out games, they definitely could shift easily into the next category.
Rounding out this group is the familiar Minnesota Vikings. Like most of the past few years, on paper, they look like the most likely divisional rival to challenge the Packers. However, in the biggest moments, it seems that they wither, particularly QB Kurt Cousins. If he can smooth out his ups and downs, Minnesota looks formidable once again. A key component will be how quickly they adapt under the leadership of new head coach Kevin O’Connell.
The one nice thing about this group: the Packers play only Minnesota. The downside is we will not see how they perform against top competition until the playoffs.
Major Threat: Tampa Bay Bucs, Los Angeles Rams
Last year, the Rams might have been a surprising choice as a major threat. However, not anymore. As the reigning Super Bowl champs, they are at the top of this list. They bring back nearly all their starters into this season and continue to be led by the incredible Sean McVay. It’s not hard to see why they are at the top of this list and the biggest threat going into the season.
Tampa Bay looked to be a team that would fall down the threat meter this year when Tom Brady announced his retirement. That didn’t last long though and he’s back looking for yet another championship. While the Bucs look very different going into 2022, any Brady led team is a major threat.
The Packers will go head to head with both teams this season. How they compete in those matchups will be telling when trying to determine what the fate of the Packers is in 2022.
Only a limited amount of the conference appear to have fairly complete rosters heading into the season, it’s still a very competitive conference at the top. Throughout the regular season, Packer fans will get to see how their team stacks up to pretty good competition week in and week out. If Green Bay goes on a championship run this season, they will have earned it.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.