Packers season preview: Highlights, predictions and a bold playoff prediction

I’ve never been more excited about a four-hour drive alone than when I arrived in Minneapolis from Green Bay on a Sunday morning.

Football season has arrived.

There’s no better time to break down some top and game predictions for the Packers’ 2022 season. Let’s get straight to it.

Player advantage

Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers, QB

I thought about being cute and picking someone other than back-to-back NFL MVPs — maybe outside linebacker Rashaan Gary or cornerback Jaire Alexander — but my better judgment prevailed. Until he proves he can’t play at an elite level, either through a decline in play, injury, or retirement, Rodgers should be the unequivocal preseason pick for team MVP.

Offensive MVP: Rodgers

I’m not going to do what the NFL Honors voters do and pick a different winner for MVP and offensive player of the year. It doesn’t make sense.

Defensive MVP: Rashan Gary, OLB

With respect to Alexander, inside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, and nose tackle Kenny Clark, who could make the All-Pro team this season, I think Gary will solidify himself as a star runner comparable to the others. TJ Watt, Myles Garrett and the Bosa brothers. Gary obviously wouldn’t be at that level of year-to-year consistency just yet, but his fourth season could be a start. Remember, Gary is only 24 years old and is coming off a season in which he is tied with Watt for fourth in the NFL in pressure ratio among defensive linemen and linebackers with at least 200 pass completions (Micah Parsons, Trey Hendrickson and Maxx Crosby) ahead of only them. was).

Most Improved: TJ Slaton, DL

Slaton had just three pressures and one sack for a loss in 255 defensive tackles as a fifth-round rookie last season. But he’s shown improvement this summer, and that’s a big reason — because he’s still the fourth interior linebacker — the Packers feel their depth at the position is better than it was last season.

Returning Player: David Bakhtiari, LT

Three vital Packers players are returning from ACL tears — Lucky, right tackle Elgton Jenkins and tight end Robert Tonyan — and each is important in his own way. Tonyan is one of the most reliable pass rushers in the NFL and Jenkins is one of the most versatile offensive linemen who could possibly be a Pro Bowl selection at any of the five positions. But Bakhtiari is a different type of left tackle when he’s healthy and playing, and after the last 21 months he’s come out to show he still sets the standard at his position.

Breakout player: Jarran Reed, DL

That honor could have gone to cornerback Rasul Douglas or Campbell last season, as both players were signings who far exceeded expectations on defense. Based on how he played this summer, Reed looks like he could fit the bill in 2022 by consistently getting into the backfield. Reed hasn’t sniffed the level of Campbell and Douglas since 2018, when he had 31 pressures, 10.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and three pass defenses in 16 games for the Seahawks. The Packers hope they can bring back that version of Reed, not the one who had just 19 pressures, 2.5 sacks, two tackles for a loss and one pass defensed in 17 games with the Chiefs last season.

The X Factor: Robert Tonyan, TE

The Packers need the 2020 version of Tonya, who has 11 touchdowns, because they already lack a strong passing threat — as they learned after Tonya tore his ACL in Week 8 last season. His receiving ability downfield could also help make up for a lack of potential at wide receiver. If I had to guess right now which hands Rodgers relies on the most among pass catchers, I’d put Tonya at No. 1. According to Pro Football Focus, there are only two tight ends in the top 60 among targets. over the past two seasons (Tonyan is 30th with 88 after missing the second half of 2021) than Tonyan’s. Kyle Rudolph (76 targets) and Tyler Eifert (60 targets) both have none.

Newbie: Romeo Doubs, WR

I had already bought a ticket for the Doubs hype train based on everything I saw in his camp. Rodgers spoke highly of him, saying the expectations for him would be higher than normal rookies, especially given how well he’s been playing, and Doubs could be in the conversation for NFL Offensive Player of the Year, especially given the uncertainty. On the vast scale of Green Bay.

Biggest Disappointment: Custom groups return partitions

The Packers finished 30th in the NFL last season with 17.7 yards per punt and 21st at 7.96 yards per punt. Maybe it’s the pessimist in me because I’ve seen a lot go wrong on special teams in my three years covering the team, but I’m skeptical of a coordinator change and a more confident and quick Amari Rodgers (me on two counts). I’ve written about) are the magic potions needed to get both stats into, say, the top 20. Block has a big role in the success of both returning units, and these crews will look different, but I believe. After I’ve seen it a few games, they get better. This could be another year where Aaron Rodgers and company have to pick up the slack after a weak field position start.

Overall and game-by-game predictions

Regular season record: 12-5

Week 1: at Vikings – WIN

Statement game for the Packers. Rodgers wants to let everyone know that despite all the doubts about the offensive line, he is still the back-to-back MVP. Meanwhile, Green Bay’s defense will finally want to walk the walk after talking the talk this summer.

Week 2: vs. Bears — WIN

The Bears visit Lambeau Field for Sunday Night Football. We know how it goes.

Week 3: at Buccaneers – LOSS

There’s something about facing a great defense in the sweltering Florida heat that has fueled the Packers offense in recent seasons (against the Bucs in 2020 and the Saints in Jacksonville in ’21).

Week 4: vs. Patriots — WIN

Bill Belichick’s aura has begun to wear off in the post-Tom Brady era in New England.

Week 5: London vs. Giants — WIN

I’m dying to go to London for this game, but I don’t think Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has much of a chance against the Packers defensive front.

Week 6: vs. Jets — WIN

No goodbye sounds ideal a week after a trip to London, but you know what does? The Jets play at Lambeau Field.

Week 7: At Commanders – WIN

Nothing about Washington quarterback Carson Wentz makes me think he can beat the Packers defense.

Week 8: in bills – LOSE

My guess is that the Packers will enter this Sunday night’s game at 6-1 against the current Super Bowl favorites. It will be tight, but I think the Bills will win a close game.

Week 9: at Lions – WIN

The Lions thought everyone was going to be a freak because their ball was lighting up the team’s meeting room singing Michael Jackson. Let’s see what happens when Aidan Hutchinson is forced to reach Bakhtiari and Jenkins, the NFL’s best duo when healthy.

Week 10: vs. Cowboys — WIN

Do you think Rodgers will let Mike McCarthy win when he returns to Lambeau Field? Haha, good.

Week 11: vs. Titans — WIN

Maybe this pick is just instinct based on how badly they beat the Titans in the snow at Lambeau in 2020.

Week 12: at Eagles – LOSE

Philadelphia will surprise a lot of people this year with their revamped roster.

Week 13: at Bears – WIN

Rodgers continues to “own” Soldier Field. Maybe the front-rowers won’t give him so many double-birds this time.

Week 14: BYE

Week 15: vs. Rams — LOSS

I think Allen Robinson signing in Los Angeles and finally getting to play with a competent quarterback was the most underrated move of the offseason.

Week 16: At Dolphins – WIN

Forget the game, I’m so excited to spend Christmas in Miami!

Week 17: vs. Vikings — LOSS

Minnesota is good enough to split this season, just like it was in 2020 when Dalvin Cook ran roughshod over Lambeau Field.

Week 18: vs. Lions — WIN

I don’t think it will be like the last time these two teams closed out the season at Lambeau (the Lions won 31-0 on Dec. 30, 2018).

End of section: First

The Vikings are the only threat in the NFC North, which still looks like football’s weakest division (though the AFC East and AFC South could also be vying for that distinction). At the end of the day, the Packers have Rodgers and the Vikings have Kirk Cousins.

Conclusion of the conference: Second

My playoff picks for the NFC are the Rams, Packers, Eagles, Buccaneers, Vikings, 49ers and Saints in seed order. That’s right, no Cowboys. Maybe McCarthy could sign on as a senior offensive consultant. I think he still has a house in Green Bay.

Playoff prediction

I’m going to stick with the same prediction I made this summer and have the Packers beat the Ravens in the Super Bowl. Rodgers, like Michael Strahan, goes out and retires with the Giants, securing that elusive second ring and cementing his legacy as one of the most talented (which he’s already shown) and one of the best to do it.

(Photo of Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers: Samantha Madar/USA Today)

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