The fans favourite series, the ‘State of the Franchise’ continues with another addition to keep us entertained whilst there are no games for us to mull over. We have a feeling this feature will be one that will interest a big chunk of the UK NFL fan base as Jack Mills (@23jmills), writes about his Green Bay Packers.
Pack Nation has a big following, so sit back and enjoy this feature and if you agree, or even disagree, we’d love to hear from you.
Let kick things off …
Last Season’s Reflections
Going into the 2017 season expectations were high in Green Bay. When you have the greatest QB ever (let’s end that debate now) then every season the goal is to be that last team standing when the confetti starts to fall. A classic Aaron Rodgers last second win over the Cowboys week five and a 4-1 start seemed to confirm that this season could be special.
However this was not to be…
In a year where injury ended a number of star players seasons, week six claimed its most devastating victim yet. In one play, the Packers campaign was over.
It is no secret that Rodgers masks a large number of holes on the roster and the end of the 2017 season served to prove just that. The Packers stumbled to a 7-9 record, with arguably the lowest point of the season being week fourteen where we needed a 4th quarter comeback and OT to beat the 0-16 Browns.
Changes During the Off-Season
The off-season was as much about who left the building as it was who entered. The departures of both the GM Ted Thompson and DC Dom Capers were something myself and others had been calling for, for the last several years and were long overdue. New GM Brian Gutekunst promised a much more aggressive off-season; after a number of passive years this was music to Packer fan’s ears.
Free agency brought two “big” moves. Jimmy Graham was an all too familiar signing and ten million a year is a lot of money for an aging TE, especially when you consider that this was most likely a contributing factor to the cut of fan favourite Jordy Nelson. After the failure of Martellus Bennett last year, I just hope that this doesn’t go the same way. The Muhammad Wilkerson deal can only be seen as a win-win situation. If we get his 2015 version this could be the best move of free agency considering the low amount of money; if not then it is still a smart, low risk move.
The only silver-lining of a 7-9 record is a high pick in the draft, the Packers haven’t picked inside the top 20 since 2009 so this was a chance for an immediate game changer. Trading down, then back up and still getting Jaire Alexander (some analysts consider him the best CB in the draft) was a great move. CB was the top priority going into the draft and we also gained a first rounder next year.
Overall, I’m happy with the moves made this off-season, we addressed DB in the draft early on and then gained some depth at WR – bonus points for gaining the WR with the coolest name in the NFL (Equanimeous St. Brown, come on). I would have liked to have spent some of the Jimmy Graham money on a top corner, the group is young and could have done with a veteran leader like Malcolm Butler. The pass rush from OLB also still needs to be addressed. These two positions have been the biggest weakness on the team for a number of years and hopefully will not be the teams Achilles heel next campaign.
Predictions For The New Season
All every Packers fan is hoping (praying) for next year is a healthy team for the majority, if not all, of the season. It’s a given that players will get injured but at times over the last few years it has felt like the Packers own the most brittle roster in the entire league. With a healthy Rodgers, our sights are set at the top – the Super Bowl. This campaign appears to be very difficult: the Vikings defense looks scary – with Kirk Cousins at the helm they may be the best team in the league, as much as it pains me to say. Our defense must take a leap this year. How Aaron Rodgers has only been to one Super Bowl is a disgrace, this can be blamed solely on the defense. Since he became the starter we have only had a top ten defense for one season: we won the Super Bowl that year.
The season will be decided on a five week stretch after the bye week: we are at the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks and Vikings (with the Dolphins visiting Lambeau); four incredibly difficult road games. If we can go 4-1 or 3-2 it should set us up quite nicely for the playoffs, however, here we could all too easily go 1-4. This is where the season will be made or lost.
My prediction is 11-5 and a wild-card berth with the Vikings retaining the NFC North. The NFC is very competitive and based on last year’s standings we have the toughest strength of schedule this upcoming season. Not to mention we face five of the last years twelve playoff teams. But with #12 at QB all we need to do is get to the post-season and we have a shot.
Editor Notes: Packers fans, let us know your thoughts and tell us whether you agree with Jack’s reflections and predictions. Leave a comment or contact us via social media below: