The NFL is ripe with legitimate Super Bowl LII contenders. The defending champion New England Patriots have bolstered their already-dangerous offense. The Atlanta Falcons have the ideal mix of talent and motivation after letting the Lombardi Trophy slip through their hands last season. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys all have enough talent to be in the conversation, as well.
None of these teams will be smiling when the confetti falls next February in Minnesota, though. That team will be the Green Bay Packers.
Last season, the Packers rode a 10-6 record to the top of the NFC North and into the playoffs. With a six-game win streak propelling them, Green Bay was a hot pick to win it all. They appeared on their way too, dispatching a solid Giants team in the Wild Card round and stunning the top-seeded Cowboys on the road in the Divisional round. The roof collapsed on them in the NFC Championship, however, as Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan picked apart the Packers secondary to the tune of 392 yards and four touchdowns. It was a shocking disappointment, but one that has strengthened Green Bay for its next Super Bowl run.
Image via Bleacher Report
The Packers’ weak secondary ruptured in that game, but the hole was mended this off-season by Green Bay General manager Ted Thompson. Former Packers corner Davon House is back in the fold after signing a one-year contract and the team used a pair of second-round picks on Kevin King, a tall, versatile defensive back from Washington, and Josh Jones, a safety who recorded eight interceptions last season for NC State. It’s enough to make the unit respectable, at the least, which may be good enough considering the talent Green Bay boasts in its front seven.
The Green Bay offense, meanwhile, figures to be explosive this season. With the off-season additions of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, Green Bay significantly upgraded its tight end position. Receiver Jordy Nelson (1,257 receiving yards, 14 TDs) returns to terrorize opposing DBs, Randall Cobb looked strong against the Seahawks and Davante Adams (997 receiving yards, 12 TDs) may be on the verge of a serious breakout season. Despite a lackluster opener, the backfield should also round into form, with several backs bringing new dimensions to the run game. All of this at the disposal of QB Aaron Rodgers is bad news — just as long as the Packers’ questionable offensive line can handle the pressure.
Image via Bleacher Report
Speaking of Rodgers, this season could be an important one in regards to the QB’s legacy. After winning the Super Bowl in just his third season, the Cal product has been unable to get back to the top of the mountain. The now-33-year-old may not have many more opportunities to get back there, either. Considering this, and the talent surrounding him, expect a seriously motivated no. 12 this year. While the 2010 Packers squad that won it all was a pretty talented group, they had their flaws. The difference-maker was Rodgers, who played arguably the best football of his pro career. If he’s close to that this season, Green Bay will be able to play with anyone.
Despite the thrilling comeback in last season’s Super Bowl, the Patriots showed they are beatable — even on the biggest stage. New England QB Tom Brady, incensed by the suspension the NFL handed him for the “Deflategate” scandal, didn’t need to look far to find the motivation to rally and claim another Super Bowl victory. While Brady will obviously be excited by the prospect of another ring, it’s Rodgers who will have the fire in his belly this season. Elite talent and a burning desire to win? That’s the type of formula that results in championships.