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Preseason Power Rankings No. 8: Green Bay Packers

New Orleans Saints v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Packers have been at or near the top of the NFL for four years running, and there’s every reason to believe that they’ll remain at or near the top of the NFL this year.

That’s the ultimate takeaway from our preseason look at the Packers: They’re the clear favorites to win the NFC North and host at least one playoff game at Lambeau Field, and they’re one of the Top 10 teams in the league.

For Packers fans, however, No. 8 may be disappointing: As long as Aaron Rodgers is in his prime, anything short of the Super Bowl will feel like a letdown. We explore below why our six-person PFT panel thinks the Packers will again get close but fall short.

Strengths.

It all starts with Aaron Rodgers, who is masterful running head coach Mike McCarthy’s offense. In 2011 Rodgers was the league MVP and set an NFL passer rating record. In 2012 he took maybe a tiny step backward, but he led the league in passer rating again. Rodgers is the NFL’s all-time leader in passer rating, at 104.9 for his career, and he has the lowest career interception percentage in NFL history, with just 1.7 percent of his passes getting picked. His career completion rate of 65.7 percent is second all-time, and he’s the post-merger record holder (surpassed only by some old-timers who played in a different era of passing offenses) in career yards per pass and career touchdown percentage. In case you haven’t noticed, Rodgers isn’t just a good quarterback. He’s a quarterback who’s doing things the NFL hasn’t seen before.

Rodgers also has a good trio of wide receivers in Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, and Jermichael Finley at tight end gives Rodgers another threat in the passing game. Cobb is a uniquely talented playmaker whom Rodgers has said could catch 100 passes this season. If Cobb gets as involved in the offense as the Packers hope, and if he continues to be Green Bay’s primary punt and kickoff returner, he could threaten Darren Sproles‘ all-time record for all-purpose yards in a season.

The Packers’ defense took a major step forward from 2011 to 2012, and Clay Matthews managed 13 sacks despite missing four games. Green Bay’s defense melted down in the postseason loss to the 49ers, but that appeared to be more a matter of running into the wrong quarterback at the wrong time, as the Packers simply had no answer for Colin Kaepernick. That game was alarming, but one bad game does not mean Green Bay has a bad defense.

Weaknesses.

If there’s a concern on offense, it’s whether Aaron Rodgers can stay upright for 16 games. So far Rodgers has proven himself to be tough and durable, but last year he was sacked an NFL-high 51 times. If you’re hit by 300-pound defensive linemen that often, there’s a very good chance that eventually you’re going to get hurt. And there may not be any team in the league that has a bigger drop-off from its starting quarterback to its backup quarterback than the Packers have from Rodgers to Graham Harrell, who has thrown exactly four passes in his NFL career.

The inability to stop Colin Kaepernick’s running in the playoffs was a disaster, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy sent his defensive staff back to college to study how to stop the read-option. But a bigger concern is that the defense struggled at times to stop running backs. Adrian Peterson was good against everyone, of course, but he was particularly good against the Packers, running for 210 and 199 yards in his two regular-season games against Green Bay. (The Packers did hold Peterson to “only” 99 yards in the playoffs.) Games like the Packers’ loss to the Giants, in which they allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to gain 58 yards on 10 carries and Andre Brown to gain 64 yards on 13 carries, are also alarming for the Packers’ defense.

Changes.

The loss of wide receiver Greg Jennings may sting, but if Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones all stay healthy, Aaron Rodgers won’t be hurting for wide receivers. Donald Driver’s retirement is also noteworthy, but while he’ll be missed by Packers fans, the offense won’t miss him at all: Driver had a long and honorable career with the Packers, but he really didn’t have much left last year.

The departure of veteran defensive back Charles Woodson got a lot of headlines, but the Packers won’t necessarily miss him a whole lot on the field, either. He missed half the season with a broken collarbone last year, and the Packers feel good about their depth in the secondary. Veteran linebacker Desmond Bishop, who missed all of last season with a torn hamstring, was also let go, but the Packers like their starting linebackers, too.

Overall, the changes the Packers made this offseason are the changes they’ve always made: They held the line by declining to pay a lot of money to aging veterans, kept the nucleus of their team in place, and added a lot of talent (11 picks) in the draft, highlighted by first-round defensive end Datone Jones. That formula has worked well in Green Bay.

Camp Battles.

With Charles Woodson out, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian will compete to start at safety alongside Morgan Burnett. Packers safeties coach Darren Perry has said neither of them has separated himself so far, so that’s a competition that bears watching during training camp.

The kicking job will come down to a competition between Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio. Crosby was very shaky last season, so Packers fans have to hope that Tavecchio will prove he’s up to the task, and that Crosby can be sent packing.

The Packers also hope last year’s mediocre running attack can be bolstered by their two running back draft picks, Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. In a five-way competition, Lacy, Franklin, DuJuan Harris, Alex Green and James Starks will all get the opportunity to prove themselves. Lacy would seem to enter camp as the favorite, but that competition is wide open.

Prospects.

The Packers are a good football team, the clear favorites to win the NFC North and a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. The presence of Aaron Rodgers virtually guarantees that they’re going to have an elite offense. There’s a lot to be optimistic about in Green Bay.

But the Packers probably haven’t closed the gap with the 49ers and Falcons in the NFC, and they also have a good Seahawks team to contend with in the conference. Green Bay looks like a good playoff team, but not a Super Bowl team.

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45 Responses to “Preseason Power Rankings No. 8: Green Bay Packers”
  1. youarejealousof6rings says: Jul 21, 2013 9:12 AM

    No defense.

  2. icewalker946 says: Jul 21, 2013 9:13 AM

    I agree with everything you wrote.

  3. jhein23 says: Jul 21, 2013 9:27 AM

    I agree that the 49ers, Broncos, Falcons, Seahawks are better teams than the Packers going into training camp. But I don’t think the Patriots with all their problems are clearly better than Green Bay. And neither is the Ravens or Bengals. The Packers are at least equal to those 3 AFC teams.

  4. glazerh8er says: Jul 21, 2013 9:27 AM

    Saints and Packers show how much an elite QB means to a team. Saints defense = garbage, and they are converting to a 3-4 without the personnel (yeah, good luck with that, thanks Rob Ryan for giving the Bucs a good shot for 2 wins there), and the Packers who aside from a couple players, are just average overall (I think they will miss Jennings a lot though). The discount double check can only do so much. PS, I am jealous of you Green Bay if my team had your QB I would mark us down as favorites, and we are ranked 24 on this list.

  5. medtxpack says: Jul 21, 2013 9:29 AM

    I can’t wait til we replay SanFran, beat them, and shut everyone up about that.

    We’ll take this ranking, we play better with a chip on our shoulder. We have the best QB in the league.

  6. abusementland says: Jul 21, 2013 9:29 AM

    If the RB position, not including Rodgers, can give this team 1000 yards rushing, this team will be tops in the NFC, because it will only spur the passing game on even more

  7. jimmysee says: Jul 21, 2013 9:32 AM

    #8 is OK with me — that means there’s lots of upside potential!

    Go Pack Go!

  8. herlies says: Jul 21, 2013 9:33 AM

    Probably the 2nd best NFC team behind SF.

    Not buying Seattle and Atlanta.

  9. tjacks7 says: Jul 21, 2013 9:37 AM

    Defense wins championships. Which is why IMO, Green Bay will make the playoffs and get bounced in the wildcard or divisional round – just like last year. So number 8 sounds about right.

  10. doner80 says: Jul 21, 2013 9:40 AM

    Way too high with their shuffled o line and terrible defense,I see a 7-9 season coming. I Feel bad for Rodgers he deserves to be on a complete team.

  11. leroysbutler says: Jul 21, 2013 9:47 AM

    It’s all about who stays healthy and gets hot in Dec/Jan.

  12. nickynick04 says: Jul 21, 2013 10:12 AM

    I see Green Bay as the 4th best team…behind the 49ers the Seahawks and Falcons……then who is better ? seriously,,,,NO ONE in the AFC…..
    I know we play in a weak division with the Bears Vikes and Lions…..

  13. therealhazer says: Jul 21, 2013 10:15 AM

    11-5.

  14. barbasol11111111 says: Jul 21, 2013 10:28 AM

    They had a lot of injuries and one really bad game plan, but the pack is fine defensively

    I’d gladly take the finesse of the offense, too, as I’d love for my team to be able to score like that

    Rodgers is probably slightly past his “peak” with turning 30 and all, but he’s still the best qb in the league by a lot

    Top 5 team, easily

  15. vikesfan320 says: Jul 21, 2013 10:50 AM

    McCarthy as head coach should be listed as a weakness. Terrific play caller, awful decision maker (as evidenced by his Week 17 challenge and Andy Reid-esque clock management).

  16. dallascowboysdishingthereal says: Jul 21, 2013 10:55 AM

    The Packers lost some guys they will miss. But they still have Rodgers so I think #8 is about right.

  17. calvinhobbes5000 says: Jul 21, 2013 11:21 AM

    The loss of Greg Jennings won’t hurt as much as people think. He was hurt for most of last year anyway, and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are better at this place in their careers. James Jones also had a breakout year last year, and if he can keep up what he did last year, he may be better as well. Losing Jennings hurts the Packers depth, but that’s about it.

  18. claymath52 says: Jul 21, 2013 11:25 AM

    I agree with this. Means we win the North, make the playoffs…. After that anything can happen. Who really knows how the team will be with losing a lot of veteran leadership. I would not be surprised with a down year as we find our identity on defense.

  19. olhoss1884 says: Jul 21, 2013 11:41 AM

    I am not sure why people keep using the term “terrible defense” when the were riddled with injuries last year and STILL finished 11th. Although the difference in the quality of the teams in the top 10 in minimal, I would still rank them ahead of most of the rest. Atlanta has no pas rush and a poor secondary, Seattle’s pass rush will be weak this year and they STILL don’t have a good receiving corps, Cincinnati doesn’t have much of a running game, has only an above average QB and only 1 outside weapon. NE’s OL is suspect as is their receiving corps and secondary and their pass rush is average. I would rank only SF, Den and Balt higher.

  20. scoobaj says: Jul 21, 2013 11:48 AM

    good regular season team, will get bounced quickly if they make playoffs, defense is a must in January

  21. bigwii says: Jul 21, 2013 11:49 AM

    They’re good not great still they’re not even a guarantee to win their division. The Vikings have a legit defense, Peterson, and Jennings. If Ponder plays half descent they have a shot, Detroit and Chi look pretty good to fly under the radar both with solid defense.

    The Packers are very one-dimensional and even with Rogers are still not going to be better than San Fran or Seattle. When it comes to defense vs offense, defense usually wins especially in the playoffs. Especially, with those 2 defenses in the west. Not to mention both their offenses got a lot better since last season.

  22. firestarter0728 says: Jul 21, 2013 12:48 PM

    Good, I’m actually glad to see the Packers will be flying under the radar this season. These nonbelievers might get a big surprise.

  23. jhein23 says: Jul 21, 2013 1:51 PM

    Greg Jennings = Tory Holt when he went to the Jaguars. Very similar players at every stage of their careers.

  24. themackstrong says: Jul 21, 2013 2:03 PM

    Rogers may be the best QB in the game but he a terrible offensive line. You say 1,000 back but how many ypc he have with those guys blocking for him. The Packers defense is weak for a top team. It may not be the worst but middle of the pack against the run and a secondary that has holes with no pass rush outside Clay Mathews isn’t exactly imposing. I agree though with another fan the Pats aren’t as good as the Packers and should swap places.

  25. whatjusthapped says: Jul 21, 2013 2:10 PM

    Love the disrespect but truthfully, that respect has to be earned and the Packers playoff hopes in three out of the last four seasons (the exception is the Superbowl winning season, a description that a Viking fan has never been able to claim) have been dashed by a porous defense.

    Fix the defense and the Packers have as good of a chance as any team no matter where they are ranked on PFT. They got their #1 pick of a year ago coming back from IR, add that to their # 1 this year, subtract Eric Walden who was just god awful in the SF playoff game and your front 7 is automatically better. Good enough to be a top 10 defense? 2013 will tell.

  26. wisportsfanpbbb says: Jul 21, 2013 2:17 PM

    I think this ranking is close. I could see the Packers being ranked above Cincinnati, New England, and Seattle. But an argument can be made for all these teams in the top 8. They are all good to great teams. I think we will know where the Packers stand after their first five games. They have the 49ers, Redskins, Bengals, and Ravens among those games (only Washington is at Lambeau). We will see pretty quickly what the Packers can do this year. I doubt they can start 2-3 and recover like they did last year with 7 of their last 11 this year vs. Bears, Vikings, Giants, Steelers, and Falcons.

  27. filthymcnasty1 says: Jul 21, 2013 2:34 PM

    Somebody in the Top 8 will win this thing. It might as well be the Packers.

    And if they do, it would be a record 14th World Championship for Titletown.

  28. mmurray4 says: Jul 21, 2013 3:22 PM

    #8 is fine with me. Lot of skeptics with how SF scorched GB last year. Packers will be better this year. They will find a running back in their crop. Dantone Jones will prove his worth. Mike Neal at LB on passing downs gives an interesting mix with Mathews rushing the quarterback. Mathews is quick and Neal is powerful. I am not the least bit concerned with running quarterbacks. Capernick will be a warm up for RGIII. With Rodgers still in the fold and his core receivers, along with a two punch style running game, GB’s offense will be dynamic. The D will look much better. Burnett is on his way to stardom, as is Hayward. We all sit back and wonder what the Packers need and should do, but I think Capers knows he is on the hotseat and has some up and coming defensive coaches just waiting to move up, so look for Capers to have that D dominant. As far as SF, I would take ATL over them and Seattle. I can see Capernick struggling this year as teams have probably figured him out and the Super Bowl gave defensive coaches around the league a foundation on how to neutralize him. We will see as the season is coming soon. Best of luck to all teams and fans, but do not be surprised when SF and Seattle are fighting off STL for the division and ATL and GB are playing the NFC championship game in Green Bay in 2014.

  29. mmurray4 says: Jul 21, 2013 3:46 PM

    Vikings a legit defense? Aging Allen and Williams coupled with dismal secondary and a cast of nobodies playing linebacker? That makes a legit D?

  30. newcomer2013 says: Jul 21, 2013 3:47 PM

    As long as they have Rodgers they will be top ten

  31. saints12013 says: Jul 21, 2013 6:23 PM

    As a matter of fact, didn’t we sweep the Sucs last season without our head coach and one of those wins was a 41-0 trouncing ??? Tampa Bay = Irrelevant

  32. lnfinite says: Jul 21, 2013 6:24 PM

    Games are won in the trenches and Green Bay has a weak offensive line. As long as Rodgers stays healthy Packers will be good. If he goes down the green and gold won’t even be able to beat Detroit which means a 4th place finish.

  33. schmitty327 says: Jul 21, 2013 8:34 PM

    I like the move on the o-line. Its about time they move Bulaga to the left side. And if we get Lacy going and develop a good running game on top of a great passing game, we are gonna be unstopable. I see the NFC championship at the Mecca of the NFL, Lambeau Feild

  34. schmitty327 says: Jul 21, 2013 8:36 PM

    I like the move on the o-line. Its about time they move Bulaga to the left side. And if we get Lacy going and develop a good running game on top of a great passing game, we are gonna be unstopable. I see the NFC championship at the Mecca of the NFL, Lambeau Field

  35. vikefan says: Jul 21, 2013 9:27 PM

    Pack fans can be all cozy & senile bout this rating. Realists know you are all 1 bad injury away from 3-13 (if ur lucky) if #4 gets hurt. Your D has not proven anything vs anyone good in 5 years.

  36. obsessedvikingfan says: Jul 21, 2013 10:11 PM

    Who the hell is #4 on the Packers? Come on now. You are making us Real Viking fans look bad.

    Don’t you mean #12? And aren’t most teams 1 injury away form 3-13 if their best player goes down?

  37. saints12013 says: Jul 21, 2013 10:23 PM

    I agree 100%, if Brees goes down we’re screwed, if Brady goes down N.E. is done. If Rodgers goes down same for the Packers. Peyton, Eli, Matty Ice, Flacco all go down=bad record. Man there are some really, really dumb people that post comments on here. Instead of just registering, they should get drug screened before they can post comments on here.

  38. tokyosandblaster says: Jul 22, 2013 12:35 AM

    Good lord.

    The “if so and so gets hurt, you’ll be bad” argument works with every single team.

    Vikings, 1-15 if Adrian Peterson goes down.
    Bears, 1-15 if Cutler goes down.
    Lions, — well, they can’t get much worse, but you get the idea.

    I’m ok with a group of people from all over the US pooling together and thinking the Packers are the 8th best team on paper, because it’s the field that matters, and it’s July.

  39. japadacktle49 says: Jul 22, 2013 12:38 AM

    Hey @MMURRAY4 It’s Kaepernick! The guy who (scorched) the Pack in that playoff game last year.. You should be worried more about the other 3 teams in the North before you start making ludicrous predictions about the NFC West.

    And @ medtxpack says:
    Jul 21, 2013 9:29 AM
    I can’t wait til we replay SanFran, beat them, and shut everyone up about that.
    We’ll take this ranking, we play better with a chip on our shoulder. We have the best QB in the league.

    Really?? because what 3rd times a charm Alex Smith beat you guys week 1 last year than Kaepernick went legend on you guys in the playoffs, we’ll see ya week 1 at the stick.

  40. axespray says: Jul 22, 2013 1:30 AM

    I can respect the 49ers/Texans & Broncos (easy conference) all being ranked ahead of us, maybe even the Seahawks if Wilson continues improving… but the Falcons?

    Atlanta’s defense is worse than ours – we actually have pass rushers and decent depth in the secondary – heck, our running game will probably be better than the falcons, who are relying on “a” beat up old guy, while we’ve got at least 3 decent young halfbacks (Dujuan/Lacy/Franklin) in our backfield.

    All I know is if our garbage 2011 defense can hold Matty Ice to 14 points, then …that’s that.

  41. donth8thehorns says: Jul 22, 2013 2:59 AM

    Lol @ the Green Bay homers that always have to take a stab @ the Vikings while making a case for how “great” the packers are!
    1- Aaron Rodgers, hands down, the best QB in the league! The guy is absolutely unbelievable! 2- They have solid receivers , yet Rodgers is soo good, he makes them great! 3- they may have a quality RB on their squad, but until they prove they can block, that remains to be seen! 4- their D needs to improve to be “post season” worthy of any real shot @ the big dance!
    5- they are “not” a shoe – in to take the NFC north! If Ponder continues to develop into a “above average QB, can make the throws to keep defenses honor the passing game, AP will run for 2500 yards and compete for the division! The Vikings are sneaky good, and will challenge Green Bay for the North! You have to place the Pack in the top 5, with Rodgers, they will always be good! Lets not crown them anything yet, they have far to many wholes to be scary

  42. farvite says: Jul 22, 2013 2:37 PM

    Weaknesses –
    Mike McCarthy
    O-line
    Front-7

  43. farvite says: Jul 22, 2013 2:39 PM

    10-6. No title. Another year of Rodgers prime wasted.

    … Shaping up an awful lot like #4s prime.

  44. japadacktle49 says: Jul 22, 2013 2:52 PM

    The NFC West is the toughest division in the NFC axespray give me a break.

  45. captaincanoe says: Jul 25, 2013 8:35 AM

    You might be surprised by the Packers defense this season. They have built a young, solid core of players over the last 2 drafts (Perry, Worthy, Daniels, D. Jones) although unproven to this point.

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