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NFC North Preview: The Packers are in unfamiliar territory

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With some help from our sister SB Nation sites that cover the other NFC North teams, we’re going to preview the Bears division rivals. Next up is the Green Bay Packers with an assists from Acme Packing Company.

NFL: Green Bay Packers-Training Camp Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have been one of the most consistent franchises in the NFL the last quarter century, but they enter the 2019 season in unfamiliar territory coming off of two consecutive losing seasons. The last time their franchise was trying to bounce back after consecutive sub .500 years was 1992. That was also the year they hired young (44-year old) offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, who sat under the learning tree of the great Bill Walsh. Holmgren went on to be one of the best coaches of his era, winning the Super Bowl in 1996.

Flash forward to 2019 and the Packers have hired 39-year old Matt LaFleur as their new head coach after he worked with Sean McVay for a few years. LaFleur replaces Mike McCarthy, who spent thirteen years in Green Bay, but the franchise was in need of a new voice at the top.

Seeing how the relationship between LaFleur and quarterback Aaron Rodgers plays out will be something to keep an eye on this season. There have already been a couple incidents of friction between the two, but both have downplayed it. Before camp started, Acme Packing Company, the SB Nation site that cover the Packers, thought their relationship was the biggest story-line of camp.

Will Matt LaFleur and a different version of the West Coast offense bring the Packers’ offense (and Aaron Rodgers) back to truly elite status? Or will the young coach have difficulty connecting with the veteran quarterback and see the unit mired in mediocrity?

Rogers and McCarthy had a toxic relationship towards the end, and reports even surfaced that Rodgers and team president Mark Murphy had some drama too.

If Rodgers isn’t all-in with the new coach and new offense, this could be a train wreck type of season in Green Bay.

2018 Record: 6-9-1, 3rd place in the NFC North

2018 Overall DVOA: 19th

2018 Offense: 7th DVOA, 12th total yards, 14th points scored

2018 Defense: 29th DVOA, 18th total yards, 22nd points against

2018 Special Teams: 29th DVOA

For more on Football Outsider’s DVOA you can click here.

2018 record against the Bears: 1-1

The week one game between these two teams was a tale of two halves. The Bears dominated the first half, but in the second it was all Arron Rodgers who threw three TDs in the 4th quarter to lead the Pack back to a 24-23 win. Mitchell Trubisky was 11 of 14 in the first half, but in the second the moment seemed to be too big for him and his happy feet got the best of him.

But in their second meeting, Trubisky was a much different quarterback. He calmly managed his offense while throwing for 235 yards on 20 for 28 passing and 2 TDs in Chicago's 24 to 17 win that not only clinched the division, but also eliminated the Packers from playoff contention.

In the two games against the Packers, Chicago defenders sacked Green Bay QBs 9 times.

Let’s check in on more of what Acme Packing Company has to say about the 2019 Packers.

Notable free agent additions: EDGE Za’Darius Smith, EDGE Preston Smith, S Adrian Amos, G/T Billy Turner, TE Marcedes Lewis (re-signed)

Over / under: 9 wins -- Over

The investment on defense should bring the Packers back to respectability on that side of the football, while new head coach Matt LaFleur is tasked with getting Aaron Rodgers back on track. Expect a heavy dose of the running game and play action early in the season as the two men look to gel, but if they’re clicking by midseason, this should be a playoff-contending team that will have an opportunity to make a run at the Bears for the top of the NFC North.

Rookie I’m most excited about: Safety Darnell Savage, Jr.

Savage looks like a day-one starter, and he will need to be as the Packers moved up to make him the first defensive back off the board in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He has blazing speed and great ball skills, but is also comfortable around the line of scrimmage. That should make for a good pairing with free agent Adrian Amos, as DC Mike Pettine loves to use his safeties interchangeably as well as have them cover out of the slot. If he takes to the NFL game quickly, the Packers’ secondary should see a massive turnaround in 2019.

Green Bay has a lot new pieces to fit into Pettine’s D if they want to improve this year. They spent a lot of free agent money on that side of the ball, plus two first rounders in 2019 and their top three draft picks in 2018 were all spent on defense. One of those picks, Oren Burks (88th overall in 2018) who was penciled in as a starter at inside linebacker, is already out with a torn pectoral muscle.

I say it every year, but I’ll never count out an Aaron Rodgers quarterbacked team. He’s one of the best QBs to ever play and he seems to have a knack for coming up big in big moments against the Bears. However, Rodgers had had some injury issues the last two seasons, and at 35-years old he may be slowing down. If Rodgers stays healthy most of the year, the Packers will be tough to beat.

Poll

Who will finish with a better record?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Green Bay Packers
    (319 votes)
  • 63%
    Minnesota Vikings
    (661 votes)
  • 5%
    Detroit Lions
    (53 votes)
1033 votes total Vote Now

You can check out my Detroit Lions preview and Minnesota Vikings preview down below.