No NFL team stole headlines quite like the Packers this offseason, mostly because everyone in and around the team went months without knowing for certain whether reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers would ever again suit up in green and yellow. Rodgers, of course, has since reported to camp, complete with a new deal that’ll reportedly enable him to leave Green Bay sooner rather than later. For now, the core of a team that’s gone to two straight NFC Championships is back for at least one more run at a title.
So what are we to make of the 2021 Packers, then? Here are three bold predictions for the season:
The Packers’ streak of 13-win seasons comes to an end
Maybe this shouldn’t qualify as especially bold considering how hard it is to win 13 games in the first place, but note that Green Bay will also get an extra game to match its win total from Matt LaFleur’s first two years running the show. The early schedule is favorable: Matchups with the Bears, Bengals, Lions and Washington in the first eight weeks should lean their way, and something like a 6-3 or 7-2 start is feasible. But the back half is tough: From Weeks 9-17, they’ve got the Chiefs, Seahawks, Ravens, Browns and Vikings twice. Another double-digit season is in the cards, but it isn’t going to be easy for the Pack to keep pace with their own recent records.
Jordan Love debuts, and Randall Cobb shines
We’re combining these two since neither guy is one of the top five or six most influential players on a title-contending team. After all the Rodgers drama this offseason, it just feels inevitable that Love will get his long-awaited chance at NFL snaps, whether it’s to relieve Rodgers for a few series or fill in as an injury replacement. Let’s say the Packers are dominant again; Green Bay has plenty of reason to get Love a snap here or there if A-Rod is due to depart in 2022. Cobb, meanwhile, was handpicked by Rodgers for a reunion for a reason. Even if Amari Rodgers eventually steals snaps, he’s bound to collect all kinds of targets from Rodgers out of the slot.
Green Bay fails to advance to a third straight NFC title game
This isn’t to say the Packers won’t be good, or even great, in 2021. Rodgers, for one, should be just as motivated as he was in 2020, when he essentially used spite for Green Bay’s front office as MVP fuel. But the Packers have some new faces up front, not to mention star left tackle David Bakhtiari coming off a serious injury; and remaining questions on defense, particularly cornerback. The Vikings should be competitive in the NFC North, the Rams and 49ers and Buccaneers could all be improved, and if the Packers can’t roll to another 13+ wins, they may be forced to open the postseason in the Wild Card round. Rodgers is more than capable of making up for it, but an exit and subsequent change of scenery feels more likely at this point.