GREEN BAY PACKERS
2015 Record: 10-6-0
Head Coach: Mike McCarthy
New Faces for 2016 - TE Jared Cook, LB Lerentee McCray
OFFENSE: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to be his usual brilliant self, passing for 3,821 yards last season along with 31 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Brett Hundley will likely be the backup.
Rodgers was able to do that without his primary wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. The Packers are looking forward to having Nelson back in the fold along with Randall Cobb, who had 79 receptions for 829 yards and six touchdowns.
Jared Abbrederis, Ty Montgomery (15, 136, two TD), Jeff Janis and Devante Adams (50, 483, one TD) will be the other targets in the passing game. Richard Rodgers (58, 510, eight TD) and Jared Cook (39, 481 yards with the Rams) are the tight ends.
The running game features Eddie Lacy, who ran for 758 yards (4.1 ypc average) with three touchdowns while playing overweight last season. James Starks (601, 4.1 ypc and two TD) is on hand once again to spell Lacy. John Crockett is another possible backfield option.
DEFENSE: Letroy Guion (end), tackle Mike Daniels (four QB sacks) and possibly rookie Kenny Clark (UCLA) at the other tackle will form the front in the Packers 3-4 defensive scheme. Datone Jones (three sacks) and Mike Pennel are in the fold as well.
The linebackers are the strength of the defense, anchored by Clay Matthews (6 1/2 sacks) and Julius Peppers (10 1/2 sacks) on the outside. The inside men are Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas, though rookie Blake Martinez (Stanford) could push for a starting spot inside. Veteran Nick Perry (3 1/2 sacks), along with Sam Barrington, Jayrone Elliott (three sacks) and rookie Kyle Fackrell (Utah State) provide depth.
The safeties are Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (two INT and three sacks). The corners include Damarious Randall and Sam Shields, who each had three interceptions. The reserves are Quinten Rollins, Demetri Goodson, Micah Hyde (three picks) and Chris Banjo.
OUTLOOK: Having all of their key players on offense healthy for the full season is huge for the Packers heading into the 2016 season after they slipped to second in the NFC North division last year.
Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson are one of the best passing tandems in the NFL and if Nelson isn't near his old self, the Packers air attack could suffer once again, lacking the big play maker they sorely missed in 2015.
The offense ranked 23rd in the NFL last year (335 yards per game) and averaged 23 points a game. Lack of big passing plays hurt the Green Bay attack. In addition, better pass protection for the quarterback would be a plus as Rodgers was sacked 47 times last season.
Defensively, Green Bay gave up 20 points per game and ranked 15th overall, yielding 347 yards per game. They did amass 43 sacks while intercepting 16 passes, but struggled against the run, giving up 119 yards per game (21st in NFL).
Head Coach Mike McCarthy always has a chance with Rodgers in his corner, but the rest of the offense has to click as well. With the wide receiving corps in tact and the running game getting back to form with Lacy (in shape) and Starks providing solid back up, the offense should put up more points on the score board.
The NFC North appears to be a two-team race once again between the Packers and Minnesota Vikings, who beat the Packers (in Lambeau Field) in the final game to win the division. The playoffs are a definitely possibility once again, but a lot depends on the defense playing well and Rodgers and company staying healthy.
Fearless forecast - 11-5 this year (playoff team)
2016 TEAM SCHEDULE
Week 1 - at Jacksonville
Week 2 - at Minnesota
Week 3 - vs. Detroit
Week 4 - BYE
Week 5 - vs. NY Giants
Week 6 - vs. Dallas
Week 7 - vs. Chicago
Week 8 - at Atlanta
Week 9 - vs. Indianapolis
Week 10 - at Tennessee
Week 11 - at Washington
Week 12 - at Philadelphia
Week 13 - vs. Houston
Week 14 - vs. Seattle
Week 15 - at Chicago
Week 16 - vs. Minnesota
Week 17 - at Detroit