If there’s one thing I know for certain, it’s that the Green Bay Packers’ season rests heavily on the shoulder of Aaron Rodgers.
Heading into an article predicting the Packers’ 2018 regular season outcomes, my picks are being based on a clean bill of health for the Packer Pro Bowler and a significant improvement from the Packers’ defense over the stretch of the season. Despite a difficult schedule on paper, the path is there for Green Bay to make another run to the postseason.
Joining me on my picks before training camp even gets under way is my father Scott in honor of Father’s Day weekend. Here is his synopsis before I get into my week-by-week breakdowns.
The Packers will get off to a great start in the first quarter of the season going 4-0, including a dramatic home win against the Vikings in Week Two’s divisional showdown.
They respond well to home cooking with a win versus the Dolphins and then beat their nemesis with a huge win in Seattle. The Vikings prove to be a tougher opponent in the dome in Week 11 and even the season series at a win apiece.
In typical Packers fashion, Green Bay “runs the table” going undefeated in their last five games, highlighted by a power win at home against Matt Ryan’s Atlanta Falcons.
They end the season with a record of 11-5, good for a wild card spot and an eventual rubber-match game against the Vikings with a trip to the conference championship game at stake.
Week 1: vs. Chicago - Win (1-0)
In a few years, the Bears should be back in contention after adding a few future impact players via the past several drafts. But as it stands right now, they are still on the bottom looking up. With a healthy Aaron Rodgers back in the fold, Green Bay rolls in week one to re-assert its home-field advantage after a dismal 2017.
Week 2: vs. Minnesota - Loss (1-1)
I really want to pick Green Bay here at home, but I can’t pencil it in just yet. The Packers’ offense has been slow out of the gate in recent seasons and the Vikings are a tough opponent if the offense is slow to get going once again. I’m not sure if Kirk Cousins will provide any more than Case Keenum did last season for Minnesota’s offense, but it’s early enough in the year as Green Bay gets used to its new defensive scheme.
Week 3: atWeek 3: at Washington - Win (2-1)
Alex Smith is 1-3 against Green Bay in his career and I think he drops to 1-4. On the road against Washington will be a tougher task than meets the eye, but the Packers open their road schedule with a victory.
Week 4: vs. Buffalo - Win (3-1)
Whether it’s Josh Allen or AJ McCarron under center in week four, the Bills’ offense will not scare me and it’s a real chance for Green Bay’s defense to establish itself. Although Buffalo has a top ten defense of its own, the Bills haven’t won in Green Bay since 1991 and I expect that gap to grow larger.
Week 5: at Detroit - Loss (3-2)
In the past six years, the annual road contest against Detroit has been a coin-flip (3-3). Last year’s final week slaughter will be nothing like this meeting as long as Green Bay’s roster stays healthy. A win here could be a launching pad for the Packers with a difficult three weeks ahead of them, but Detroit will have the more complete team at this point in the season.
Week 6: vs. San Francisco - Win (4-2)
There isn’t enough history for me to believe Jimmy Garappolo will fully duplicate his late-season success from 2017. But I still believe he makes the 49ers a much stronger team, along with a few free agent additions on defense. However, the Packers come out strong after a loss to the Lions and enter the bye with some momentum.
Week 8: at LA Rams - Loss (4-3)
Jared Goff came through like the Rams hoped for in his sophomore campaign and LA added some excellent defensive pieces in Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields, and Ndamukong Suh. This is a dangerous team and I worry about the Packers’ rust coming off the bye week. Though I could see Green Bay surprising a little bit with all the preseason attention being given to the brutal two weeks following the bye, the Rams still prove to be a tough obstacle.
Week 9: at New England - Loss (4-4)
There is no comfort in heading straight to New England after a road trip in Los Angeles. But I think the Packers keep this one close after watching the Patriots’ abysmal Super Bowl performance against the pass. New England added Jason McCourty in the offseason to help in that regard, and the Patriots’ consistency at home with Tom Brady is too much to overcome at this point in the pick ‘em process.
Week 10: vs. Miami - Win (5-4)
Ryan Tannehill or no Ryan Tannehill, the Packers can hang with the Dolphins, especially at home. Gone from Miami’s 28th-ranked offense is Jarvis Landry, a slot option that may have given the Packers fits in recent seasons. Green Bay gets back in the win column with a win at home.
Week 11: at Seattle - Win (6-4)
It seems like Green Bay and Seattle play every year, doesn’t it? Well, they pretty much have. The Packers have matched up with Seattle in the regular season five times in the last six years. A road game has posed much more of an issue for Green Bay, but the rosters look much different than they did during the teams’ last meeting in Seattle in 2014. Richard Sherman is gone, Earl Thomas is in the midst of a contract dispute, and the Seahawks’ offensive line has been awful. Close game, but a healthy Green Bay squad gets it done on the road.
Week 12: at Minnesota - Win (7-4)
After a second week hurdle against the Vikings, Green Bay gets retribution on Minnesota’s home turf. The Packers get on a winning streak as Mike Pettine’s defense filled with young corners contains Adam Thielen and Stefan Diggs.
Week 13: vs. Arizona - Win (8-4)
It’s hard to count on Sam Bradford being Arizona’s quarterback in Week 13 and it’s possible Josh Rosen could overtake Mike Glennon by this point in the season. David Johnson is a dual-threat back that can change the game and Larry Fitzgerald has posted big numbers against the Packers in the past, but the Lambeau faithful gives Green Bay an edge against an Arizona team trying to find its identity late in the season.
Week 14: vs. Atlanta - Loss (8-5)
The Falcons have posed a gigantic test for the Packers in recent seasons. Despite the cold weather, Atlanta’s offensive playmakers, with new addition Calvin Ridley opposite Julio Jones, carry the Falcons while Atlanta’s young pass rushers create enough havoc to disrupt Rodgers.
Week 15: at Chicago - Win (9-5)
On a cold, windy Soldier Field, the running game will give one team an edge. That team is Green Bay, where Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams combine for a superb performance on the ground and the Packer defense controls Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard.
Week 16: at New York Jets - Win (10-5)
By this point in the season, Sam Darnold will surely be under center in New York. But the Jets’ rebuilding is still a work in progress despite improvement from last season. Green Bay enters a tough environment and wins a close game heading into the final week.
Week 17: vs. Detroit - Win (11-5)
After a 24-year losing streak in Green Bay, the Lions have now won two of the last three meetings at Lambeau Field. Both teams likely will have something to play for in this one, but Green Bay and Detroit have met in the final week twice since 2014 and the Packers are 2-0. Home-field advantage wins out.