For the Green Bay Packers, a two-year playoff drought has seemed like an eternity after making the postseason eight consecutive seasons from 2009-2016. And since that 2016 season, the roster and coaching staff itself has received a overhaul in the Packers’ quest to return to the playoffs.
Yes, change is in the air in Green Bay and it is up to both new faces and those of returners to help create the necessary adjustments. The Vegas odds recently set the Packers’ victory number for the 2019 season at nine wins, a number matched by both divisional rivals Chicago and Minnesota. Still, a number of internal individual and team statistics influence a season’s success within that overall predicted wins total.
While many of those figures could be addressed, here are six over-under numbers that may strongly impact the direction the Packers’ season could go.
14 starts for Aaron Rodgers
One could argue this number should be 16 and that could be justified. But for the Packers to be successful in 2019, they will need their best player to be on the field the majority of the time, something that has not been a given the past two years. From collarbones to knees, Rodgers’ health remains the primary factor in how far the team will go this upcoming season.
1,000 rushing yards for Aaron Jones
It sounds simple. But if Jones is to post his first thousand-yard season in 2019, it means two things: it was the healthiest season of his career and Green Bay gave him consistent carries. A new coaching staff dedicated to establishing an efficient running game will go a long way in getting one of the Packers’ best playmakers on the field more regularly. Jones has averaged 5.5 yards per carry each of the past two seasons and is primed for a breakout season, but Green Bay ranked last in the league in carries last year. While the league is moving to a more pass-happy style overall, Jones reaching 1,000 yards would point to the Packers having more balance on offense and, as a result, a better chance of executing playaction attacks.
3 interceptions for Josh Jackson
If Jackson picks off three or more passes in 2019, it will mean he has solidified himself as at least a nickel corner for the Green Bay secondary. After intercepting eight passes his final collegiate season at Iowa, the Packers’ 2018 second-round pick is still searching for his first NFL interception. He will face stiff competition for playing time from Jaire Alexander, a hopefully-healthy Kevin King (who could have also made this list), Tony Brown, and Tramon Williams among others. While some may argue Jackson’s instincts would fit better at safety than cornerback, where his questionable long speed does not play as much of a factor, Jackson should see plenty of time in the slot and boundary early in the season. The Packers need him to be a turnover creator in his second season to help the team improve from a 29th ranking in interceptions in 2018.
56 penalty yards per contest on the road
Green Bay’s total penalty yards per game overall rose from 49.3 to 58.6 from 2017 to 2018. The Packers still ranked within the top 20 teams in the NFL in that respect, but they came in at 27th in penalty yards per road contest with 66.8 in 2018, a stark rise from the exceptional 47.2 posting the year before. While penalties are not the single-most factor in wins and losses, they can be a tipping point in the ebb and flow of a game, and the Packers were 1-7 away from Lambeau Field in 2018. Winning on the road is hard all the time, but even harder when a team beats itself. Finding some compromise between the extreme high and low of road penalties over the past two seasons will be important for the 2019 season.
6 combined touchdowns from Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling
This duo combined for two receiving scores a year ago. While touchdowns are not the best indicator of success for a receiver, six touchdowns from St. Brown and MVS would signal that at least one of the young receivers was able to make a larger impact on the field in the absence of Randall Cobb and return of Geronimo Allison. Green Bay has been able to count on Davante Adams for double-digit touchdowns the past three seasons, but not a single other receiver was able to reach even three in 2018. Unfortunately, that number was an indicator of how inadequate Green Bay’s passing offense was and must be changed in 2019. St. Brown and MVS are two of the most logical internal candidates to do so.
95 quarterback hits from the defense
Somewhat surprisingly, the Packers ranked 10th in the league in sacks in 2018 with 44. However, Green Bay’s inability to pressure the quarterback showed in other stats, including sacks-per-drop back and quarterback hits where the team ranked 30th with 74. It is not a coincidence that the Packers spent much of their free agency dollars on Preston and Za’Darius Smith to improve in that regard. Reaching 95 hits would have ranked Green Bay 11th in the league in 2018, a number that would be a dramatic turnaround for the team in a one-year span. The chess pieces and scheme continuity are there for Green Bay to make that jump. Doing so would help reduce opponent quarterback ratings, notably an astounding 100.9 average per game a year ago.