In 2016 the Green Bay Packers were just one game away from the Super Bowl before going down to the Atlanta Falcons 44-21 in the NFC Championship game. As the start of the football year approaches, head coach Mike McCarthy will be hoping that they have done enough in the preseason to go one better this time and make it to the holy grail of football.
The Packers last won the Super Bowl back in the 2010 season, when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in an electrifying game at Cowboys Stadium. Last year, however, Green Bay went down in the NFC Championship game, and the sting of that defeat will undoubtedly still haunt the team today. There’s no question that they will be using the memory of that loss to motivate themselves this season.
After the 2016 effort, there is a lot of pressure on the team to do well, and they will start the season as equal favorites to win the NFC Championship alongside the Seattle Seahawks, their week 1 opponent. We’ve detailed how each team prepares differently during the preseason. The Packers will be favored in week 1, but they haven’t been known for their fast regular-season starts. Currently, the latest NFL odds have them at +1000 to lift the Super Bowl trophy, with the New England Patriots the favorite at +400, to make it consecutive Super Bowls for Bill Belichick’s team.
Green Bay has been looking good in preseason, winning their first two games. In their first game, they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 24-9, in an Aaron Rodgers-less performance. The win was soured by a number of injuries and the Packers’ medical staff certainly has a lot of work to do, but that’s nothing new in Green Bay.
The Packers’ most recent game against the Washington Redskins was a much tighter encounter with the Packers snatching victory 21-17 after a late Taysom Hill TD run. Tight end Martellus Bennett caught his first touchdown from Aaron Rodgers. His size and athleticism are going to cause some real headaches for defensive coordinators this year in the red zone. Rodgers and backup Brett Hundley were clinical for the Packers and completed 15-of-18 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Both quarterbacks also created long sustained scoring drives. Some of us wondered about Hundley after the first preseason game, but he appears to have full control of the offense when called upon.
The Packers have been praised for their rare dip into the NFL free-agency pond, and you can already see those dividends paying off on the field. Bennett is a player who is going to have a big impact this season, and will surely put a lot of stress on opposing safeties and linebackers. Jahri Evans appears to be a competent replacement for T.J. Lang at right guard. The Packers have made it a point to gun for home field advantage in the playoffs. Their week 1 matchup with Seattle will be an important step in achieving that goal.