2 X-Factors for the Green Bay Packers in the 2021 NFL season

NFL Analysis Network

The Green Bay Packers are looking ahead to the upcoming 2021 NFL season with one massive question still left to be answered. Will superstar quarterback and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers return to the team? If he doesn’t, the franchise will turn to second-year signal caller Jordan Love to be their new starter.

With Rodgers on the field, the Packers are projected to once again be an elite Super Bowl contender. On the other hand, if the Packers are forced to start Love, who doesn’t have any NFL experience in a game, many would predict that they won’t end up making the postseason.

Either way, the Packers are going to need players to step up. They are going to need someone other than their quarterback to help lead the way. Thankfully, Green Bay has plenty of talented players all over the field who can do just that.

Looking at the roster, fans should be very confident in the Packers’ ability to compete in the NFC. If Rodgers does return, they could very well be primed for another NFC Championship Game run and possibly be improved enough from last year to make it all the way to the Super Bowl.

All of that being said, let’s dive in and take a look at two major X-Factors to keep an eye on for the Packers this season.

2. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Wide Receiver

First up, we have to place MVS on this list. The Packers have arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver on their roster in Davante Adams, but Rodgers or Love will need a true No. 2 option to step up. Valdes-Scantling has shown flashes of being that player, but there have been some consistency issues thus far in his career.

Last season with the Packers, Valdes-Scantling racked up 33 receptions for 690 yards and six touchdowns. He was more of a big-play threat than a No. 2 wideout, but a hard offseason of work could put him in the position for a much bigger year.

Valdes-Scantling’s development will be a huge part of determining the Packers’ success this season. If he can take the next step and become a dangerous second option behind Adams, Green Bay’s offense could be even more lethal. This is something to keep a close eye on throughout the 2021 season.

1. Preston Smith, Linebacker

Secondly, this choice came down to being between two players. Preston Smith ended up getting the nod slightly over cornerback Kevin King. Smith is a huge part of the Packers’ pass-rushing plans and he needs to step up in a big way alongside Za’Darius Smith.

Just two short years ago, Preston and Za’Darius Smith formed one of the most feared pass-rushing duos in the NFL. Preston Smith racked up 12 sacks in that season, but last year he only recorded four sacks. Green Bay needs him to get much closer to the double-digit sack area.

Smith will be a huge part of deciding whether or not the Packers’ defense takes a step forward from last season. If he can be an elite pass-rusher like he was during the 2019 season, Green Bay will be a very dangerous playmaking defense once again. He was kept on the roster despite being a potential cut candidate and will have to prove that the Packers made the right decision this offseason.