Football is in the air, folks. Joining the sounds of pads clashing together is the formulation of incredibly high, and sometimes unrealistic, expectations. But, this is what the NFL thrives at. The NFL is a hive of new-found hope from season to season.
While as a writer it’s important to see through the fallacies and bias of most fandoms, sometimes it is just fun to indulge them. But if you’re not careful, you too might fall victim to the beast of excitement. The NFL season, however, is a fickle one. The slightest misstep can effectively change the course of the entire season for both teams and their fans. Rarely are teams able to recover from these missteps, with last year’s Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles being one of those rare exceptions.
But, even then, someone has to step up and fill the void. As we sit here in the early stages of training camp, it’s almost impossible to predict any shortcomings and the accompanying effect that will occur. This is exactly why one has to indulge in the impulses of extreme hubris in their team’s abilities.
This is exactly what this article is today: an act of hubris. This Green Bay Packers football team is once again at the center of Super Bowl discussions before the team has even one played game in the 2018 season. Packers fans have come to expect that. Anything less is an utter disappointment.
Following an offseason that saw a bevy of changes on both sides of the football, the offense is looking to rebound from what has been determined as lackluster performances over the last few seasons. Blame has been assigned everywhere possibly imaginable. The running game is ineffective. Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending collarbone injury. The team needs more speed at the receiver position. Mike McCarthy isn’t as creative in play calling as he needs to be.
Yet, the Packers remain one of the top football teams in the NFL. Here is where my act of indulgence begins. They will be Super Bowl contenders in 2018. While the defense has undergone a complete transformation true and through, this team’s will strength will continue to be its offense.
This group of offensive players truly has an opportunity to do something special. They could be the best offense this team has seen in the last 20 years. And this may be biased, but I don’t believe my claim is unfounded.
Let’s begin our journey by examining the 2011 offense that carried the team to a 15-1 record. The team was led by Aaron Rodgers who put together a 2011 season that really was otherworldly and netted him his first of two MVP awards. The offense finished first in the NFL in points scored and third in yards. This group would be one of the more iconic of recent memory. Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin would land a head coaching job with the Miami Dolphins following the season.
The supporting cast that helped Rodgers claim that MVP award was deeply talented with the likes of Packer Hall of Famer Donald Driver, all-pro Jordy Nelson, pro bowler Greg Jennings, swiss army knife Randall Cobb, and last, but not least, the dynamic tight-end Jermichael Finley. Running backs Ryan Grant and James Starks split the season’s workload with 134 and 133 carries respectively. Grant averaged 4.2 yards per carry and Starks averaged 4.3. Not stellar, but sufficient.
This season’s supporting cast has the potential to be even better. Also, Joe Philbin has returned. In the years since his departure, head coach McCarthy has taken full control over the play calling duties. While McCarthy has been able to maintain the offensive production, the unit has not been explosive as it was in the 2011 season. That could change this year.
Aforementioned, Joe Philbin has returned. McCarthy no longer is solely responsible for being creative in play design and calling. McCarthy has even gone on to state that the coaches will be tearing up the playbook and starting from scratch. That is music to the ears of Packers fans everywhere, who’ve cried about stale and predictable play calling time and time again.
Fifth-year wide receiver Davante Adams, fresh off of a new contract, will look to anchor this group in 2018. New general manager Brian Gutekunst has also brought in a new toy to create mismatches for McCarthy and Rodgers: tight end Jimmy Graham. Standing at 6-foot-7, weighing 265 pounds, and running a 4.56 40-yard dash at his college combine, Graham is truly a physical specimen and freak of nature. Swiss army knife Randall Cobb is still an important piece of the offense. The team has also added another potential dynamic to their offense: blocking on the edge with a tight end. Marcedes Lewis is yet another physical specimen to give Rodgers an even bigger target to use.
Then the kicker: the three-headed monster at running back. Second-year pros Jamal Williams and Aaron Jones are both going to be fighting for playing time. Each will be looking to capitalize on successful rookie campaigns. Wide receiver converted running back Ty Montgomery will be used all over the field both as a back and as a receiver. He might even be more of a swiss army knife than Cobb in this offense.
This running group is far more talented than the one in the 2011 offense. Graham could potentially have a Jermichael Finley type impact. Lewis is a commodity that the Packers have never had. Adams is looking to cement himself as a top 10 receiver in the NFL. Cobb will be looking to prove all of his doubters wrong and show that he still has what it takes to be an NFL receiver.
Not only is this group incredibly talented, they have all got something to prove. Rodgers included. Rodgers is looking to successfully bounce back from his second collarbone injury and show why he is considered one of the best quarterbacks of all time. I haven’t even mentioned the raw talent that this team has at receiver behind the two starters. If any of this team’s three rookies are better than expected, there will literally be no way to defend this group. Each one of the members in this offense has the ability to win one on one matchups, each in their own way. There are mismatches all over the field.
If the coaching staff is able to fit all of these mismatches into the puzzle, then there is no reason to believe that this offense can’t put up historic numbers. Rodgers could have another MVP caliber season. The tools are there. Fans should prepare themselves for the show.