LaFleur will make history and guide Packers to the playoffs

Aaron gives his prediction for the Packers 2019 season. 

For over a decade, you knew what to expect from the Green Bay Packers. 

At the beginning of every season, you knew Mike McCarthy's team would be in the hunt and most likely end up winning somewhere between 10 and 13 games, depending on how things fell down the stretch. (You could seemingly set your watch to one head-scratching loss per year that just made no sense whatsoever, but moving on...)

It became routine. A new Packers season meant another shot at making a Super Bowl run. Not many fan bases get to experience that kind of run, and no matter what the disgruntled vocal minority tells you, it was pretty great. 

But all good things must come to and end, and end they did for McCarthy and the Packers. The decline of that era of Packers football has been well covered and there's no need to get into it here. Suffice it to say, Bill Walsh was spot on when he said that the shelf life for most NFL coaches is roughly 10 years. It's just hard to reinvent not only your message but your own motivation once you've gotten a decade in to an NFL head coaching gig. 

So, exit Mike McCarthy

Enter, Matt LaFleur

Now, count me among those who was a bit dubious when the hire was first announced. 

LaFleur had certainly rubbed shoulders with some impressive offensive minds, but there wasn't much of a track record to go on.

Mark Murphy made a lot about how impressive his new head coach was in the one and only interview he had when applying for the job. Murphy spoke about being blown away by LaFleur's preparedness and vision in that interview and, needless to say, I was excited to see this dynamo in action as the leader of the Packers.

LaFleur's first appearance in the media auditorium certainly didn't do anything to suggest that he was the man who would be turning around a franchise that had fallen into a bit of a morass. In fact, if anything, the first impression was one of a young man in over his head. 

Thankfully, winning press conferences isn't as important as winning football games and LaFleur's team looks to be one that will be doing a lot of that. 

LaFleur's offseason and training camp were certainly different than most observers around the team have gotten used to. Everything from the length of his practices to his scheduling to his handling of preseason was a distinct departure from his predecessor. That said, count me among those who have been won over to his way of thinking on almost everything. (I'm still going to grumble a bit about the lack of even a semblance of a tackling drill early on in camp...) He's brought football in Green Bay into the modern era, and not a moment too soon. 

Mike Pettine is going to be the somewhat unsung hero of this team, if only because the narrative from the national media will follow the ebbs and flows of LaFleur, Rodgers and the offense. But make no mistake, Pettine will be the backbone of this team. 

In 2018, the Packers defensive coordinator was fighting with one hand tied behind his back, talent-wise. And that was before injuries struck. By November, Brian Gutekunst was pulling guys off waivers on Tuesday and they were suiting up and playing significant minutes on Sunday. No wonder things fell apart on that side of the ball down the stretch. 

This year, one of the finest defensive minds in the game has been given the reinforcements he desperately needed at outside linebacker and safety. Throw in a young stud like Kenny Clark and a tackling machine in Blake Martinez to go along with a young, athletic, sticky secondary and Pettine is finally cooking with gas in Green Bay. 

This team may be hard to watch early on. No matter. Expect LaFleur and Pettine to have them on the right track heading into the second half of the season and making a run to the post season. 

Yes. I expect Matt LaFleur to make history. 

No head coach of the Green Bay Packers has ever guided his first team to the post season. No, not even Vince Lombardi. 

LaFleur has been gifted one of the most talented quarterbacks to ever play the game, an All Pro left tackle, one of the best wide receivers in the league and a defense with more talent than we've seen assembled in Green Bay in years. The schedule is a crapshoot, as it always is in the NFL. The only thing worth looking at is the first part of the season. Anyone who says they know what any of these teams will look like in November or December can be safely ignored. 

The Packers have a bevy of games early in their schedule in the friendly confines of Lambeau Field, a perfect opportunity for a young coach and his veteran quarterback to find their way together while the defense gets after opposing offenses. 

It won't always be pretty, but I expect the Packers to start 5-2 with an even split home and away. After a tough assignment in Kansas City, there's not a game that should scare Packers fans. The toughest contest will undoubtedly be in Minnesota, and even that is winnable. (And my lord is it time to start beating the Lions again.) 

10-6 and a playoff berth. That's what's in store for the Packers in 2019. I'm not ready to say what happens after that, and frankly, I don't much care. After the last two seasons, and the specter of returning to the wasteland of the 70s and 80s in Green Bay, a postseason run should be greeted with cheers. 

Get ready for Matt LaFleur to make some history. 

15 points

Comments (47)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
ottscay's picture

September 05, 2019 at 12:33 am

Man, I hope so!

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dblbogey's picture

September 05, 2019 at 12:51 am

Pretty much how I see it. We now have an excellent OL with a bit of actual depth, we've got Davante and Aaron Jones, two very talented weapons, and we have Arod. The defense looks to be greatly improved talent-wise. With any luck on injuries, this team should win 10 games easily.

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Coldworld's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:43 am

I think the most significant point is that there will be growing pains. I don’t expect it to be pretty or consistent early on. Too much change in personnel and approach and young players will make mistakes.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 05, 2019 at 07:28 am

THIS

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Helmut von Packerbacker's picture

September 05, 2019 at 01:01 am

One head scratcher a year? Clock Management 101, the refs, to soon letting off on the gas pedal in a second half. Dumb things, weird things. I'd come to think of those as some form of devious punishment from the football gods.
I've respected your tell it like it is Aaron, and totally agree this will be a very good second half team. The defense will be a ' most improved' candidate by then.
I'm a little surprised by your first half optimism. Your 5-2 is more like my best case scenario. I expect this retooling will be terrific, just not that fast.
I'm looking for, hopefully, more like 2010 with some near misses, then a run.

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Harold Drake's picture

September 05, 2019 at 01:48 am

Once again, Aaron Nagler has demonstrated careful reasoning and astute judgement in his assessment of the Pack's prospects heading into the new season. For me, the greatest uncertainty lies in the capability of the offence to generate sustained drives and allow Aaron Rodgers to return to the kind of audacious passing form that earned him the reputation as the finest QB in the game (Tom Brady notwithstanding). So kudos to Mr Nagler for ushering in the new season. Go Pack Go!

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MrFitz66's picture

September 05, 2019 at 04:20 am

Great article, best preview I have read. I hope for a Superbowl every year, this year is no different. If Mike Hunt #55 was next to Martinez, I'd really be pumped. We need a thumper who is a kamilaze blitzer to follow Clark up the middle. Ka Boom! Its all about Rodgers and good health for all. The pieces are there to really hurt the Bears and their silly Trubisky believing fans and take our division back. Go Pack!!!!

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tm_inter's picture

September 05, 2019 at 04:39 am

I'm worried by Rob Demovsky's injury list: 20 Packers vs 3 Bears. Why so many injured players among the Packers' 53? If so many players are injured before the season opener, how can we be optimistic that the Packers will have good results at the end of the season?

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2019 at 10:01 am

The Packers removed 15 players from their injury list yesterday.
Thanks, Since '61

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Lare's picture

September 05, 2019 at 05:22 am

Not sure what the outcome will be, but I must say this appears to be most talented Packers team I've seen in awhile.

We'll see how the OL performs and hope for no major injuries, if those are positive the Packers can certainly make the playoffs.

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Coldworld's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:46 am

I sense that the team is now coming out of the turn. How fast it will accelerate remains to be seen, but I am actually looking forward to being surprised on O and to watching the D make some plays. It will make the games much more interesting.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:14 am

Lare,
In some ways I'm glad the slightly revamped and healthy OL gets to go against Chicago's DL to start the season. Great match up and will provide good reference point attesting to how good the Pack OL really is. If the OL does well they can compete against anyone when healthy.

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Lphill's picture

September 05, 2019 at 05:31 am

ESPN has a computer analyze all the games for the season it has the Packers at 13 and 3 and losing to the Rams in the championship game.

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Johnblood27's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:02 am

Thanks for that.

Now I don't have to watch any of the games this year.

You just saved me untold hours!

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Gort's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:02 am

Aaron, great article as always.
Many of us were disgruntled and vocal because we saw things like:
"In 2018, the Packers defensive coordinator was fighting with one hand tied behind his back, talent-wise."
and allow my sarcastic side to add "and with a pulled hamstring" to your comment.

Looking forward to many of the decisions that drove us insane to finally be gone.

GO PACK GO

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Johnblood27's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:06 am

I agree completely with the decisions driving me insane comment.

I appreciate the successes that MM had with the Packers, but the maddening simplistic mistakes from the HC had better be over.

MLF gets a little slack his first time around the block, but not very much. If you TAKE the job, DO the job. No excuses for basics to be screwed up.

I am looking forward to a McCarthy-free season as much as I am to a fresh look Packers team.

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nostradanus's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:38 am

Very nicely written Aaron, I enjoy your commentary. You are a veritable bubbling water fountain of Packers wisdom and knowledge.

My NostraDANus Prediction 10 & 6 Wild Card

Go Pack
That is all

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:16 am

Well done Nost!

I like the ' veritable bubbling water fountain' analogy!

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Spock's picture

September 05, 2019 at 10:44 am

' veritable bubbling water fountain' analogy! Lol, that cracked me up as well. Having moved to Tucson from Wisconsin 14 years ago I still have to change "Could you tell me where the bubbler is?" to "Could you tell me where the Water fountain is?" in my head before asking a stranger here where to get a drink of water (I won't get a cold drink of water, since there is basically no such thing here most of the year).

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nostradanus's picture

September 05, 2019 at 02:07 pm

Ha ha I knew a few of you would get that one

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ReaganRulz's picture

September 05, 2019 at 06:38 am

Most of us are drinking some of the Kool Aid because we are fans. Our roster looks good on paper, but there are so many new things this year that it is difficult to make any predictions.

LaFleur’s offense last year was average at best which worries me a smidge. Yes, we have a MUCH better QB than Tennessee and some better skill players, but watching the Titans O last year was not enjoyable. I just hope that our skill guys can bring his game plan to life.

Finally, I also worry about playing soft. LaFleur’s philosophy does not seem to be rugged or intense. Not that this wins games, but setting the tone can be a silent factor to success. Maybe Pettine will bring this to the defense, but we’ll see tonight. The Bears will be coming heavy and we’ll need to match that.

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stockholder's picture

September 05, 2019 at 07:05 am

You know this game is down and dirty. Expect cheap shots. Fights. And a poor call here and there. It's a black and blue game all the way. If anybody is expecting Good sportsmanship, their going to be disappointed. I'm expecting at least one personal foul from Dix. Several holding penalties. And the crowd to be focal. The consequences of this game could be felt for weeks. The bears just can't play clean football when they play the Packers. Cleaning one's clock, is what this game is about. Submission will end when the clock stops.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:21 am

Good assessment and I am sure you are right. This is going to be smash mouth football. I'm afraid the Bears will start off doing most of the initial smash mouth stuff and the Pack under Lefleur will need to quickly ratchet up their physicality. Just typical Bears and Packers game.

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Cartwright's picture

September 05, 2019 at 12:27 pm

Yeah, they got our QB last year and wouldn't doubt if they try for a rerun. The line must hold the fort and expect a health Bulaga will have a much better game and keep Mack at bay, although I bet they target him too.

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nostradanus's picture

September 05, 2019 at 07:26 am

A few notes about the 2019 Packers team:

New offense yes:

However the Packers basically have the same offensive personnel as last year with the exception of right guard and slot receiver.
They also have a healthy Aaron Rodgers

Same Defense yes:

But much more talented than last year‘s version and another year in Mike Pettine‘s defense of scheme. This should be a good group full of playmakers.

Special Teams:

Same trio of kickers & long snapper, Plus a healthy and dangerous Trevor Davis. Can Menenga Turn this group into a top unit?
We will see but they couldn’t be much worse than last year could they?

Coach:

This is a big variable though it seems the players have bought in To The new ”leader of the Pack.“

Talent:

Kudos to Gutey For seriously upgrading the talent and depth of this team which should pay the dividends down the line.

Go Pack!!.

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Johnblood27's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:16 am

same defense - yes?????

No freakin way dude.

No Daniels - Matthews - Perry - Dix - Brice - ILB other than Martinez
Yes Z Smith - P Smith - Amos - Savage - ILB next to Martinez - Keke

Healthy (for this game) - King

Improvement realistic - Clark - Alexander (year 2) - Lancaster

No great notes or expectations for stable players like Martinez - Lowrey or depth - that is just whistling through the graveyard.

This is realistic and optimistic for the GBP Defense.

Overall performance expectation - Pettine's scheme should be solid and with a healthy group executed well. This team has a chance to be very good on Defense.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:25 am

Nost,
Two points about your offense comment.

I do not believe MVS did much last year against Chicago. I think this year MVS will have bigger impact than many believe. Secondly, Aaron Jones will get way more touches, particularly out of backfield as a receiver. This aspect I am particularly excited about seeing. Jones should really be a game changer with quick passes and RAC.

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Spock's picture

September 05, 2019 at 10:50 am

Knock, I can guarantee Jones will get more touches than the first game against Chicago last year since he wasn't playing, lol. My wife asked me last night if this was going to be a "Real" football game (vs pre-season). I'm excited for this "Real" game more than I've been in a long time.

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Slim11's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:33 am

A couple of things to point out here...

First, while Murphy and Gutekunst were "blown away" after the first interview with MLF, this isn't the first time this has happened.

TT was also "blown away" with MM to a point where Marty Schottenheimer had his interview cancelled. IIRC, he was on his way to Green Bay when he got the call.

Ron Wolf was also "blown away" by his interview with Mike Sherman. That didn't turn out too well once Sherman became HC and GM. He was a decent HC but a lousy GM.

Second, Mike Holmgren and Sherman both went 9-7 in their first seasons. Each missed the playoffs. I think it's very likely MLF goes 9-7 or 10-6.

Playoffs? I think it can be substantively argued MLF has a better chance for the playoffs this season than any of his predecessors. He has some players on both sides of the ball that Holmgren and Sherman didn't have until latter seasons. MLF has also made an argument that a different game plan will make better use of the talent on the roster, especially on offense. MM just couldn't bring himself to adjust his game planning to the talent he did have. To him, doing so seemed to be admitting he made a mistake.

This is going to be an interesting game and season. I don't see a 5-2 start, but this team will be positioned to make a strong finish.

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EricinGB's picture

September 05, 2019 at 08:57 am

Same defense as 2018...no. Same offense as 2018...no.
Huge change in defensive players, including a seldom mentioned new Adams. Huge change in offensive scheme...with an attitude towards continuous improvement and growth. As to offensive players, MVS looks to be significant in stretching the defense like Moss did...alternate Trever Davis in a new role and the defense must honor the deep ball. Not to mention Aaron Jones will be available unlike last year's opener. Together, all should help RPO...short and intermediate routes as well as the run...and allow Rodgers to distribute the ball well before the defense arrives and stay healthy...this all in theory of course...but as a fan, the changes are exciting and seem to fit together; reinforced by older players talking about a cohesive new culture as well...this reinforces high growth potential. Next year? How about this year? If we make the playoffs and are reasonably healthy, I like our chances...like the last time an ascending Packers team squeaked in as a wild card, in 2010?

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blacke00's picture

September 05, 2019 at 09:26 am

1. Control the Bear's running game and The Pack may very well win this game.

2. All teams have weaknesses, the Pack needs to find and exploit (see HHCD)

3. The Bear's will be over confident. The Pack needs to out muscle the Bear's and show they can't be intimidated.

4. The Pack needs to tackle!

5. The O line needs to block! Do their job and the Packers will win. As I've said in the past the major problem on the Packer's offense was(is) the O line. They play reasonably well the Packers will win. If not..well you know...

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mrtundra's picture

September 05, 2019 at 09:35 am

After week 2, the Packers will be 2-0. Those 2 losses you speak of must come later.

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Brandip's picture

September 05, 2019 at 09:38 am

It will be interesting to see how LaFleur progresses. If you compare a picture of Mike McCarthy when he first started coaching the Packers to when he was fired, you can see what that does to a person. Keeping the same trend for LaFleur, my projections have him looking like Smeagol from Lord of the rings in a few seasons. I hope he finds his precious.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 05, 2019 at 03:50 pm

Bran,
As I think about the last 4 US President's whose job responsibilities and stress exponentially exceeds being an NFL Head Coach and none of them appeared to gain weight including those in office 2 full terms.

You can make your own interpretation on why MM's creativity, energy, and physical appearance deteriorated like it did.

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2019 at 10:44 am

deleted

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mewesley's picture

September 05, 2019 at 10:59 am

The reality is this team lost a bunch of close games on the road to the Pats, Rams, Seahawks, Vikings and Bears. I think 10-6 is a reasonable expectation especially with the upgrades at G and pass rushers.

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2019 at 11:09 am

As I posted on another thread I believe that the Packers can go 10-6 this season provided that Aaron Rodgers and the team remain relatively healthy.

As for Matt Lafleur we should remember that Mike Holmgren started out 0-2 as the Packers HC and MM went 0-4 in his first 4 games as the Packers HC. Both of those regimes turned out very well for the Packers.

LaFleur is starting out with a better roster than either of those coaches had when they took over as Packers HC. There will probably be some growing pains for Lafleur and this team this season. But they will get through it.

I wish Lafleur the best in his first game and his first season as the Packers HC. History begins tonight with a win in Chicago. Thanks, Since '61

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dobber's picture

September 05, 2019 at 01:29 pm

"No head coach of the Green Bay Packers has ever guided his first team to the post season. "

Every new HC brings you one HC closer to the first time it does happen.

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Since'61's picture

September 05, 2019 at 04:22 pm

Exactly Dobber! Thanks, Since ‘61

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Leatherhead's picture

September 05, 2019 at 05:25 pm

We've had some really good coaches. If not them, then why MLF?

We're gonna know a lot more in about six hours.

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bigGuy's picture

September 05, 2019 at 11:22 am

I really and truly hope I'm wrong. But I see this year as a struggle. Nothing I've seen so far gives me reason for optimism for a playoff run. I realize the real players haven't played much and everything has been vanilla.

But I just think the free agent pickups are overhyped, I just don't see them being a vast improvement. Some of the injury issues from the past are still there and year hasn't even started yet. So while I do think the Defense will be improved, I just don't see it as a big improvement.

Offensively, until Aaron Jones can make it thru a year, I just don't see the running game working as Lefeur would like. Honestly I also worry about a QB who wants every play to be a 7-25 yard pass to Adams outside the numbers. We have to use the whole field and all the weapons.

We do have some quality players and if they can stay healthy and we trust the coaches and do what they say, I hope to be pleasantly surprised. But as of this moment I see a 8-8 season as ceiling. Boy I hope I'm wrong.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 05, 2019 at 11:47 am

One of the proudest moments I have had in predicting was predicting the Packers would hire LaFleur. My other one was when I did a mock draft and had them taking Kenny Clark.

What made me think they would take LaFleur was because I felt they wanted a young offensive minded coach who could find a way to get Rodgers back on track.

Enter LaFleur. He is an offensive minded coach who will bring more of the Shanahan way of thinking. Last year there was 2 games where it really felt like our offense design/structure was just stale. Against the Rams and against the 49ers. Now we are getting a offense that will likely be similar to those styles.

It may take a bit of time for it to run on all cylinders, but don't be surprised if we see some really good things early. We have Rodgers, Adams and Jones. I'd put that trio up against any trio in the league. Then add Allison who was really good before he got hurt last year. MVS could be a breakout star this year! We have other receivers as well that could make an impact. What if Tonyan is this years Kittle? Don't forget we have a FB that could be a weapon in the passing game as well! We have weapons, and we have an offensive line that is among the best!
Oh and we have an offense that will not be predictable as it has become over the last however many years.

One of the things we have heard a lot is how they are trying to make the offense look the same but do different things.

The defense is entering year 2 with Pettine. Pettine now has players that he can virtually do whatever he wants with. The depth in the front 7 is as deep as they have had in a while. The OLB position is stronger then it has been in a long time. Don't be surprised if he finds ways to unleash Gary as a pass rusher.
The secondary might be even more improved this year. Alexander is looking to have his own island. The safety position should be a major upgrade. If King can stay healthy, our CB's are as good as anyones!
There are some really good role players to keep an eye on as well. Lancaster is a clog in the middle. He could be a run down specialist. Keke could be that guy who really comes in and provides great plays. He is flexible and can be moved around. Greene likely will be our Dime ILB/S hybrid. He could be a great asset especially against teams with mobile QB's.

My prediction on the year is 11-5 and they make the playoffs. My gut tells me the range is anywhere between 9-7 and 13-3. I feel like 12-4 or 11-5 is where they will be at, but I will go with 5 losses because I think they will lose one earlier while they are still trying to figure things out.

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cockblock's picture

September 05, 2019 at 11:54 am

Can the Packers slow the injures? This will be the measure of success in 2019.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

September 05, 2019 at 12:10 pm

talk about revisionist history. It is possible to explain the packers defense last year, to explain why Mike P is a very good coaching without lying.

The packers started the year with Brice, they picked him. He was not forced on the field. It was voluntary. Tramon was there, so were others. Bad players were allowed to start. Brice was marginal to make the roster to anyone watching, but he was annointed the starter?

Where is he now? How did it work? How many snaps and how much development was wasted? How did Brice directly contribute to the washington loss?

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packerdoug's picture

September 05, 2019 at 12:35 pm

If we stay mostly healthy,esp.QB1....10-6 9-7 Div/Wc. Go Pack Go!

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Andresmo93's picture

September 05, 2019 at 01:18 pm

I dont think lafleur needs to revolutionaze the NFL with his playcalling or his schemes. To me the running game is the key to our season.

We dont have the talent at WR that we used to. They were all on sync with AR and could win one on one despite the playcalling. But i think we have our best OL in years. Run the ball make the defense load the box to help the receivers behind devante and unleash the playaction. We have the best playaction and broken plays QB in the NFL.

The defense is build more to create turnovers than to keep or hold an offense. Having more time or possesiin of course helps.

Vikings and Bears are weaker than they seem. Minnesota lacks an identity on offense and yes bradbury appers to be a good center or guard but that is all they have invested in the OL. Fangio is one of the if not the best defensive coordinator. Pagano isnt bad DC but plays different. They need to adapt. I think in the NFC North title would be at 10 W at most this season.

10-6 Packers and NFC North champs my pick.

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BoHunter's picture

September 05, 2019 at 02:11 pm

Great post RC, nailed it.
Thanks Bo Hunter

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