Five Confident Predictions about the 2015 Green Bay Packers

Forget bold. These are the predictions you can be confident in for the 2015 Packers. 

Bold predictions are fun and entertaining, but rarely does reality cooperate. Instead, here are five predictions I’m very confident in for the 2015 Green Bay Packers: 

 

1. Big Numbers for No. 17

Jordy Nelson’s 151 targets from last season are now available in the Packers passing offense. Ascending tight end Richard Rodgers and veteran returnee James Jones should gobble up some, but the majority of the leftovers will land on the plate of second-year receiver Davante Adams. The “MVP” of the offseason received 66 targets as a rookie, catching a modest 57.6 percent and averaging 11.7 yards per reception. For 2015, let’s say Adams takes on just 50 of Nelson’s lost targets—a conservative estimate—and increases his catch rate to 65 percent, another reasonable approximation in his second season with an uber accurate, MVP quarterback. In this scenario, Adams’ 16-game numbers would jump to roughly 116 targets and 75 catches. Throw in an uptick in red-zone looks and Adams has a chance to post some gaudy numbers. Approaching 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns isn’t crazy for a player many inside Lambeau Field are expecting to be a star.  

 

2. Last Laugh for Ha Ha

Clay Matthews is the face of the defense, but it wouldn’t be surprising if second-year safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix finished the season as the unit’s second-best player. The Packers’ first-round pick in 2014 is going to miss some tackles here and there—he had his share this preseason—but his instincts jump off the screen every time he’s on the field. And while you never want to make premature Charles Woodson comps, Clinton-Dix has that same kind of on-field speed—where there’s so little thinking involved and so much reacting. The league doesn’t possess many really good safeties. I fully expect Clinton-Dix to join that elite group by season’s end. 

 

3. Depth Tested Along Offensive Line

The Packers skated through the 2014 season with four offensive linemen starting 18 games and one starting 17. Only right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed a start. The group’s collective health allowed the starting five to gel into one of the league’s best offensive lines. Don’t expect the injury luck to continue for a second-straight year, especially if the preseason was any indication. Left tackle David Bakhtiari battled a knee issue for most of August, T.J. Lang suffered a concussion and Josh Sitton dealt with a nagging ankle injury. Bulaga hasn’t played all 16 regular-season games since 2010, his rookie year. JC Tretter looks like an ace backup, but an injury at tackle—a position with no answers behind the starters—or on the interior—the line’s strength—would be a huge blow. Can the line stay atypically healthy again in 2015? As the Packers know all too well, injuries are a fickle beast. 

 

4. Unexpected Road Loss 

As long as Aaron Rodgers plays 16 games, the Packers are all but guaranteed to complete the regular season with somewhere between 10 and 14 wins. But winning 10 to 14 games means there will also be a handful of losses. One of those is all but assured to be an unexpected defeat away from Lambeau Field. History tells the tale. The 2009 Packers went down to winless Tampa Bay and lost. A year later, the Super Bowl team fell to a Washington team that finished 6-10. The only regular-season blemish for the 2011 club was a loss in Kansas City, a non-playoff team that fired its coach mid-season. The 2012 Packers lost in Indy to a 1-2 Colts team with a rookie quarterback. And last season, both the Saints and Bills ended long Green Bay winning streaks with home upsets over the Packers. A Week 15 trip to Oakland fits the prototype on the 2015 schedule. I’m obviously not predicting the Packers will lose to the Raiders on Dec. 20, but there will almost certainly be a head-scratching loss on the road at some point. 

 

5. Over-reaction to a Slow Start

The Packers have started 1-2 for three straight seasons. I don’t necessarily think a slow start happens again, but it’s certainly possible. John Fox’s Bears are a great unknown, the Seahawks have been to back-to-back Super Bowls and the Chiefs have the defense and caretaker quarterback to pull off an upset. Is 1-2 likely? No. But it's feasible. The Packers then travel to San Francisco before hosting the Rams and Chargers—two playoff hopefuls—ahead of the Week 7 bye. Still, Green Bay will likely be favorited to win every game, and four home games over the first six demands a fast start. But it’s also the perfect setup for more over-reaction to a poor start. Use any synonym of relax you’d like. This team regains its footing just as well as it stumbles early on. Just don’t forget what a smart man with a terrific website once said: “Lotta ballgame left.” 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Comments (26)

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porupack's picture

September 09, 2015 at 01:04 am

Zach,
Enjoy your posts. Yes you hit all 5 points as they are on our minds. I agree on 1-4. But on #5, I'm wondering what you are confidently predicting, if not saying both; no they won't start slow, but yes they will and there will be over-reaction.
I don't think they start slow, even knowing how conservative game plan MM seems to install in early part of season.
In addition to your 5 points, the big one for CHTV authors to stake their reputation would be on special teams prediction. What a challenge given the many variables this year. But we fans could use a boost in our level of confidence, and looking to CHTV writers and posters to say 'it'll be fine'. Any confident predictions there?

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croatpackfan's picture

September 09, 2015 at 02:03 am

I agree with your prediction. I'm confident as you are ;-)

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 09, 2015 at 03:27 am

I don't agree with any of your points completely.

1) Adams had a completely underwhelming preseason. If he has made a jump that I didn't see, I would think that opposing teams will try to take him away and make Jones/Montgomery/Janis beat them while trying to just contain Cobb a bit. I do expect Adams' aggregate numbers to increase by default. Same for TE Rodgers.

2) I expect Dix to improve to very good, but not elite.

3) The O-line is deep at OC and OG. Thin at OT. Tretter might be an "ace" back-up at OC, but can't play OG or OT. Taylor is the 1st guy up at LG & RG. Keeping both Barclay and Walker makes me think GB isn't sure whether either can play RT week one, but hope that a) Barclay's knee strengthens or that b) Walker develops enough to play RT if necessary.

4) Agree. GB probably has an unexpected home loss too, but that depends on how big a homer one is. I would favor them in every home game at present, but I see 3 -5 tough games.

5) Punt - IDK what you're predicting. I expect GB to go no worse than 2-1, then 6-2. If there is a slow start, it depends on the perceived cause. We have built in excuses: rookie CBs and suspensions, but I don't expect anyone to write that Datone or even Guion would have made that play.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 09, 2015 at 04:44 am

Coming up with 5 things I'm confident about that aren't obvious is hard, Zach! Here is my attempt.

1) Daniels plays fewer snaps. Pennel and Guion prove to be pretty good DEs and Daniels can be removed when GB is up by a few scores. Boyd plays about or less than 60 snaps due to being cut.

2) Ditto for Peppers. The reserve OLBs improve sufficiently that GB is able to keep Peppers at 35 snaps/game (i.e. Elliott, Mulumba and Perry).

3. One of the rookie CBs overtakes Hayward as an outside CB (Hayward is serviceable there) after the bye. Hayward is moved back into zone slot where he excels- this improves the pass defense considerably.

4) Lacy has more than 65 receptions and averages more than 8.5 yds/reception.

5) [This is getting hard - might have to go negative!] Janis, though he looks like Bill Schroeder, does manage to find the field and has some big games. Oh, I know, Hyde is the main PR and is elite again.

6) STs are - I have no idea, porupack.

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aj's picture

September 09, 2015 at 12:10 pm

That's a lot of regular season touches for Lacy. I definitely want him to be a threat in the passing game, but I don't think I want him taking that many extra hits. Maybe Starks gains soft hands and becomes that passing threat out of the backfield.

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 09, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Getting Lacy the ball in space in the passing game is a way to limit the number of hits he takes. Carrying the ball on running plays is when the RB takes all the abuse, getting the ball in the passing game is much easier. Plus he's being hit by DB's that are a lot smaller than DL and LB. Get the ball in Lacy's hands in the passing game a lot should be a large part of the game plan this year, especially w/ Jordy out.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 09, 2015 at 06:24 pm

BTW Dan, you called it correctly. James Jones signed for the vet minimum with no guaranteed money, per reports. Moreover, it is a qualified contract. Jones takes home $870K (minimum for his years of service) and GB gets the discount on the cap and Jones only counts $585K against the cap. I thought Jones might be able to negotiate a better contract since he was one of only a handful of decent FA WRs. This signing looks like a real bargain.

I was incorrect. TGR apologizes for the error.

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 09, 2015 at 06:33 pm

Yeah I saw that. No need to apologize whatsoever.

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marpag1's picture

September 09, 2015 at 10:28 pm

Dan, have you seen any studies or evidence to confirm this? I'm not trying to start an argument, but I'm not sure we really know that this is true. Seems to me that pass catchers get injured on a pretty regular basis too, not so?

While it is true that linemen are bigger than DBs, it's also true that DBs are usually moving a heck of a lot faster. Newton's Second Law says that "force equals mass times acceleration."

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Evan's picture

September 10, 2015 at 07:22 am

Most "pass catchers" aren't built like Lacy.

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marpag1's picture

September 11, 2015 at 01:15 pm

...meaning that he's slower, a bigger target, less agile and more susceptible to a big hit?

Not sure what your point is.

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marpag1's picture

September 09, 2015 at 10:20 pm

I agree with AJ in this respect, that we need to keep Lacy healthy and fresh. If we assume the same number of carries as last year, 65 receptions would mean that Lacy will have more than 310 total touches (not counting playoffs). I do think that's a bit much for a guy who's had concussions and dings in the past. We've got good RB depth, let's use it.

Only three RBs had more that 65 receptions last year. Forte had to break an NFL record (102) to do it, LeVeon Bell had 83, and Fred Jackson barely squeaked in with 66. So 65 is setting the bar pretty high.

As for the 8.5 yds per, Lacy averaged over 10 per catch last year and is at 8.9 for his career, so you're not really going out on a limb there.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 10, 2015 at 01:41 am

Lacy averaged 10.2 yds/reception last year and 8.9 for his career, as you wrote. Without a vertical threat, I think he might average less this year.

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gr7070's picture

September 09, 2015 at 07:25 am

1. Is 75 receptions and 900 yards actually big numbers for Rodgers WR2? I don't think so.

I also agree with the above that Adam's has been underwhelming, and the advanced analytics from 2014 are rather poor. I'm hoping he looks much better this year, and really hope his increased counting numbers are not simply for the fact there's more balls to go around.

2. I don't see Dix being that good. Nice player, will be happy with any improvement that comes. No way he's the second best defensive player. The sad thing is, Matthews isn't even that; overrated.

3. I hate the assertion that the O line gelled. The O line was one of the league's best because all five of their starters played a ton of games! Not because they played together or could finish each others sentences. That notion is romantic and dumb.

When you're not relying on the 7th and/or 8th O lineman to start a number of games you're going to look good on O line because of the talent on the field, not because of gestalt.

4. Agreed. Most every team has one of these, though. Playing on road is difficult.

I'd predict an unexpected home loss; that's far less obvious, and nearly as reasonable.

5. Huh?

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marpag1's picture

September 09, 2015 at 10:22 am

Well, I wouldn't say that you're quite right about the O-line success, either. The O-line was successful because the starters played a ton of games? AJ Hawk played a ton of games. Dude was almost never injured. It didn't make him great.

Can we just come out and say it? The Packers O-line is one of the best in the league because Ted Thompson has acquired DAMN GOOD PLAYERS.

The Packers O-line has been criminally underrated for years.

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gr7070's picture

September 09, 2015 at 11:50 am

"Can we just come out and say it?"

I did. ; )
==> "...you're going to look good [or bad] on O line because of the talent on the field..."

Obviously in the case of Hawk it is still about the talent on the field, but in his case there wasn't much. The same is true when 2nd and 3rd backups are forced to play many snaps, the talent level drops (for most teams at most positions).

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 09, 2015 at 06:34 pm

GR7070 and Marpaq1 are both correct, imo. Marpaq1 is correct that TT has assembled very good, though not quite elite, overall talent for the 5 starting Offensive linemen. 2 of them are top 5 (LG, OC), another is top 10 (RG), one is top 2? (as a RT - maybe about top 12 as a tackle). GR7070 is correct that the talent would have been significantly reduced had GB sustained any injuries. The O-line looks a lot better with Sitton and/or Lang in there than with Tretter or Taylor. We saw what the line did in the game Bulaga missed.

I think the depth has improved at OG and OC. Still thin at RT and LT. Still, I think TT has assembled good overall talent. Back up tackles don't grow on trees, in his defense.

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marpag1's picture

September 09, 2015 at 09:12 pm

Yup, I get it gr7070. And you're right, of course, that second stringers aren't going to be as good as preferred starters. My point is...

You don't like the assertion that the line "gelled" ... as if that were the reason for their success on the field. Agreed.

I don't really like the assertion that the Packer O-line avoided injury... as if that were the reason for their success on the field. To me, that's a backhanded insult to damn good players. "You're good because you weren't injured."

The reason the O-line is good is that Ted Thompson has assembled an imposing line-up of freakish ass-kickers who are able to physically dominate and control the huge defensive linemen and blitzers in front of them.

Josh Sitton is a beast. He and TJ Lang may very well be the best guard tandem in the league. Linsley was phenomenally good for a rookie, and could develop into the best center in GB since Larry McCarren (or maybe even Jim Ringo). The only knock on Bulaga's carreer is the ACL. The "weak link" is a third-year, day one starter with good upside who has never failed to start an NFL game.

Last year I thought Dallas had far and away the best O-line. But you could easily argue that GB was #2.

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Spud Rapids's picture

September 09, 2015 at 08:47 am

I don't think #5 is a prediction is it? Zach Kruse can you clarify?

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Bugeater's picture

September 09, 2015 at 12:08 pm

I think #5 actually can be summarized as:

The fans will overreact.

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Zach Kruse's picture

September 09, 2015 at 01:29 pm

Clumsily worded on my part, but yes.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 09, 2015 at 06:54 pm

Obviously GB righted the ship & almost went to the super bowl. Many of us were concerned and some freaked out at 1-2, given that we almost lost the only one we won. Hindsight suggests that there was an overreaction. I don't entirely buy into that. If my bright kid has a "slow start" I know it is time to give him a kick in the butt, not to smile benignly and assume he will right the ship.

This is largely an exercise in statistics. GB is good enough that in any one season one can bet on their resilience to come through. As a betting guy, if told GB is going to do it 5 years in a row, the odds start to mount that GB won't be able to right the ship in time during one or more of those years. To expect GB to overcome slow starts year after year after year is an exercise in superciliousness. Sooner or later you will get bitten in the arse, maybe by some injuries.

If we have a slow start due to teams picking on the rookie CBs, that will be less concerning since I reasonably expect them to improve over time. If Masthay has a slow start, is any one going to rightfully freak out?

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Dan Stodola's picture

September 10, 2015 at 04:13 pm

R-E-L-A-X.

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Allan Murphy's picture

September 09, 2015 at 12:23 pm

I see a 3-0 start for Packers this year . Anything less is failing ,

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gr7070's picture

September 09, 2015 at 09:50 pm

1-2 is very, very possible. Seattle is great and KC is a top 10 team.

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cheesehead1's picture

September 10, 2015 at 01:45 pm

To me, DEFENSE is always the key. Just hope they can somehow improve into the top 10. That's a lot to ask but we shall see.

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