One Storyline For Each 2020 Opponent (Weeks 1-9)

Here's one storyline for each of the Packers' 2020 opponents for the first half of the season. 

The Green Bay Packers ended the 2019 season one game shy of the Super Bowl, and two common narratives immediately emerged entering the offseason: 1) that Green Bay desperately needed wide receivers and 2) that the Packers couldn’t stop the run. 

After the draft, plenty of questions still remained when the team decided not to select a wide receiver or defensive lineman. While the Packers did bring in Devin Funchess in free agency, the team has made it clear it’s expecting players like Rashan Gary, Kingsley Keke, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling to step up and play significant roles for this 2020 team. 

But, since we spend so much time talking about Green Bay’s unknowns heading into the season, I thought this week I’d take a look at each opponent on the schedule and highlight one big storyline facing each team, whether it’s a new player, a new coach, or a statistic the team will need to improve upon this season. We’ll go in order of the schedule and skip the NFC North repeats. Look for the second half of the article to drop Friday morning! 

Minnesota Vikings

I could use this space to talk about how the Vikings stole free agent nose tackle Michael Pierce from the Packers, a player I desperately wanted to see in green and gold, but instead I’ll opt for the other theft that occurred on draft night. Look, Packers fans, I know how much we all wanted to see Justin Jefferson in Green Bay. But after the Vikings traded Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills, drafting a receiver felt imminent. Adam Thielen is a talented receiver who’s put up over 950 yards and 4 touchdowns in each of his last three full seasons. Even in 2019 playing only 10 games, Thielen still had six touchdowns on the season. Losing Diggs, though, remains a blow from a productivity standpoint for the Minnesota offense. Diggs eclipsed 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in each of his last two seasons, and he was the perfect offensive complement to Thielen. While Jefferson exploded onto the scene at LSU in 2019 with 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns and could be in the conversation for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year if he acclimates quickly to the offense, having a condensed preseason (if any preseason) could force him into some rookie growing pains as he finds his way in the NFL. Jefferson and Thielen will be a dangerous duo for a while, though. And we’ll get our first look Week 1. 

Detroit Lions

I was going to joke here that the big storyline for the Lions was the addition of Geronimo Allison in free agency. Really though, is Matt Patricia already on the hot seat in Detroit after only two seasons? All signs point to yes. The Lions went 6-10 Patricia’s first season before regressing to 3-12-1 in 2019, but a large part of that was due to Matt Stafford being injured and missing games for the first time since the 2010 season. What Patricia does with a healthy Stafford back in the lineup and an improved defense in 2020 will say a lot about his ability to be a long-term head coach in the NFL. 

New Orleans Saints

Here’s a storyline, the Saints are wasting Drew Brees’ prime. (I’m sorry, I had to.) Brees is back for another season, and what Saints fans are hoping is another shot at the playoffs after a loss to the Vikings in the Wild Card Round this past season. On paper, this is a Saints roster without any glaring weaknesses, as there are legitimate stars on both sides of the ball. So why can’t the Saints get over the hump? Feels familiar, right? That’s it. That’s the storyline. Can the Saints become a complete team in 2020 and make it to the Super Bowl with an aging quarterback who fans want to see get another shot at a ring? 

Atlanta Falcons

My favorite storyline with the Falcons is the offense being made up almost entirely of first-round draft picks. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and the entire starting offensive line were all first round selections, and then this past offseason the Falcons acquired tight end Hayden Hurst and running back Todd Gurley to complete the lineup. This is a Falcon’s team that should be much better than its 7-9 record in 2020.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Should we just skip the Buccaneers? I don’t think any team had a more wild offseason than Tampa Bay signing Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to get half of the band back together in Florida. It makes sense in a cosmic sort of way that one player previously retired and one player on the verge of retirement would find themselves in the sunshine state together. On paper, the Bucs had one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL in 2019 with weapons like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Ronald Jones II. Adding a quarterback who should theoretically throw fewer interceptions than his predecessor and a trusted tight end option should only improve the offense’s dynamic in 2020. 

Houston Texans

We have to talk about Bill O’Brien, don’t we. What is going on in Houston? I’m pretty sure the way to keep your franchise quarterback happy is not to trade away one of the best receivers in the league for peanuts, but I could be wrong. The Texans offensive line allowed 49 sacks in 2019, so Watson has a number of reasons to be unhappy with the current state of the team. The Titans and Colts got better and the Jaguars are, well, the Jaguars. The Texans have an uphill battle to climb in the AFC South this season. (But they did get defensive lineman Ross Blacklock in the draft, so they have that going for them which is nice.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers were a Super Bowl-worthy team that did absolutely nothing to get worse this past offseason. Any player the team lost, it found a suitable replacement for in the draft. To me, this season is dependent on how Jimmy Garoppolo puts everything together. He didn’t have a bad 2019 by any stretch, throwing for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions with a rating of 102.0. But in the Super Bowl, the NFL’s biggest stage, Garoppolo missed throws that could have sealed a victory for the 49ers. His development into a true franchise quarterback would go a long way for San Francisco as the team readies for another deep playoff push. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (16)

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Samson's picture

July 14, 2020 at 02:17 pm

Thanks Maggie -- you always have a unique & interesting approach.
My take ---- The Lions, Falcons, Bucs, Falcons and Texans are all pretenders.... The Vikes, Saints & 49ers are legit.

Unfortunately, you're analyzing a 2020 season that won't happen, sadly.

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NickPerry's picture

July 15, 2020 at 06:32 am

I don't see the Vikings as "Legit". They lost WAY to many starters from last years team throughout the whole defense (D-Line and Secondary) and the WR position with Diggs.

I don't give a damn how great Jefferson can be...It's unlikely IF we even have a season this year, rookies will have much of an impact on most teams including the Vikings who are replacing 2 starting CB's, their nickel back, AND Griffen and Joseph.
Sorry but the Vikings will probably struggle to finish 2nd in the NFC North, IMO 3rd or 4th this year.

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x24's picture

July 14, 2020 at 03:21 pm

Damn Sam; "analyzing a 2020 season that won't happen"...

(even though, deep down we all know)

Why you gotta be that way?

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Samson's picture

July 14, 2020 at 03:36 pm

Appropriately dealing with reality will ease the emotional & mental strain of 2020.... Facing the facts & reacting accordingly may help many more to survive & ultimately put the whole year 2020 into their scrapbooks.

It will get better...eventually.

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dobber's picture

July 14, 2020 at 03:35 pm

Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

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murf7777's picture

July 15, 2020 at 09:39 am

Well, IMO, it will start this year and finish next year with a SB in April or May.

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dobber's picture

July 14, 2020 at 03:38 pm

"Really though, is Matt Patricia already on the hot seat in Detroit after only two seasons? All signs point to yes."

Living in a Detroit market, I can tell you he and Bob Quinn both were fortunate to keep their jobs for 2020. Maybe the biggest change in this team will be Martha Ford stepping down.

"But they did get defensive lineman Ross Blacklock in the draft, so they have that going for them which is nice"

Gunga galunga! Hey, Lama, how about something you know, for the effort, you know?

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splitpea1's picture

July 14, 2020 at 08:01 pm

Vikings: How will our offense be able to burn their young secondary?

Saints: They are a complete team, at least in the regular season. In the playoffs, though, they either don't play their best or get hosed by the refs. I'm really surprised they haven't made it to another Super Bowl.

Bucs: It would be a shame if the season gets canceled, because I'm really interested in seeing how far they can go.

SF: Can Pettine come up with a plan that can at least keep us somewhat competitive in this game?

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NickPerry's picture

July 16, 2020 at 08:36 am

I'm curious about Brees though. His play has dropped of late in the year the last few seasons so I'm wondering now when the drop will start week one for him. It's coming like it or not, sooner rather than later. I think it's this year the bottom really falls out on Brees whether it's the throws he can no longer make or he gets injured.

Tom Brady looked very ordinary last season. His Defense was responsible for more wins than Tom last year. Brady turned 42 last August.

Father time gets EVERYBODY, no matter what you may do to put it off. Sooner or later you can no longer put it off.

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Telecharger's picture

July 14, 2020 at 11:54 pm

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murf7777's picture

July 15, 2020 at 09:34 am

“Wasting Drew Brees prime”.....yes, sounds familiar, but what it shows is how hard it is to get to a SB much less win it. Many things must go right and you need some breaks or big plays for it to happen. Which leads me to LOL when Mahomes announces he wants to win 6 or more SB titles. I know it was a comment only to show his desire or goal, but it might’ve been best kept to himself.

He is the NFL’s anointed “next greatest”. Hmmmm, I still remember when the same things were said about Farve in the late 90’s and Rodgers in the early 2010’s and so far between them they have 3SB’s.

Some will a argue its the Packers FO fault, but I disagree, it just shows how difficult it is to get to a SB. Bellichick and Brady will be the only dynasty if the NFL continues in the current SC and FA system. Winning the lottery might have better odds then another dynasty like NE with the current system in place. NE’s success has set up all other teams for failure if that is what they use to measure their own success.

Mahomes with all his greatness, will eat some humble pie regarding that statement. That said I suspect he will be back their next year, but when his surrounding talent gets picked off by other teams in FA he will find it extremely hard to win another. My guess, he wins 2 SB’s.

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splitpea1's picture

July 15, 2020 at 12:35 pm

I definitely don't think we need to worry about Mahomes winning six; I'm trying not to take too much away from the Chiefs, but they only had to play the bottom two seeds at home in the playoffs, and in the Super Bowl, Shanahan was unable to protect a lead once again. Also, in no way did Mahomes deserve to win the MVP with that uninspiring performance; compared to Rodgers' performance in our Super Bowl, it's not even close.

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DelcieKing's picture

July 15, 2020 at 08:48 pm

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wildbill's picture

July 15, 2020 at 09:55 pm

Nice off season article, thanks. One of the big fears I think all the sports have is if they don’t play for a season a large amount of people will decide that sports isn’t really that important. The die hard fans will always be there but the sports cater to the casual fans as people’s attention span is so short now a days. Strike seasons in the past, of different sports, have caused temporary drops in viewership with MLB really being saved by the McGuire/Sosa homerun chase. Even a temporary drop in fan interest is some major money to everybody involved. Don’t want players to risk their health but I can see why the leagues are anxious to not lose a season.

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