Packers Focus Starts with Division Play

The Green Bay Packers have made many changes to their team already since the 2018 season ended.  All with the obvious goal: win another Super Bowl.

While it's easy to see how a team with Green Bay's talent can easily turn around their 2017 and 2018 results and be back in the thick of a Super Bowl chase, their sights should first be set on division play.

Going back to 2013, there have typically only been two teams in conention for the NFC North in any given season. 

In 2013, the Packers and Chicago Bears faced each other in week 17 to decide their fates.  In 2014, the Detroit Lions had an anomaly good season.  In 2015, the Minnesota Vikings edged the Packers with a week 17 win.  2016 saw the Packers "run the table" and pass the Lions and in 2017 and 2018, the Packers were out of contention.

Entering 2018, the Packers faced sitff competition from both the Bears and Vikings.  The Packers bowed out and were unable to contend and the Bears took the league by storm.  

The story will be the same this coming season.  The NFC North is no pushover anymore.  If the Packers want to return to their winning ways, they'll have to fare much better in their division match ups. 

Getting swept by the Lions two seasons in a row won't get them very far.  The unfortunate tie with Minnesota and subsequent loss on the road now means the Packers haven't beaten either the Vikings or Lions in over two years.

It took a miraculous effort to force a split with Chicago, who figures to be the division favorite entering next season.  The Bears are atop the hill and the Packers need to knock them off as a first step to getting back to being contenders.

The Packers beat the Bears and should have also taken care of the Vikings at Lambeau Field last season.  The Lions won a lackluster week 17 game in which the Packers had nothing to play for and were without Aaron Rodgers much of the game.  In other words, Green Bay is not a total train wreck. 

A healthy Aaron Rodgers with a revamped offense and hopefully some fresh talent on defense should have the Packers right in the thick of the NFC North race in 2019.

Win the division and it's playoff time, once again.  We can only hope Green Bay is poised to return to their dominant ways.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (42)

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Packer Fan's picture

February 04, 2019 at 06:46 am

Going 1-4-1 last year never does any good. Yes, beat all the division foes and things will go all right. Note that Rodgers won the NFL moment of the year by beating the Bears. First game of the year. Then the disastrous tie with the Viqueens with the bad refs call and then the season went down hill. I wonder what would have happened if they had beat Minnesota. Naw, I don't want to speculate for McCarthy's run had ended. Let's start over,

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stockholder's picture

February 04, 2019 at 07:12 am

How can they call CM3 for roughing the QB all year? Yet, I saw so many non-calls yesterday. It was outrageous.

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fastmoving's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:45 am

its was not all year, it was just the first couple of games and than they changed it. dont know if CM3 got a roughing the passer call after that bad one in week 4 or whenever it was......

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TheVOR's picture

February 04, 2019 at 12:03 pm

That tie was brutal, we would have been selecting within the top 10. This division is on an upswing also, Kubiak up in Minn. is going to pound the football, complimented by a decent QB, The Bears are here for a while. Detroit I just don't see it, I view them as a bigger train wreak than GB by far. Winning is this league really starts by doing 2 things, winning within your division, and winning at home, followed by winning the road games you should win. If you can do that, you're almost always in the Playoffs. It's been GB's bread and butter for decades running, it eh common thread in our playoff seasons.

My biggest concerns are around a better OL, and in having to deal with a new scheme, and a new coaching staff. While I think it's good and needed at this juncture, it's rare that a team gets a new coaching staff and challenges for a Super Bowl. It just is.. We'll see, I'm growing more confident by the day that we might have gotten a decent HC. I just need to see how big the learning curve is, and how well we draft, before making any major proclamations. I'm a little more confident in all this than I was a month ago. This next draft is a MONSTER, Gutz needs to hit a grand slam.

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nostradanus's picture

February 04, 2019 at 07:10 am

Only one team out of 32 is pleased with their season, the Patriots.

It is time to Hit:
Refresh
Reset
Rebuild

This should be an exciting off-season,
and only time will tell if Murphy-Gutekunst made the right call.

One thing is certain; the Packers will have a crazy amount of youthful energy in the in the building at 1265 Lombardi and on the field this coming season from both the coaching staff and team.

I am expecting a bit of a roller coaster ride and that's ok, the Packers will be underdogs this season so lets support them and see if they can knock those Bears off the hill!

1. Win the home games
2. Beat your division foes
3. Make the playoffs

I would be pleased if these three items came to pass!

Go Pack!

that is all...

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The TKstinator's picture

February 04, 2019 at 04:33 pm

All is that
Is all that
All that is
Is that all
That all is

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Nick Perry's picture

February 04, 2019 at 07:20 am

The Vikings did EXACTLY what many of us predicted they would in 2018..Miss the playoffs. Many of us myself included pointed out the Vikings always do this every few years...Have a solid season like in 2017, LOSE in the playoffs, then finish about 8-8 the following year and miss the playoffs.

Last season the Bears had an unbelievable streak of luck with player injuries and the defense scored a ton of points, just like Jacksonville did the year before. As we saw in 2018 the Jags defense didn't come close to duplicating what they did the year before and neither will the Bears. What's better is the Bears don't have a draft pick until sometime around pick 90 of the 3rd round.

The Lions are the Lions and their 2 year dominance over the ENDS in 2019. I mean it HAS to right? Looking at the talent on that team I see no way they continue beating the Pack.

In 2019 it's back to basics for the Packers. WIN the division and you'll be in the playoffs where anything can happen.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:04 am

Agreed!
I was also in that prediction with the Vikings. I didn't see the Bears doing as good as they did. The Mack trade really energized the defense and team.

Packers doing as poorly as they did surprised me the most honestly. I thought for sure with Rodgers coming back it was going to turn around. Then he gets injured in week 1 and they have the the game that they would have won, taken away from them in week 2 and never recovered the rest of the season.

Honestly, I feel good about 2019. Well as good as I can without knowing anything about how the team will actually look.

This I do know. Rodgers will start the year healthy. They have one of the best WR's in the game. A pair of RB's that are good. A duo of young WR's that played really well their rookie years. And 2 cornerstone pieces on their OL (LT,C). The defense will be entering year 2 with the coordinator who should hopefully have some more talent to work with. They have cornerstone pieces in Clark, Alexander.

We will have to wait and see what talent is brought in, but the team overall has a lot of good players.
I think a new scheme on offense will help. I don't think we are far off.

When we played both the teams that were in the super bowl, we were in both of those games. A new scheme, a new special teams coach should hopefully already be an upgrade. Get some better players, and we should hopefully have an improved team!

This off season should be fun and exciting.

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Bearmeat's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:20 am

While I don't think the division is any better than it was 5 or 10 years ago, I do think we have a lot more holes to fill than we did then. I think that's the difference.

While this offseason will be as fun as an offseason in Green Bay can be, if we clean our own kitchen, we'll be fine. If not.... well...

I think at this point, it's fair to say winning the NFCN is the goal and anything past that is gravy. This team just isn't as good as it's been since 2007 for the most part. I think we have to admit that at this point.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 04, 2019 at 09:26 am

I honestly don't think we have that many gapping holes. We have holes, and a couple of good additions will really change our team. I do think scheme change will probably help too. At least we shouldn't be as predictable.
Also the amount of playing time our rookies got this year, should really help them improve next year. We had 4 rookies get significant playing time. Alexander, Jackson, MVS, EQ. Also had others get some valuable playing time as well. Tony Brown, and Lancaster played a lot down the stretch.
A new scheme, a year with Rodgers and a year under their belts should really make MVS and EQ better for year 2. Also we might see Kumerow emerge again.

As for big holes that we have to get fixed, we have RG, OLB, S. We also need better back ups along the OL. Another TE. Probably a quick/fast slot WR. Another ILB. Another RB.

Last year our OLB's were not good, and yet we ranked near the top of the league in sacks. If we add 1-2 true threats as pass rushers, it will allow Pettine to be even more dangerous in his coverage's and play calling.

i really don't think we are far off. A lot of that will depend on what version of Rodgers plays.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 04, 2019 at 10:29 am

Agree with all this, especially the main point that we're not hopeless, and that a lot of it will be depending on what Rodgers does for us next year.

We can do things personnel-wise to help him. We can do things scheme-wise to help him. But at the end of the day, he has to play better than he did in 2018.

As I've said previously, most of 2019 starters are already under contract. And you are correct that we did well in generating pressure despite being "not good" at OLB.

We need people who can cover. Right now we have Alexander, and King if he's healthy. Tramon covers pretty well for an old guy. Jackson has some potential. But injuries happen and if you can't put 5 or 6 guys on the field who can cover people then you're going to have guys open.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 04, 2019 at 10:24 am

Dude... we've been to the Championship Game 3 times since 2007.....

I actually think the North is a pretty good division, and the number of times we've sent two teams to the playoffs, or appeared in the Conference Championship, is a pretty good indicator of that.

I very much agree with the author: It all starts with your division. Win your division and then worry about the rest. Winning the division starts with winning at home against division opponents and that's why the three most important games on our schedule next year are the three against the Bears, Lions, Vikings.

Right now, we're #3 in the division and our only win last year was a miracle finish against the Bears in the opener.

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Bearmeat's picture

February 04, 2019 at 12:56 pm

I'm just saying - yes if ARod plays better, we're golden. But can he play at an MVP level again consistently? I'm not sure. MLF is going to have to coach him up, because he's played like nothing more than an average QB since his collarbone injury in 2017.

If he can't, then we need to have the roster be MUCH better than it is. There absolutely are several holes.

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CheesyTex's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:49 pm

I think the NFCN is improving, but only 1 team in the Division has a QB capable of taking his team deep into the playoffs -- #12.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:04 am

Actually their focus should be WIN ALL home games. That's 8 and 1/2 of your road games.

12- 4
Should win you the division.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:05 am

Thats my philosophy.

Win all your home games and half your road games and you're at 12-4.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:13 am

It all starts with the OLine !!

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Leatherhead's picture

February 04, 2019 at 10:30 am

Yes. Hell, win all your home games and two road games and you've probably won the division.

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4thand1's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:11 am

After watching the SB last night, it comes down to the o-line. NE won up front on both sides of the ball. Brady barely got touched in the playoffs and they ran the ball. The Rams had no chance on offense, couldn't run or pass block. The Pack will shore up the right side of their o-line and go from there. We will face 2 really good defenses in MN and CHI twice, we have to run the ball and protect AR.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:12 am

If the Patriots are the modell team, then you have QB A. Rodgers and RB A. Jones but if you want a Gronk then draft TE- TJ Hockenson and if you want an Edelman than draft Slot WR- Andy Isabella. Its just that simple.

Most of the the time the hardest questions have the simplest answer

Next stop Super Bowl LIIII

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:22 am

The defense on the rams did fine. But leaving that gaping whole in the middle of the line 2 DL leftside and 2 DL Rightside always spells DISASTER and S. Michael ran it up the gut for big gains.

Gurley was the key and he sucked!!
He is a straight line runner not to the outside, but the one time he went to the outside he cut back up the middle for 15+ yard gain.

where was Kupp? Cupp?

J. Goff too long in the pocket and slow to decisions.

Anyways, that's just me being Monday QB

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:26 am

I hate to agree with you, but I agree with you.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

February 04, 2019 at 10:38 am

Doug, I don't think there's any question at this point that the Patriots are the model. My question is instead of going after Josh McDaniels who has worked with the master Bill Billichek for over a decade and has six super bowl rings to his resume, why instead did your Packers go after a guy on the Tennessee Titans, a loser organization? I have to say I was happy for the Patriots for winning 6 times but it pisses me off that the Packers could not spot the obvious choice. If you are going to roll the dice on a young head coach for Christ sakes roll the dice on a guy from the Patriots not the Titans. smh.

Dash

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Jonathan Spader's picture

February 04, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Dash,

Where do you think MLF got his coaching knowledge from? You said in another thread we got him from the Rams, in this post we got him from the Titans. For me I think we got MLF from the Shanahan coaching tree. That's what has me excited for MLF. You use the Superbowl as an endorsement for McDaniels but the Patriots only scored 1 TD when the Rams defense was absolutely gassed. Flores was more impressive than McDaniels.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

February 04, 2019 at 12:20 pm

Rams, Titans, Shanahan coaching tree. Who cares. None of them win super bowls. All are losers. The ONLY consistent winner time and time and time again is the Patriots and they do it constantly with inferior talent compared to their competition. How do they do it? Coaching. So to me if you are going to pick a head coach you pick from the team that constantly wins with superior coaching and that is the New England Patriots. Sean McVay will never make it back to another super bowl. All the media coverage glorifying his greatness will vanish. LaFleur and all these other no names should send McVay half their pay checks to him. What a con job and the Packers got sucked in.

Dash

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albert999's picture

February 05, 2019 at 08:16 pm

Couldn’t agree more
and the Dolphins got the patriots DC

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Tundraboy's picture

February 04, 2019 at 01:32 pm

See your point DN, but we need a complete OL first.

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stockholder's picture

February 04, 2019 at 01:56 pm

They didn't do it with #1 choices. The Rams were gassed. I Give credit to the Patriots defense too.

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LayingTheLawe's picture

February 04, 2019 at 06:56 pm

If it was easy then everyone would do it. If the patriots didn't have Edelman and Gronk they would do it with what they had. they are just that good. They can take a total waste of time like Cordarelle Patterson and make him a useful part of team. They can take a limited player like James white and make him a big part of the offense. That is the key. To take what parts you have and do something great with them. Unfortunately that is very hard to do and why only the patriots have done it.

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Rebecca's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:23 am

Wow, still writing like this is a well run team loaded with talent but just not living up to expectations! That’s interesting. Talent?

Ok. Only 6 average or better players on offense. Rodgers Adams Bakhtiari Bulaga Linsley A.Jones. Maybe 4 solid to very good defensive players. Clark Daniels Alexander Martinez. (Fackrell) maybe. The rest of the players didn’t show any game changing influence on team performance. So they are basically pieces to be used effectively or tossed off to the less fortunate or better coached teams.

No. Even with a new defensive coordinator and the highest rated quarterback in the history of the nfl this team was unsurprisingly bad in 2018.

Let’s hope the organization cleans out the top of the front office before we get all dreamy about bringing home the Lombardi Trophy.

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fastmoving's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:41 am

yeah, he WAS the highest rated quarterback but did not play anywhere near that. hope he can get back to that level. he has way more better talent around him as you give our roster credit for.
Other than the top of the organization is well set for the next couple of years. But how could someone see that, who thinks everything is bad besides AR. at the moment its just the other way around…..

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egbertsouse's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:41 am

Thank you for injecting some reality into the forum. I think they have 3 good players on offense and 3 on defense and the rest are JAGs. They are not a couple of players away. If Guter and LaFleur do their job they might contend in 2 or 3 years.

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LayingTheLawe's picture

February 04, 2019 at 07:03 pm

I agree with the assertion here of who is any good or not. What I don't know is how many good players do you need to win. I only watch the packers and don't play fantasy so I barely even know who is on the rest of the league. But don't the [email protected]&rs have only about five good players on defense yet they are dominant? I guess my question is that I agree with you the packers only have a handful of good players on both sides of the ball, but doesn't every team have like five good players and the rest are interchangeable?

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:23 am

Kudos to the Patriots OL.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:27 am

I hate to agree with you, but I agree with you.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

February 04, 2019 at 11:44 am

Doug, no need to apologize, I have agreed with myself many times.

Dash

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:29 am

I hit reply to someone else's comment and it keeps putting it under my comments. Ugh....

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egbertsouse's picture

February 04, 2019 at 08:48 am

I watched McVay’s offense yesterday and wondered if this is what we have to look forward to under LaFleur; the same formations and personnel groups, slow developing plays, a total focus on big plays, inability to adjust to the defense. It looked like a McCarthy offense with a jet sweep motion. I hopeMLF has a few new wrinkles.

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Skip greenBayless's picture

February 04, 2019 at 04:54 pm

"I watched McVay’s offense yesterday and wondered if this is what we have to look forward to under LaFleur; the same formations and personnel groups, slow developing plays, a total focus on big plays, inability to adjust to the defense. It looked like a McCarthy offense with a jet sweep motion. I hopeMLF has a few new wrinkles."

Unfortunately egbert the answer is yes, that's what we have to look forward tool It's why I said Rodgers needs to get his ass back from New Zealand and start to get some serious buddy time with this kid LaFleur. Why? Because it took just two weeks of prep time but the real genius Bill Billichek already figured out how you stop the mighty McVay offense that this LaFleur now wants to implement with the Packers. The Packers literally need to start again from scratch offensively. That's hard to do when your qb has yet to even meet with the new head coach and is off gallivanting around the globe without a care in the world. After witnessing last nights takedown of the mighty Rams offense by an average Patriots defense I say it's pretty much panic time in Packerland.

Dash

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LayingTheLawe's picture

February 04, 2019 at 06:45 pm

That is very simplistic analysis I think. The Rams didn't score in one game therefore this offensive scheme is done. What I saw was a defensive line that totally destroyed the Rams offensive line and a secondary that blanketed the receivers. Pretty easy to play defense when those things happen. So the lesson for this game was that when you can physically dominate every player on the other team you will probably win.

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porupack's picture

February 04, 2019 at 10:09 am

about winning divisions....

NE is pretty well assured of being handed their division for the last 2 decades. Mia, Buff and NJets beat themselves shortly after the draft weekend usually with dysfunction building teams without a QB. When will one of them be competitive? Would it help if teams had to donate a draft pick as if they were expansion teams. Ratings will start dropping if NE continues to own the AFC.

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albert999's picture

February 05, 2019 at 08:24 pm

Mcvay got so out coached it wasn’t even funny
as MFL will this year and Rodgers running plays he wants not what’s best
recipe for disaster

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