Unwrapping the 2020 Season

We saw what the numbers looked like in 2019. How do we think they'll look in 2020? 

We watched real NFL football yesterday! And that got me thinking about the 2020 season and my expectations for your friendly neighborhood Green Bay Packers. Back in February (which seems like years ago at this point), I wrote a piece for Cheesehead TV called “Putting a Bow on the 2019 Season,” so I thought today I’d “unwrap” this 2020 season and give some predictions based on last year’s statistics from the season-ending dope sheet. 

Head Coach Matt LaFleur enters his second season as the Packers’ 15th head coach. “In his first season, he swept the NFC North for the first time since 2011, brought his team to a 13-3 record, and secured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs after Green Bay had missed the postseason the last two seasons,” I wrote in Feb. I’ve talked about this all offseason, but I genuinely believe the Packers will be a better football team with a worse record in 2020. Repeating a 13-3 season is hard

Predictions: I still think the Packers make the playoffs, and I still think the Packers win the NFC North, but I don’t think they sweep the division and I think their record is more realistically 11-5 or 10-6.

Running back Aaron Jones is entering a contract season after putting up a franchise record for touchdowns in 2019 with 23 between the regular season and postseason. In the regular season, Jones rushed for 1,084 yards and 16 touchdowns and had 49 receptions for 474 yards and three touchdowns through the air. 

It could be tough for Jones to top his 1,558 yards from scrimmage in 2020, but by no means is it due to a lack of talent. Instead, consider the Packers really only utilized two running backs in 2019 between Jones and Jamaal Williams. While then-rookie Dexter Williams stayed on the roster all season, he rarely saw the field, and when the Packers added Tyler Ervin to the team to assist on special teams, he didn’t see too many snaps on offense until late in the season. While I don’t expect rookie AJ Dillon to usurp anyone for playing time at least initially, he’ll certainly be added to the rotation which, by default, will take opportunities away from Jones and Williams. 

Additionally, we know LaFleur plans to use his running backs in a variety of ways on offense, with “versatility” being the theme of the offseason. I’d wager that Jones’ rushing touchdown total decreases in 2019, but his receiving yardage total goes up quite a bit. Williams has arguably the best hands in the backfield, so look for him to carve out a role for himself there, too. 

Predictions: Williams will finish the season with more receiving yards than Dillon, but Dillon will have more rushing yards than Williams. 

Now let’s switch to the receiving core, because Davante Adams has had his share of injuries that have stolen 1,000-yard seasons from him three times now. The one outlier being the 2018 season when Adams had 111 receptions for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns in 15 games. 

Beyond Adams, no one else on the team even surpassed 500 yards receiving in 2019. Allen Lazard ended the season at 477 and Jones wasn’t far behind with 474. Don’t sleep on Marquez Valdes-Scantling entering his third year in the league. Reports out of training camp sure make it seem like he’s finally putting it all together. He’s been the subject of a ton of praise from the quarterback, head coach, and his fellow receivers. He’s also my sleeper to score the first touchdown of the season for the Packers on Sunday against the Vikings. 

Predictions: Adams has a career year with over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, and at least four Packers finish the season with over 500 yards receiving (the last time that happened was 2012). 

“In the regular season, Rodgers ranks No. 1 in NFL history in passer rating, with a career rating of 102.4. He’s also the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000-plus yards and 25-plus touchdowns with four or fewer interceptions in a single season, something he did both in 2018 and 2019. This is Rodgers’ seventh season with over 4,000 passing yards and 10 or fewer interceptions,” I wrote in Feb. 

The Pro Football Hall of Fame tweeted a few days ago that one 2020 milestone to watch is that Aaron Rodgers only needs 3,054 yards to become the 11th quarterback to reach 5,000 career passing yards in NFL history. 

To date, Rodgers has thrown 364 touchdowns and only 84 interceptions. If Rodgers throws 36 touchdowns before 16 interceptions, he’ll be the only quarterback in NFL history to achieve 400 touchdowns with less than 100 interceptions. 

Predictions: Rodgers has his 8th such season with 4,000-plus yards and fewer than 10 interceptions, but he won’t hit 400 touchdowns until next season. (Rodgers has only thrown 36 or more touchdowns four times in his career.) 

Switching to the defense, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith became the first duo in Packers history to have 12-plus sacks in the same season. The duo ended 2019 with a combined 25.5 sacks during the regular season. The defense as a whole ended the season with 41 sacks, good for 16th in the NFL. 

By all accounts, second-year edge rusher Rashan Gary had the best training camp of any player. This is an explosive trio to watch. On the defensive line, Kenny Clark got paid this offseason and he’s still an ascending player in the league. He posted six sacks in back-to-back seasons. 

Green Bay blitzed only 139 times in 2019, which averages out to almost nine per game. For context, the Baltimore Ravens blitzed 329 times. The Packers were able to create quarterback pressures 21.8% of the time, while the Ravens generated pressure 23.4% of the time. What does that mean? That the Packers were able to consistently create pressure on defense without blitzing. That said, there’s still room for improvement here as the Packers ranked 23rd in pressures in 2019. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has got to be champing at the bit to get on the field with what he’s described as the most loaded edge unit he’s worked with in recent memory. 

Predictions: The Packers will be top-eight in sacks in 2020, and top-16 in pressures. (Weird choices for top lists? Sure, but with 32 teams I like my fractions clean.)

In the secondary, Green Bay finished the season with 17 interceptions, which tied for third in the NFL. Cornerback Kevin King, who like Jones is entering a contract season, led the team in interceptions with five. In fact, he was the only player to post more than two interceptions in 2019. Third-year pro Jaire Alexander posted two interceptions with 17 passes defensed. Safeties Adrian Amos (2 picks) and Darnell Savage (2 picks) are back for their second year together as a tandem, and that cohesion in the defensive backfield will only help this Packers secondary, returning four out of five starters in 2020. The only real change is Chandon Sullivan taking over the nickel role in place of Tramon Williams. 

Predictions: Two players will have four-plus interceptions in 2020, but the defense as a whole will have less picks than the previous year (17). 

Maybe you got all the way through this article and thought “Maggie, these aren’t even bold predictions. They’re lukewarm.” To which I would say “nowhere in here did I say these were bold takes, these are just my honest thoughts on how this season will go, and my predictions illustrate why I think the Packers will be a better all-around football team with a worse record.”

Or maybe you got all the way through this and thought “wow, this is way too optimistic, you’re such a homer.” And you know what? Fair. I can see why you would think that, but once again, “these are just my honest thoughts on how this season will go, and my predictions illustrate why I think the Packers will be a better all-around football team with a worse record.”

With that, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have real NFL football to write about for the next six months. It’s here and it’s glorious. Enjoy it, and Go Pack Go. 

 

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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 (21)

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nostradanus's picture

September 11, 2020 at 07:00 am

Good stuff Maggie and well researched thank you!

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 11, 2020 at 07:18 am

My prediction is this will be a better team then last year but will have a worse record. I am going to predict 11-5.

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stockholder's picture

September 11, 2020 at 10:39 am

A better team with a worse record. Why? That just doesn't fit. Same players. Experience Coach. Sensational drafting by BG. Or is it this simple. The playoff game in SF!! Did the players Over-achieve? Will we point to the lost of Bulaga and Martinez as the stats come in? Or BG? Regardless I enjoy the hype as much as the next person. But this season again will come down to Rodgers. And for #12 to be his Hall of Fame self. It will take more than Adams. He needs what BG didn't get him. He needs Lefluer to let him be himself. But what Arron Rodgers needs: is more players to step up, and be the weapons that match the Hype. Last year the defense rescued Rodgers and LeFluer. Is the best yet to come? For Pettine sake I hope so. Being Optimistic hasn't worked in the past. And on paper, the 2010 defense was better. Hopefully the predictions won't matter. Nor the hype. It's up to Rodgers. Something every packer fan has known, year after year.

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murf7777's picture

September 11, 2020 at 08:20 am

Stockholder, If this team wants to win or even get to the SB they need more then AR. Specifically, the D will have to be Top 5. Not my prediction, more so a hopeful ending.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 11, 2020 at 12:18 pm

Would you believe me if I told you that all five of our Super Bowl appearances came in a season when we were a top five scoring defense?

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murf7777's picture

September 11, 2020 at 03:56 pm

Yes, and that was my point. I’m a firm believer that defense wins championships. A great O or QB helps get u there but rarely wins over a great D.

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Archie's picture

September 11, 2020 at 09:17 am

Better defense and better offense but less wins. Sounds right to me.

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 11, 2020 at 09:45 am

Thanks Maggie. OK, I know you’ve been waiting for my prediction and here it is. Once again I just don’t see how this team ever loses a game, so 16-0. Furthermore, I don’t see how any team even scores on us, but the ball is shaped funny, so I’m going to say we give up 24 total points this year. The offense will be totally dominant averaging around 45 points per game. Doing the math, this means we out score opponents by 720-24. Book it. I’m heading to Vegas...

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marpag1's picture

September 11, 2020 at 09:59 am

No safeties or defensive touchdowns??? Dude, that's so totally unrealistic...

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CJ Bauckham's picture

September 11, 2020 at 01:04 pm

I like your style, Doug

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LeotisHarris's picture

September 11, 2020 at 09:03 pm

There's only one person on this board who had the foresight to cut his own hair *before* the pandemic. Do not doubt the visionary powers of the man, the myth, the legend Doug_In_Sandpoint. So what if you were juuuuust a bit off last season. I'm with ya, buddy!

Go Pack!

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 11, 2020 at 11:30 pm

Only off by 3 last year. I’d take that again this year.

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Handsback's picture

September 11, 2020 at 10:45 am

I have to go with RC and say better team but worse won/lost record. WHY?
Because you can't expect the other teams to have the major injuries they did when the Packers played them.
You can't expect the Packers to be as healthy as they were last year.
Packers have a softness issue, until they can slam the door shut on the run... they will always run the risk of losing to a more physical team.
Saying all of that, the Packers should beat the Viks by 10 points or more. They will win division again but lose to the Cowboys in playoff. Green Bay's days are close at hand. Next year is when they bring that SB win home again.

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 11, 2020 at 11:41 am

"Because you can't expect the other teams to have the major injuries they did when the Packers played them."

Daniel Hunter and Von Miller say otherwise.

As for the Girls beating the Packers in the playoffs it's been a LONG time since that happenes. They have been close games but Rodgers has always found a way.

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Matt Gonzales's picture

September 11, 2020 at 11:10 am

Love the breakdowns. I don't think any games on the schedule are truly out of reach and it will come down to either making it holding off 4th quarter comebacks. I think 14-2 is just as possible as 10-6, but 11 or 12 wins seems the most likely. With the way the NFC West and South look this year, I don't think 10 wins is gonna get us into the dance unless it is enough to win the North.

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Leatherhead's picture

September 11, 2020 at 11:47 am

If you can win your 8 home games, you probably win the division. If you can win three division games on the road, it’s a sure thing.

Winning our home games means Lions, Vikings, Bears, Falcons, Jags, Iggles, Panthers,, and Titans .

I think we can win every one of those games at this point. I think our biggest road game is this weekend in Minnesota because road wins over division rivals are huge.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Maggie’s prognostications appear to have Arod having quite a bit of production but I wonder if she’s considered we might have Rodgers throwing less?

In 2018, we had Rodgers throwing 640 times, on a bad leg he got in the opener. Coach gets fired, new coach comes in only throws 573 passes. That’s more than four times a game less. We also ran it about six more times.

I would predict we’ll see more of that. We could see the Packers throw it only about 540 times, or even less. I wouldn’t be surprised if our RBs averaged 40 touches/game.

So if Rodgers is throwing less, and throwing shorter, then it’s going to make it harder to hit 4000 yards, or hit the volume goals. But IMO, Rodgers value is his ability to protect the ball and execute, even under pressure. If you can protect him and keep him healthy then you’ve got a good shot. But protecting him means not giving your opponent opportunities to hit him very much.....by running and throwing short.

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Tarynfor12's picture

September 11, 2020 at 01:04 pm

I got the Packers to win the over 8.5 but I don't expect them to get double digit wins. This year, I win by skin of the chin with a 9-7 record and a playoff spot riding on getting win number 10.

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murf7777's picture

September 11, 2020 at 03:59 pm

Hmmm sounds like last year. I’d say 10 or more!!

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Nate-1980's picture

September 11, 2020 at 05:13 pm

I don’t see 9-7, what are the losses ?

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Tarynfor12's picture

September 11, 2020 at 05:52 pm

4-2 division with splits with Min and Det
NO, TB, SF, IND, and either Phi/Car/Ten

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CoachDino's picture

September 11, 2020 at 05:04 pm

I'm telling you another very good article from the CheeseheadTV team. I can be a bit critical at times but I have to give props where props are due. I read plenty of packer news and analysis and CHTV has been IMHO better than these beat writers and paid sites as a whole.
Stock Up

love this article, spot on fact based analysis, we all love to debate, when you bring analysis based in facts, whether the conclusions turns out right/wrong or somewhere in between there's value. Drives engaging posts.

Looks like CHTV is coming out of the gate strong in the 2020 NFL Season....

Lets Go Pack!

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