Green Bay Packers: 2020 Schedule Preview

Aaron Rodgers Revenge Tour, coming to the NFC North this fall. At 37, Rodgers is still an elite quarterback, and now he has something to prove. The front office made it very clear in this past draft that they want to focus on the future of the franchise, one without Rodgers. 

What that says to me is the Packers organization doesn’t think the team can win with the great Aaron Rodgers anymore. I’m willing to bet that he sees the situation in a similar way, and a competitor like him won’t be able to eat, sleep, talk, walk, move, or breathe without proving them wrong. This season is personal for him and I think he will be an MVP candidate because of it.

After a 13-3 record and falling short one game of the Super Bowl, it’s not like this Packers team needed to start from scratch. All they needed was a little bit of help in certain areas, and they didn’t get it. The loss of starting middle linebacker Blake Martinez certainly hurts the already-depleted 2nd level of that defense, and the addition of the ever-so-unreliable Devin Funchess isn’t going to fix their wide receiver issues. 

The Packers needed certain things this offseason to be considered Super Bowl Contenders, and they didn’t get those things. Now, the only question is whether Aaron Rodgers will pick up the slack with his newfound determination. So, let’s see who will be on the receiving end of Rodgers’ discount double-check this year. 

Week 1: Sunday, @ Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 EST – W (1-0)

This game is about matchups. What weaknesses does each team have that the other can exploit? I just don’t see how the Vikings are going to contain Aaron Rodgers in this passing game. It’s week one and the Vikings are starting two unproven corners with little-to-no experience. Mike Hughes has started five games in his two-year career and Jeff Gladney is a rookie who was taken with the second-to-last pick in the first round. 

These guys have talent, there is no question about that, but the Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams connection is going to be open for business all game long. Adams is going to have those corners on skates all game, and even Allen Lazard is good enough to shake these guys in coverage. I just don’t think this Vikings’ secondary will be able to hold down the fort, even at home. 

Week 2: Sunday, Detroit Lions, 1:00 EST – W (2-0)

I’ll put it simply: Aaron Rodgers owns the Detroit Lions. In his career, Rodgers is 13-5 with a 109.0 passer rating against them. The Lions’ rebuild is just getting started, and their team is simply incomplete. I would say they have some potential, but any player worth having will probably just retire in the middle of their prime. That’s kind of the Lion way. 

Anyways, the second level of that defense is going to be subject to a lot of punishment from running backs this season, and Aaron Jones is no exception. Also, a rookie Jeff Okudah can’t even hold Darius Slay’s jock, and the Lions are going to feel that this season. They may be named the Lions, but make no mistake, this defense will be preyed upon by opposing offenses next season.

Week 3: Sunday, @ New Orleans Saints, 8:20 EST – L (2-1)

brees

Primetime Drew Brees in the Superdome is just a different beast. In 17 games under those conditions, these are Brees’ stats: 484/656 (73.78 CMP%), 5,717 yards, 56 TD, 6 INT, 8.71 YPA, 336.29 YPG. I don’t think I need to speak more about that aspect.

Otherwise, this Saints roster is ironclad. There are very few weaknesses for the Packers to attack. The Saints secondary is tough to beat (especially now with veteran superstar Malcolm Jenkins), their pass rush is dominant, and their offensive weaponry is insane. This game could look pretty similar to Aaron Rodgers’ Game of Thrones cameo (he got blown up). 

Week 4: Monday, Atlanta Falcons, 8:15 EST – W (3-1)

The Falcons, yet again, are in trouble, not because they have to play the Packers or because they have a lot of injuries, but their team just isn’t very good. Todd Gurley just isn’t the same player with this knee injury. He can’t carry the workload he once could, and the Falcons 24th ranked offensive line in terms of run blocking, according to Football Outsiders, certainly won’t help his durability.

Similar to the Vikings, the Falcons have two very inexperienced starting corners that Aaron Rodgers can pick away at all game. On the second level, Deion Jones is their only capable off-ball linebacker and their defensive line can’t even be considered mediocre. The only way the Falcons win this game is by putting up 30+ points, and even then, that is no guarantee for a win. 

Week 5: BYE

Week 6: Sunday, @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 4:25 EST – L (3-2)

shaq barrett

Tom Brady v Aaron Rodgers. The GOAT vs… the guy who only people from Wisconsin think is in the GOAT conversation. But in all seriousness, this matchup is going to be fun to watch. I think the Packers lose this game, but not because I am buying into the hype around Tampa Bay this year, but because of the layout of the Bucs defense. The Bucs have a top-3 run defense in the league, and a lot of the Packers offense revolves around being efficient running the football because of their reliance on play-action in the passing game. 

If the Packers are going to have a shot in this game, they will have to rely on Aaron Rodgers and his ragtag group of receivers. This is one of those games that may have gone differently if Rodgers had gotten the help he needed at receiver this offseason. Tampa Bay is going to put up points in this game; the Packers secondary can’t stop Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. It’ll be close, but I think Brady will get the better of Rodgers this time around. 

Week 7:  Sunday, @ Houston Texans, 1:00 EST – W (4-2)

The Texans franchise has taken a nosedive this offseason. I don’t care if Brandin Cooks grew four inches and shaved 0.1 seconds off his already blazing fast 40-yard dash time; he’s no DeAndre Hopkins. Another factor that needs to be considered is that it just seems like everyone has given up on Bill O’Brien. If this team will play for anyone, it’s going to have to be for Deshaun Watson. 

Unfortunately, that might be a bit difficult because Watson will likely end up on his back before the end of most plays, just like last year. This Texans pass protection (and run blocking for that matter) is honestly kind of sad to watch, and the Smith brothers coming off the edges for the Packers won’t waste any time taking Watson to the turf. That will be the difference-maker in this game, and because of it, the Texans don’t stand a chance.

Week 8:  Sunday, Minnesota Vikings, 1:00 EST – L (4-3)

gladney

Wait, so they win the away game and lose the home game? What? Relax, I have my reasons. There are a lot of new additions to this Vikings team. Almost half of their defense either wasn’t on the team or didn’t start for them last season and considering how this virus is taking over, I don’t think team chemistry will be developed well in training camp. Now in Week 8, the team will have had time to build that chemistry and trust that needs to exist between the 11 players on that field. The Vikings are a good team with a lot of talent, and if Justin Jefferson acclimates to that Stefon Diggs role early on, the rest of the league may be in trouble.

Week 9:  Sunday, @ San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 EST – L (4-4)

The 49ers are the best team in the NFC hands down. There are very few weak links in their defense, and I expect that bunch to be top-2 in the league once again this year. On the other side of the ball, whatever holes exist in the Packers’ defense (aka the off-ball linebackers and Kevin King), you better believe Kyle Shanahan will find them and step on their necks. The 49ers are just better than the Packers within the realms of coaching, talent, and scheming, so it’s not hard to predict that they will win this game for the second year in a row.

Week 10: Sunday, Jacksonville Jaguars, 1:00 EST – W (5-4)

The Packers at home against the Jaguars isn’t even going to be fun to watch. Jacksonville is still rebuilding. The goal for them this year is to develop young talent, and that starts with their quarterback, Gardner Minshew. If you haven’t fallen victim to Minshew Mania yet, then get your life together and jump on the bandwagon, because this guy is awesome. Unfortunately, he’s not quite on Aaron Rodgers’ level, and neither is his team. The Packers have the Jaguars beat with almost every offensive and defensive matchup, so this game was an easy prediction.

Week 11: Sunday, @ Indianapolis Colts, 1:00 EST – W (6-4)

phillip

This should be a really fun game to watch, and even better if you’re a Packers fan. The Colts look completely rejuvenated with the ageless wonder, Philip Rivers, at the helm. Rivers may have the worst throwing motion of any quarterback in the league, but he can still sling it at 38. Rivers now has Marlon Mack and Jonathon Taylor to run behind the league’s best offensive line as well as speedster TY Hilton and rookie playmaker Michael Pittman Jr. on the outside at receiver. It’s safe to say this offense will put up some points, but will it be enough to make up for their below-average defense? 

Both their pass and run defense ranked 19th last season according to Football Outsiders, and they didn’t get a ton of help. DeForest Buckner will definitely shore up the middle of that defensive line, but Darius Leonard is their only capable linebacker, and they just added Xavier Rhodes as their second corner. Rhodes was probably the worst starting cornerback in the league last year and that is not an exaggeration. I just think the Packers offense will have a field day and Colts just won’t be able to catch up, especially in mid-season. You can pencil in Marlon Mack and/or TY Hilton on the Week 11 injury report right now.

Week 12: Sunday, Chicago Bears, 8:20 EST – W (7-4)

This divisional matchup won’t be much of rivalry this year, more like a double feature slaughter film. A few years ago, the Bears had an undisputed top-5 defense to go along with their mediocre offense. Now, after the losses that defense sustained during free agency, they have a borderline top-10 defense to complement their atrocious offense, led by their dumpster-fire quarterback situation. 

Chicago’s offensive line ranked 29th in run blocking and 21st in pass protection last year and no significant changes were made. This Packers front-7 can and will beat that o-line into submission. On offense, Green Bay can put up consistent points. They only scored less than 20 points three times in their 18 total games last season. One of those games was against the Bears, and they still won 10-3. The Bears’ offense is pitiful and I can’t see a scenario where they put up enough points to compete in this game. 

Week 13: Sunday, Philadelphia Eagles, 4:25 EST – W (8-4)

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles

Last season, the Packers lost to the Eagles at home 34-27; that won’t happen again this year. Letting go of Malcolm Jenkins was the worst decision the Eagles made this offseason, and it’s going to come back around to bite them in this game. Jenkins doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves, without him, the pathetic Eagles secondary from last year would have crumbled and the playoffs would have gone down with it.

Now, they did get Darius Slay, who will undoubtedly follow Davante Adams, but even Allen Lazard and Devin Funchess can torch the rest of that Eagles secondary. I think this game will be another shootout, but the absence of Jenkins will weigh heavily on the third level of their defense, and Rodgers will elevate the Packers to a huge win late in the season.

Week 14: Sunday, @ Detroit Lions, 1:00 EST – L (8-5)

Although Rodgers does own the Lions, he can’t play defense too. The Packers had a tough time with the Lions last season, winning both games by tight margins. Now that DeAndre Swift has some experience in the system and Jeff Okudah has gone head to head with the likes of Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Devante Adams, the Lions will start to pick up speed. Assuming Matthew Stafford and Kerryon Johnson aren’t already in a full-body cast at this point in the season, I think the Lions will surprise everyone in this game. If they get their two running backs to the inept second level of the Packers defense consistently, then the Lions will get a win in this one.  

Week 15: TBD, Carolina Panthers – W (9-5)

The Panthers secondary can’t handle Aaron Rodgers’ intelligence, arm strength, or ball placement. As much as I love Tre Boston as a Panthers fan, he isn’t the quickest of free safeties. If the Panthers want to contain the passing game, then they need to play cover three, and if they play cover three the Packers will hit short routes on the seams and in the flats all day long. There is no coverage the Panthers could play to contain Rodgers, not to mention with a weak linebacking core and an unproven offense. Even a classic superhero performance from Christian McCaffrey won’t be enough to compete in this game.

Week 16: Sunday, Tennessee Titans, 8:20 EST – W (10-5)

The Titans are coming off an AFC Championship run, they found their shiny new quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, and they have one of the best running backs in the league to run behind their top-notch offensive line. Their problem, once again, lies in the secondary. Kevin Byard gets a few picks one year and everyone thinks he’s the second coming, but Byard is far from the most efficient free safety in the league, and the Titans corners have consistently underperformed against competent opponents. Also, that offensive line that Derrick Henry loves so much isn’t nearly as kind to Ryan Tannehill. 

The Titans were dead last in the league in adjusted sack rate last year at 11.2%. That’s 1.4% worse than the next lowest team, the Washington Redskins. Now, some of that is Ryan Tannehill’s fault, some of that is the line’s, but it doesn’t really matter because the result is the same either way. To make matters worse, the Titans lost Pro Bowl tackle Jack Conklin in free agency. The Packers’ pass rush won’t break a sweat chasing down Tannehill, and neither will Rodgers as he throws 3 touchdowns in a Packers victory. 

Week 17: Sunday, @ Chicago Bears, 1:00 EST – W (11-5)

I doubt the Packers will have their playoff seed locked in before this game, which means all the starters will be playing. The NFC is incredibly competitive this year and I can see the Packers locked in a battle with the Vikings for the division title come Week 17. As for the game itself, it will likely go about as well as the first meeting. The Bears just can’t score points.

Conclusion

The Packers obviously didn’t fill the gaps in their roster this offseason, so it’s up to guys like WR Allen Lazard and LB Oren Burks to step up and play starting-caliber football. The motivation for this team is there. The owners and front office disrespected every single starting player by not drafting for this year’s team. That decision wasn’t just a slight at Aaron Rodgers, but everyone who will go to battle to win football games next season. I think that fact and the talent on this team are enough to count the Packers as playoff locks and Super Bowl hopefuls. 

The X-factor is, of course, Aaron Rodgers. The Packers play a lot of inadequate secondaries this season, so it really is Rodgers’ season to lose. If he plays MVP football in the regular season and that carries over to the playoffs, the Lombardi Trophy is coming home.

Sources:

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/team-defense/2019  

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/offensive-line/2019

https://www.fanduel.com/theduel/posts/6297910-drew-brees-has-unbelievable-numbers-at-home-in-primetime-since-2011