Green Bay Packers 2022 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

Two off-seasons ago, the Packers made the decision to move up in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft to select a potential franchise quarterback of the future in Jordan Love, rather than adding a supporting player around Rodgers or a defensive player, after falling short in the NFC Championship game the prior year. If the Packers thought Rodgers was on the decline, the move made sense, going into Rodgers’ age 37 season in 2020, but if the Packers thought that, they thought wrong, as Rodgers as bounced back with back-to-back MVP campaigns, having arguably the best two-year stretch of his Hall of Fame campaign, completing 69.8% of his passes for an average of 7.98 YPA, 85 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions combined across the two seasons, while going 26-6 in the regular season and finishing 1st and 4th among quarterbacks on PFF in the two seasons respectively.

Normally, Rodgers’ high level of play would be a good thing, but the Packers have failed to get it done in the playoffs in either season and the decision to select Rodgers’ replacement led to a rocky relationship between him and the front office, leading to Rodgers demanding a trade and threatening retirement last off-season, putting the team in a very tough position. Making matters worse, Jordan Love has failed to develop behind the scenes, leaving the Packers without a viable replacement if they had accommodated Rodgers’ request. Rodgers ultimately returned in 2021, but with the understanding that he would get future concessions this off-season, including potentially the accommodation of his trade request.

It seemed like Rodgers might request a trade to an organization where he felt he had a better chance to win, especially with #1 wide receiver Davante Adams seemingly likely to be elsewhere long-term, unhappy with being franchise tagged by the Packers. However, instead the only concessions Rodgers got out of his holdout was more money, becoming the highest paid quarterback in the league in terms of average annual average on a 3-year, 150.815 million dollar extension that is functionally fully guaranteed, keeping him in Green Bay for the foreseeable future. That’s despite the fact that Adams was traded to the Raiders for a first and a second round pick, with Adams preferring to play with his college teammate Derek Carr long-term over Rodgers, who is now in his age 39 season and has openly contemplated retirement.

Overall, it doesn’t seem like Rodgers got much out of his staring contest with the front office outside of more money and, while Adams may have left either way, Rodgers’ perpetual wishy-washiness about his future probably in some way contributed to Adams feeling that he would be off better elsewhere long-term. Rodgers still should remain one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but at his age, he probably won’t quite match his level of play from the past two seasons, even though he would probably need to elevate his level of play for this offense to be as good as they have been the past two seasons (5th and 4th in efficiency rating), to make up for the loss of his top receiver.

Jordan Love remains as the backup, but he doesn’t seem to have any long-term future in Green Bay and likely would have been traded this off-season if the Packers could have gotten a good offer for him. Love made his first career start in Rodgers’ absence last season and played the second half of their meaningless week 18 game against the Lions, but he didn’t show much, completing just 58.1% of his passes for an average of 6.63 YPA, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, leading the Packers to two of their four losses all season. 

Love could still have untapped upside and could be a better backup this season, but with Rodgers now under contract significantly longer than Love, it’s likely that if Love ever gets a chance to be a full-time starter it will be elsewhere. Rodgers has also stayed mostly healthy throughout his career, only missing multiple games twice in 14 seasons as a starter. Needless to say, Rodgers continuing to stay healthy is key to the Packers’ ultimate goals this season, though Love could potentially hold down the fort for a few games if needed if he takes a step forward as a quarterback.

Grade: A

Receiving Corps

It wasn’t just Davante Adams leaving this off-season, after finishing 1st among wide receivers in overall grade on PFF and totaling a 123/1553/11 slash line with 2.82 yards per route run, as the Packers also lost fellow starter Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who only had a 26/430/3 slash line, but that’s largely due to the fact that he missed 6 games with injury and he still averaged a decent 1.43 yards per route run. The Packers also didn’t find any obvious replacements for Adams this off-season, only taking a veteran flyer on Sammy Watkins and adding a trio of wide receivers in the draft, 2nd round pick Christian Watson, 4th round Romeo Doubs, 7th round Samori Toure, who have varying upside, but are not necessarily likely to contribute in a big way right away.

Those four newcomers will compete for roles with a few holdovers, Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard, who saw significant roles last season, and Amari Rodgers, a 2021 3rd round pick who couldn’t break into a weak depth chart as a rookie, playing just 103 offensive snaps, but who still has upside long-term. Cobb has by far the most experience playing with Aaron Rodgers in this offense, spending the first 8 years of his career in Green Bay from 2011-2018, before spending a year each in Dallas and Houston and returning to the Packers in the 2021 season. 

Cobb averaged 1.68 yards per route run in his first stint in Green Bay and 1.49 yards per route run last season, but he only had a 28/375/5 slash line last season because he only played 371 snaps last season as a slot only option who missed 5 games with injury. Cobb also now heads into his age 32 season, having missed 19 games over the past 4 seasons combined, so he’s not a reliable option and probably won’t be more than a role player in this offense, even with plenty of opportunity opening up with Adams and Valdes-Scantling departing.

Lazard finished second on this team in receiving last season, with both Valdes-Scantling and Cobb missing significant time with injury, and the 2018 undrafted free agent is now heading into his 5th year with the team, after being re-signed this off-season. He has a good chance to take on a much bigger role this season, but he also only re-signed for 1-year, 3.986 million, so he isn’t locked into a role and he hasn’t been all that impressive thus far in his career, with his 40/513/8 slash line last season being a career high in receiving yardage. Lazard also averaged just 1.19 yards per route run to get to those totals in 2021 and, while his career average of 1.47 yards per route run is better, it’s still middling at best. Last season was also the biggest role of his career, with just 716 snaps played and 60 targets both being career highs, and he’s a projection to an even larger role.

Most likely, Lazard will compete for the primary outside receiving roles with Christian Watson, the highest drafted and most talented of their draft picks, and Sammy Watkins, with Cobb as the primary slot receiver and Amari Rodgers and the other young receivers providing depth with upside. Watkins also only signed a 1-year, 1.85 million dollar deal this off-season though, which suggests he’s also not guaranteed a role. 

Watkins once looked like was going to be one of the best wide receivers in the league for years to come, getting drafted 4th overall in 2014 and averaging 2.29 yards per route run with a 66/1016/7 slash line per 16 games in his first three seasons in the league. He missed 11 games between his 2nd and 3rd season in the league though, including 8 with a broken foot during his 3rd season in 2016, and he hasn’t been the same since, getting traded before the 2017 season, and averaging just 1.32 yards per route run in 5 seasons since, despite playing on some great offenses with the Rams, Chiefs, and Ravens. Injuries have remained a problem as well, missing at least some time in all five of those seasons, meaning his last full season was his rookie year.

Watkins is also coming off the worst season of his career from a receiving yardage standpoint, averaging 1.45 yards per route run, managing just a 27/394/1 slash line in 13 games, and getting phased out of the offense down the stretch, with his last catch coming in week 13. Watkins is still only going into his age 29 season, but it’s unlikely he has any upside remaining at this point. He could be productive due to volume in a wide open position group, but the Packers also are likely to spread the ball around to a bunch of receivers and Watkins is unlikely to be all that efficient either way.

With an unsettled group at wide receiver, the Packers could lean more on the tight end position in 2022, but their options are underwhelming at tight end as well. Robert Tonyan had a 52/586/11 slash line as Rodgers’ primary receiving tight end in 2020, averaging 1.58 yards per route run, but the 2017 undrafted free agent was a one-year starter and he was not in the middle of the same kind of season (1.06 yards per route run) when he suffered a torn ACL last year, ending his season and reportedly having him questionable for the start of this season. Even if he is ready for week 1, the chances of him bouncing back to his 2020 form are slim, having only shown that level of play for a full season once in his career, coming off of a significant injury.

Josiah Deguara was their primary receiving tight end in Tonyan’s absence last season and would remain in that role if Tonyan missed more time. Deguara was a 3rd round pick in 2020, so he also could see a role even if Tonyan is able to return for the start of the season, but Deguara wasn’t overly impressive in the first significant action of his career last season, averaging just 1.13 yards per route run and finishing as PFF’s 35th ranked tight end out of 44 eligible across 367 snaps. He could be better in year three, but I wouldn’t expect him to suddenly break out as a starting caliber tight end.

Veteran Marcedes Lewis also had an expanded role in the passing game without Tonyan last season and was actually decent, averaging 1.45 yards per route run, but that is his highest single season average since 2010, so it’s unlikely to happen again. Lewis is also heading into his age 38 season, though the big 6-6 270 pounder has yet to show many signs of declining further over the past few seasons, showing little pass catching ability, but remaining one of the better blocking specialists in the league. 

A significant drop off for Lewis is always a possibility considering his age, which would be a blow to this offense because they don’t have a good alternative run blocker, but Lewis also could just as easily remain a good blocking specialist. This is a very unsettled receiving corps, but there is some upside here and, even without anything resembling a true #1 receiver, Aaron Rodgers will probably make the most out of this group, spreading the ball around to multiple receivers.

Grade: C+

Running Backs

Running backs also figure to be a big part of the Packers’ passing game, possibly even more so than a year ago, when they attempted 106 passes to running backs, converting them into 79 catches. Aaron Jones was the Packers’ feature back in 2019 and 2020 and was their primary pass catching back in 2021, playing the majority of the passing snaps and totaling a 52/391/6 slash line with 1.24 yards per route run, but their other running back AJ Dillon was actually the one who led this team in carries (187 vs. 171 for Jones) and he had a significant passing game role as well, averaging 1.57 yards per route run, significantly more efficient than Jones, while totaling a 34/313/2 slash line.

Jones was re-signed by the Packers as a free agent last off-season on a 4-year, 48 million dollar deal that makes him the 7th highest paid running back in the league, after averaging 5.17 YPC on 651 carries and averaging 1.21 yards per route run across his first four seasons with the team that drafted him in the 5th round in 2018, but Dillon was a 2nd round pick in 2020 and, while he was drafted at a time when Jones’ long-term future with the team was in doubt, he has more than earned at least an equal share of the carries with Jones. Dillon’s 4.30 YPC was below Jones’ 4.67 YPC average in 2021, but Dillon consistently ran in tougher running situations and kept the offense on schedule more often, leading the league with a 63% carry success rate, with Jones ranked 32nd at 50%.

Overall, Dillon finished his second season in the league as PFF’s 3rd ranked running back, while Jones ranked 6th in his own right, his 3rd season in the top-6 among running backs on PFF in five seasons in the league (top-15 all in all 5 seasons). Dillon didn’t have much of a role as a rookie and is still relatively inexperienced, but he was highly efficient as a rookie as well and his lack of touches thus far in his career could help him stay fresher long-term, especially with Jones still around to split the workload with him. This tandem should be very effective together this season and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Dillon took over a larger workload, especially on passing downs, where he showed a lot of promise last season.

Depth isn’t a huge need at this position because either Jones or Dillon are capable of being the feature back for a few games if the other is injured, but the 3rd running back job is likely to go to either 2021 7th round pick Kylin Hill, who had 10 carries as a rookie, or 2020 undrafted free agent Patrick Taylor, who had the first 23 carries of his career last season, making them the only other running backs on this roster with any NFL experience. Still, this is one of the best backfields in the league, given the two backs atop the depth chart.

Grade: A

Offensive Line

If there is a good reason to expect the Packers to remain as good on offense as they were last season even without Adams, it’s the Packers’ offensive line, which was a weakness last season, primarily due to the fact that they were arguably the most injury plagued offensive line in the league. Already without center Corey Linsley from the year before, replacing the departed free agent and PFF’s #1 ranked center in 2020 with a 2nd round rookie Josh Myers, the Packers also were without left tackle David Bakhtiari for most of the season while he recovered from a torn ACL that he suffered before last year’s playoffs, limiting him to only 27 snaps in a meaningless week 18 game in 2021, struggling so much in that game that he was inactive in the post-season, despite being a top-11 offensive tackle on PFF in the previous 4 seasons, including three finishes in the top-2.

On top of that, Josh Myers missed most of the season with an injury of his own, limited to 293 snaps in 6 games, forcing expected starting guard Lucas Patrick to move to center, where he finished 33rd out of 41 eligible at the position, while fellow expected starting guard Elgton Jenkins moved to left tackle in Bakhtiari’s absence and had been excelling, ranking 12th among offensive tackles on PFF in 8 starts, prior to suffering a torn ACL of his own, which puts his status for the start of 2022 in doubt. With right tackle Billy Turner missing four games of his own this season, the Packers routinely started 3-4 players every week that they were expecting to be backups or that they were expecting to start at a different position.

Jenkins, Bakhtiari, and Myers all should see more action this season than the year before, but this is still an unsettled group. Bakhtiari and Myers will likely go back into their starting roles at left tackle and center respectively. Bakhtiari is unlikely to be as good as he has been in the past, coming off of a significant injury, now heading into his age 31 season, but his return should still be a big boost for this offense, while Myers showed some potential as a rookie and could develop into a solid full-time starter in his second season in the league, which would made him an obvious upgrade on Lucas Patrick, who struggled for most of last season and is no longer with the team.

Whenever he returns, Jenkins could kick back inside to guard, where he finished 20th and 25th at the position across 14 starts and 16 starts in the 2019 2nd round’s first two seasons in the league respectively, or he could stay at tackle where he was having the best year of his career pre-injury and move over to the right side, replacing departed free agent Billy Turner, who earned a slightly above average grade from PFF across his 13 starts. Wherever Jenkins ends up, he should be at least an above average starter, but he could miss time and it’s very possible he isn’t 100% when he returns. 

If Jenkins moves back inside, Yosuah Nijman, who made 8 starts at left tackle last season when Baktiari and Jenkins were both out, would likely then be the right tackle. Nijman was decent in his starts last season, but he is still just a 2019 undrafted free agent who had never made a start in his career prior to last season, so he would be a projection to a full-time starting role, even if he could still ultimately wind up as a capable starter. If Jenkins stays outside, the starting guards will likely remain Royce Newman and Jon Runyan, who both made 16 starts at guard last season, with Jenkins moving to left tackle and getting hurt and Lucas Patrick moving to center.

Runyan, a 2020 6th round pick, earned a slightly above average grade from PFF in his first full season as a starter and will likely remain a starting guard in 2022 regardless of what happens elsewhere on the line, with Newman being much more likely to move to the bench if Jenkins moves back inside than Runyan is. Runyan is still unproven and wasn’t drafted highly, so he might not have a huge upside and could regress a little in 2022, but he also could remain a solid starter long-term. Newman also has some upside, but the 2021 4th round pick struggled as a rookie, finishing 70th out of 90 eligible guards on PFF, and would probably be best as a backup.

The Packers also added Sean Rhyan and Cameron Tom in the 3rd and 4th round of this year’s draft and, while Rhyan was a collegiate tackle and Tom played both tackle and center in college, both could project best as guards long-term. It’s unlikely either seriously pushes for a starting job as a rookie though, barring injuries or significant struggles ahead of them on the depth chart, but they could still provide valuable, versatile depth, much needed on an offensive line with several key players coming off of injury. This should be a much better group by default than last year, just as a result of their improved health, even if they probably still don’t have the same upside as a unit as they had in 2020.

Grade: B+

Edge Defenders

The Packers were healthier on defense than offense in 2021, having the 7th fewest adjusted games lost to injury on defense, as opposed to the 8th most on offense, mostly concentrated on the offensive line. However, the few injuries the Packers had on defense impacted some of their best players, including edge defender Za’Darius Smith, who was PFF’s 15th ranked edge defender in 2020 and their 2nd ranked edge defender in 2019, but played just 18 snaps last season before going down for the season with a back injury.

The Packers actually got good play in his absence though, with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith finishing 5th and 13rd respectively among edge defenders on PFF across 681 snaps and 688 snaps respectively, playing well enough that the Packers decided to part ways with Smith this off-season, releasing him ahead of a 15.75 million dollar non-guaranteed salary for his age 30 season in 2022. Some of that money went towards extending Smith on a 4-year, 52 million dollar deal, ahead of what would have been the final year of his contract in 2022, while some will likely eventually go to Gary, a 2019 1st round pick in the final cheap year of his rookie deal, owed 10.892 million guaranteed in 2023 and then likely due a significant raise on a long-term extension beyond that.

Both players could struggle to repeat their 2021 season though, given that they were the highest finishes of their careers on PFF. Smith is an experienced player, playing 748 snaps per season in 7 seasons in the league and earning an average or better grade from PFF in 6 of his 7 seasons in the league, but his previous best finish among edge defenders came when he finished 22nd in 2018, he’s now going into his age 30 season, and he actually had the worst season of his career as recently as 2020, when he was PFF’s 108th ranked edge defender among 124 eligible, so I would expect him to regress in 2022, possibly significantly, even if he is still likely to remain at least a solid starter, as he has been for most of his career.

Gary has a higher upside, as a recent high upside first round pick who is only in his age 26 season, but he’s much less proven, earning more middling grades from PFF on snap counts of just 244 and 456 respectively in his first two seasons in the league prior to last season’s breakout year. It’s possible he’s permanently turned a corner and will remain an elite edge defender or possibly even improve further, but he also could regress a little and find last season’s performance tough to repeat. He’s still likely to be an above average player either way though and he and Smith still made a good duo, even if they’re not likely to be as good together as they were a year ago.

Depth becomes the concern with Za’Darius Smith gone. Jonathan Garvin (396 snaps) and Tipa Galeai (152 snaps) were their top reserves a year ago, but they were just a 7th round pick and undrafted free agent respectively in 2020 and did not show much in the first notable action of their careers in 2021, so they are underwhelming options if one of their starters gets hurt. Without better options, however, those two will likely remain the top reserves, along with possibly Kingsley Enagbare, a 5th round rookie who would likely be too raw to see significant action in year one. With the starters likely to not be as good as a year ago and the reserves being a questionable bunch, this isn’t an elite position group, but Smith and Gary are still at least a solid edge defender duo with a high upside.

Grade: B+

Interior Defenders

The Packers lost reserve interior defenders Tyler Lancaster (318 snaps) and Kinglsey Keke (393 snaps) this off-season and Lancaster was a solid base package run stopper, while Keke was a solid sub package rusher, totaling 6.5 sacks, 6 hits, and a 8.6% pressure rate in a part-time role in 27 games over the past two seasons, so those aren’t insignificant losses. However, the Packers have done a good job adding replacements for them this off-season and probably have a more talented position group overall as a result. 

The biggest addition they made was first round pick Devante Wyatt, who has a huge upside and should have a significant role immediately as a rookie. The Packers also signed veteran Jarran Reed to a 1-year, 4 million dollar deal in free agency and he figures to have a significant role as well. Reed has been a solid pass rusher through his 6-year career, with 24.5 sacks, 49 hits, and a 7.1% pressure rate in 89 career games, but his run defense has always left something to be desired, he’s never finished higher than 71st among interior defenders on PFF for a season, he’s now going into his age 30 season, and he’s coming off of a down 2021 campaign, in which he continued struggling against the run, but also managed just a 6.2% pressure rate and finished as PFF’s 122nd ranked interior defender overall out of 146 eligible across 711 snaps. 

Last season was the worst season of Reed’s career and he’s not necessarily going to be that bad again in 2022, but his best days are almost definitely behind him, and he isn’t much more than a decent rotational player at this point in his career, unlikely to see that same snap count in a deeper position group with the Packers. The Packers could also get more in 2022 out of 2021 5th round pick Tedarrell Slaton, who played 255 nondescript snaps in his rookie season as a reserve and who could be better in year two, even if his snap count remains around the same.

The Packers’ off-season additions most likely come at the expense of Dean Lowry’s playing time, with Lowry probably unlikely to see the 652 snaps per season he’s seen over the past four years. Lowry hasn’t been bad over that 4-year stretch though, holding up against the run and consistently rushing the passer, totaling 11 sacks, 10 hits, and a 7.7% pressure rate in 67 games, while earning at least an average grade from PFF in all four seasons, with his best years coming in 2018 (46th) and last season (36th). Still only in his age 28 season, having only ever missed one game due to injury in his career, Lowry figures to continue being a useful player in a rotational role in 2022, which could be his final season with the team, set to hit free agency next off-season, with the Packers seemingly drafting his long-term replacement in Devante Wyatt.

Kenny Clark was the Packers’ leader in snaps played at the position was 781 last season and he should have a similar snap count in 2022, even in a deeper position group, as he is one of their best overall defensive players and is too valuable to take off the field regularly. A first round pick in 2016, Clark became a starter in his 2nd season in the league and has not looked back, finishing 10th, 9th, 13th, 30th, and 15th among interior defenders across the past five seasons respectively on an average of 730 snaps per season, playing the run at a high level at 6-3 315 and also adding 22.5 sacks, 27 hits, and a 10.7% pressure rate in 73 games over that stretch. Still only in his age 27 season, with minimal injury history (8 games missed in 6 seasons in the league), I see no reason to expect anything different from him in 2022. He leads a position group that overall looks more talented than a year ago and could have a big upside, depending on how much of an impact the rookie Devante Wyatt has in year one.

Grade: B+

Linebackers

The most surprising part of this defense last year and the biggest reason they were able to have a similar defensive performance in 2021 as they did in 2020 (16th in defensive efficiency in 2020, 17th in 2021) was the addition of De’Vondre Campbell, who was only signed to a 1-year, 2 million dollar deal in free agency, but who wound up playing at a high level as an every down player at a position that was a big weakness the year prior, finishing 3rd among off ball linebackers on PFF across 987 snaps.

That performance really came out of nowhere as it’s not as if Campbell was some unproven young player. Selected in the 4th round in 2016, Campbell had started 70 of the 75 games he played in his first 5 seasons in the league prior to last season, but he never finished higher than 31st among off ball linebackers on PFF in any of those seasons, doing so way back in 2017, while finishing 73rd out of 99 eligible off ball linebackers across 880 snaps as recently as the 2020 season, before suddenly breaking out as one of the best players in the league at his position in his 6th season in the league.

Given that, it’s reasonable to be skeptical that Campbell can repeat that performance or even come close to it in 2022, now in his age 29 season, but there’s no denying he’s earned the opportunity to continue playing every down and there’s a good chance he remains at least a solid player in that role, even if he is very unlikely to have an elite level season again. The Packers clearly agree he can be an every down player for them for at least the next couple years, giving him a huge raise ahead of free agency this off-season, making him the 11th highest paid off ball linebacker in the league in average annual salary on a 5-year, 50 million dollar deal that effectively guarantees him 21.5 million over the next two seasons.

With Campbell being unlikely to match last season’s performance, the Packers will need more from the rest of this linebacking corps, which remained a weakness last season, with Krys Barnes (526 snaps) and Oren Burks (206 snaps) finishing 62nd and 55th respectively among 101 eligible off ball linebackers as their top off ball linebackers after Campbell. However, the Packers addressed that need in a big way this off-season, using their other first round pick on Quay Walker, who figures to start and play a significant role opposite Campbell. 

Walker could have some growing pains as a rookie, but it wouldn’t be hard for him to be an upgrade on Barnes, a 2020 undrafted free agent who also struggled as a rookie (86th out of 99 eligible on 421 snaps) and now will be a reserve, and Walker has a sky high upside long-term as well. Campbell probably won’t be as good as a year ago and depth is still a concern beyond the starters, but Campbell and Walker are one of the few starting off ball linebacker duos who both could be above average in an every down role.

Grade: B+

Cornerbacks

Along with Za’Darius Smith, another key player who missed significant time with injury on this defense in 2021 was top cornerback Jaire Alexander, who was limited to just 219 snaps in 4 games by a shoulder injury. Like Smith, Alexander was one of the best players in the league at his position prior to the injury, being selected in the first round in 2018, finishing 32nd and 26th among cornerbacks on PFF in his first two seasons in the league, and then breaking out with a #1 finish among cornerbacks in 2020. Alexander also looked on his way to a similar season in 2021 before his injury, ranking 8th among cornerbacks on PFF at the time he got hurt.

Unlike the aging Smith, who the Packers moved on from this off-season, Alexander is still in the prime of his career, going into his age 25 season, so he obviously wasn’t going anywhere this off-season, in fact being kept long-term on a 4-year, 84 million dollar extension ahead of what would have been the final year of his rookie deal in 2022. That contract makes Alexander the highest paid cornerback in the league in average annual value, but he’s proven to be an elite cornerback when healthy and he has only missed 4 games in 3 seasons aside from last season, so he could easily prove to be a good value on that contract, especially as other top cornerbacks get paid and push him down the average annual value list.

The Packers actually got pretty good play in Alexander’s absence last season from another unlikely source, Rasul Douglas, who, like De’Vondre Campbell, had a breakout season out of nowhere. A 3rd round pick in 2017, Douglas had mostly been a part-time player throughout his career, earning mostly middling grades from PFF and finishing as PFF’s 71st ranked cornerback out of 136 eligible across a career high 821 snaps in 2020, before breaking out as PFF’s 19th ranked cornerback across 680 snaps in Alexander’s absence last season.

Douglas is only in his age 27 season and has a better chance to just be a late bloomer than Campbell, but there’s also a good chance he regresses significantly from a year ago. He could still be a useful player though and was not a bad re-signing on a 3-year, 21 million dollar deal. With Alexander returning, Douglas is more of a replacement for Chandon Sullivan, who struggled across 826 snaps last season, finishing 110th out of 134 eligible cornerbacks on PFF, meaning Douglas is likely to be an upgrade. 

Second year cornerback Eric Stokes also remains and will start outside opposite Alexander, to give the Packers a top-3 of Alexander, Stokes, and Douglas. Stokes was a little inconsistent as a rookie, but the 2020 1st round pick still earned a slightly above average grade overall from PFF and has the upside to be a high-level cornerback long-term. Development is not always linear, but it shouldn’t be a surprise at all if he takes a significant step forward in year two.

The Packers should have a good top-3 cornerback trio, but depth looks like a big concern, with fellow experienced players Isaac Yiadom and Kevin King following Chandon Sullivan out the door this off-season. None of those players showed much last season, but they were at least experienced, which is more than you can say about the Packers’ reserves this season, with their top reserve candidates being 2021 5th round pick Shemar Jean-Charles, who played just 38 snaps as a rookie, primarily at safety, and Keisean Nixon, a 2019 undrafted free agent who has played just 273 snaps in three seasons in the league and who was only added this off-season after being waived by the Raiders. It’s a concerning situation with Alexander coming off of a significant injury and Douglas having a history of inconsistency.

At safety, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage remain as the starters, both having been starters since joining the team before the 2019 season. Amos was a free agent acquisition and has proven to be a great value on a 4-year, 36 million dollar deal, only being the 10th highest paid safety in the league in average annual value as of this writing and finishing 17th, 2nd, and 19th among safeties on PFF, continuing the high level of play he showed in his final two seasons in Chicago prior to signing with the Packers, when he finished 3rd and 10th respectively among safeties on PFF. Still only in his age 29 season, having shown no signs of slowing down and having only missed 4 games in 7 seasons in the league, Amos seems likely to continue his usual level of play in 2022.

Savage, on the other hand, was a first round pick and has given the Packers mixed results, starting all 46 games he has played in three seasons in the league, but going from a middling grade as a rookie, to a 10th ranked finish among safeties in what seemed like a breakout year two, to a career worst 69th out of 98 eligible safeties in his third season in the league in 2021, when he allowed a career high in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, while recording a career low amount of run stops. Savage is only in his age 25 season and still has time to develop into a consistently above average safety long-term, so I would expect him to be better than a year ago, but it’s possible he’s only better by default and doesn’t approach his 2020 level of play in 2022. 

Depth is also a concern at safety, with top reserve Henry Black, also an occasional coverage linebacker in sub packages, signing with the Giants this off-season, leaving Vernon Scott, a 2020 7th round pick who has played just 90 career snaps, and 7th round rookie Tariq Carpenter as their top reserve options, with hybrid cornerback/safety Shemar Jean-Charles also a candidate for a reserve role, all of whom would almost definitely struggle if an injury pushed them into the starting lineup for an extended period of time. The Packers have a good starting five in the secondary, but depth is a concern across the board, which hurts this group’s overall grade.

Grade: B+

Special Teams

Special teams was the Packers’ biggest problem a year ago, ranking dead last in special teams DVOA, and, while they could be a little better by default this season, things don’t look noticeably different. In fact, one of the few changes to this group this off-season was the departure of their top core special teamer Henry Black, their only core special teamer to finish in the top-50 at his position on PFF and someone who was not replaced this off-season.

Punter Corey Bojorquez has been replaced with Pat O’Donnell, but that is a lateral move, as O’Donnell has underwhelmed throughout his 8 seasons in the league with the Bears, including a 24th ranked finish out of 35 eligible punters on PFF last season. Mason Crosby returns after being one of the worst kickers in the league in 2021, finishing 31st among 36 eligible kickers on PFF. He’s been better in the past, with last year being his lowest PFF grade of his 15-year NFL career, but he’s also in his age 38 season now and could continue to struggle. The Packers’ return game was also an issue a year ago and, without better supporting play, that is likely to continue to be the case in 2022, unless second year returner Amari Rodgers can take a big step forward this season. Any way you look at it, this is likely to be one of the worst special teams in the league again this season.

Grade: C

Conclusion

The Packers were likely to see their win total regress regardless in 2022, needing to go 6-3 in games decided by 8 points or fewer to go 13-4 last season, finishing with just a +79 point differential (10th in the NFL) and a 11th ranked overall efficiency. A high winning percentage in close games is tough to sustain long-term, with even Aaron Rodgers winning just 56.6% of the games he has played in his career which have been decided by 8 points or fewer. However, on top of that, the Packers will be dealing with the loss of Davante Adams on offense, while Rodgers is now going into his age 39 season and would have been unlikely to repeat two of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career even if Adams didn’t leave.

The Packers will get key players like David Bakhtiari and Jaire Alexander back from injury, while Elgton Jenkins will likely return at some point, even if not week 1, but they also have players like De’Vondre Campbell, Preston Smith, and Rasul Douglas who could struggle to repeat by far the best season of their careers. This is still a strong team on paper, with a quarterback who is likely to be one of the best in the league even if he isn’t quite MVP caliber again, but their Super Bowl chances seem worse than a year ago. I will have a final prediction at the end of the off-season when all previews are completed.

Prediction: TBD, TBD in NFC North

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers: 2021 NFC Divisional Round Pick

San Francisco 49ers (11-7) at Green Bay Packers (13-4)

The Packers finished tied for the best record in the NFL and earned the NFC’s #1 seed on tiebreakers, giving them a first round bye and homefield advantage through to the Super Bowl, but they were not necessarily the most impressive team in the league week-to-week, with many of their wins coming in close fashion. In fact, their +79 point differential ranks just 10th in the NFL and is barely ahead of their opponents this week, as the 49ers are at +62 on the season (+68 if you include the first round of the post-season).

The Packers did not have Aaron Rodgers for a game and a half, while another half Rodgers did play was a meaningless game against the Lions, so it’s probably not fair to hold that against their point differential and you could make the argument that their week one blowout loss in New Orleans was a complete fluke that should be disregarded as well, but even if you do that, they still only have the 5th best point differential in the NFL at +127. That’s a more significant edge over the 49ers’ point differential, but the 49ers are better in efficiency metrics, which are based on yards per play and first down rate, more predictive metrics than point differential. In terms of overall schedule adjusted mixed efficiency, the 49ers rank 7th, about 4.5 points ahead of the 14th ranked Packers.

Schedule adjusted mixed efficiency intentionally minimizes the impact of turnover margin, which is typically not predictive week-to-week, and that may not be appropriate for a team like Green Bay, who has one of the least turnover prone quarterbacks of all time and more consistently wins the turnover battle than other teams as a result (+13 this season). However, it is appropriate for the 49ers, who were able to have the point differential that they had this season despite a -4 turnover margin and are clearly closer to the Packers than these two teams’ records show. 

Despite these two teams being closer than their records show in the regular season, the Packers are 6-point home favorites in this game. There are two reasons for that, but I’m not sure if either reason is legitimate enough to justify the line being this high. For one, the Packers are a dominant home team with Aaron Rodgers under center, going 50-23 ATS at home in games Rodgers starts and finishes in front of crowds with fans, with Rodgers recording a QB rating that is about 10 points higher at home than on the road and in his career. That was especially true this season, as the Packers won all eight games they won at home with six multi-score wins, while losing four of their nine road games and winning just once by multiple scores.

However, if we look at just the post-season, the Packers’ record drops to 4-4 ATS at home with just two wins by 6 or more points in eight games and, beyond the wild card round, that drops even further to 2-3 ATS with one win by more than 6 points in 5 tries, so I am not as worried about going against the Packers in Green Bay as I would be in the regular season, especially with a 6-point cushion and a high level opponent coming to town (just one of the Packers’ home games this season came against a team with double digit wins).

The other reason the Packers are favored by this many is that they are getting several key players back who have been missing for all or most of the season, with left tackle David Bakhtiari only making his season debut in last week’s meaningless game against the Lions after missing all of the season, cornerback Jaire Alexander expected to play for the first time since week 3, and edge defender Za’Darius Smith expected to play for the first time all season. 

All three of those players were among the best in the league at their respective positions in 2020, and, with them back in the lineup, the Packers much more closely resemble last year’s team, which ranked 3rd in the NFL in point differential, so their return is definitely a boost to this team, but all three have been out of real action for so long and were limited in practice this week, so it’s fair to question if any of the three will be at their top form. If they are not, it’s really hard to justify this line being this high.

The 49ers, meanwhile, have been healthier for weeks and it’s shown in their play on the field, as they have won 8 of their last 10 games since a 3-5 start when they were more injury plagued. Over that 10-game stretch, the 49ers have gone 4-1 against playoff qualifiers, including last week’s win in Dallas, and have only lost by margins of 3 points and 7 points, in games in which the 49ers won the yards per play and first down rate battles. They have a very good chance of keeping this game close in Green Bay and even of pulling the straight-up upset, so I am very confident getting 6 points with them. I would still take the 49ers at +5.5, but I would strongly prefer 6 because of the overtime rules.

Green Bay Packers 26 San Francisco 49ers 24

Pick against the spread: San Francisco +6

Confidence: High

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (13-3) at Detroit Lions (2-13-1)

The Packers have nothing to play for this week, having clinched the #1 seed in the NFC last week, and this spread expects them to play their key starters very little, as the Packers would not be mere 3.5-point favorites in Detroit in normal circumstances. My calculated line has the Packers favored by 10.5 if the Lions are missing their two talented tackles Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell, who are both in COVID protocols, and favored by 9 if both Decker and Sewell play. 

However, those calculated lines are meaningless if we don’t know how much action the Packers’ key starters will get. Aaron Rodgers, for his part, says he wants to play, but his head coach Matt LaFleur has also said Rodgers doesn’t need to play and it’s possible he only plays enough to get Davante Adams to some receiving milestones and to put up another few drives to keep fresh in the minds of MVP voters. 

This line doesn’t suggest the Packers’ starters won’t play at all, as they are still favored on the road by more than a field goal, but they may need only Rodgers and Adams to play a half to cover this spread, especially with Jordan Love being a capable backup. I am taking the Packers for now, but this can’t be anything more than a no confidence pick unless something changes or we hear something definitive on how the Packers will approach a meaningless game, with a bye week secured for next week.

Green Bay Packers 24 Detroit Lions 20

Pick against the spread: Green Bay -3.5

Confidence: None

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (7-8) at Green Bay Packers (12-3)

The Vikings need to win this game in Green Bay to keep their playoff hopes alive and unfortunately their slim playoff odds might have effectively already fallen to zero before this game even kicks off, with the Vikings losing quarterback Kirk Cousins to the COVID protocols and set to start backup Sean Mannion, a 7-year veteran who is starting his first real game this week, with his two career starts both coming in meaningless week 17 games where his team was resting starters.

For spread purposes though, this line has compensated by swinging to favor the Packers now by 13 points, so I still like the Vikings’ chances of covering. The Packers stand alone with the league’s best record at 12-3, but they haven’t been dominant in most of their wins. As a result, they rank just 11th in the NFL in point differential at +59 and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Packers rank 7th, 19th, 32nd on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 17th in overall mixed efficiency. 

They have been better at home, which has been the case throughout Aaron Rodgers’ tenure, as Rodgers’ QB rating is about 10 points higher at home in his career and the Packers are 50-23 ATS at home in games Rodgers starts and finishes in front of crowds with fans, but this line still seems a little bit too high, as the Vikings still have a talented #1 wide receiver in Justin Jefferson, a strong running game, and a defense that is at least competent. I don’t have any confidence in the Vikings, but I would take them at this number for pick ’em purposes as my calculated line is Green Bay -10.5.

Green Bay Packers 26 Minnesota Vikings 14

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +13

Confidence: None

Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (7-7) at Green Bay Packers (11-3)

The Packers stand alone with the league’s best record at 11-3, but they haven’t been dominant in most of their wins. As a result, they rank just 10th in the NFL in point differential at +57 and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Packers rank 4th, 15th, 32nd on offense, defense, and special teams respectively and 13th in overall mixed efficiency. They have been better at home, which has been the case throughout Aaron Rodgers’ tenure, as they are 50-22 ATS at home in games Rodgers starts and finishes in front of crowds with fans, but this line is still too high, favoring the Packers by 7.5 points at home over a competent at worst Browns team (16th in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency) that will be at least somewhat healthier than a week ago, most notably at the quarterback position with Baker Mayfield set to return.

My calculated line has the Packers favored by 5 points and, while that does not take into account the Packers’ typical home dominance, it’s still hard to justify getting this line up to 7.5 points. I’m not going to bet on the Browns because there is still so much uncertainty in this game with several Browns players who are still in COVID protocols from last week who could come off the list before gametime, as well as a key injury uncertainty on both sides, with dominant Browns defensive end Myles Garrett not practicing all week and likely to be limited if he plays, while dominant Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander could be set to return to the lineup after being designated to return from injured reserve a few weeks ago. It’s impossible to be confident enough in the Browns to bet on them right now given the uncertainty, but I could see that changing if the right players are active for the Browns and/or Alexander is out for the Packers.

Update: Alexander is out for the Packers, while Garrett is active, but that’s about where the good news ends for the Browns, who still have cornerbacks Greg Newsome and Troy Hill, safeties Ronnie Harrison and Grant Delpit, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and offensive linemen JC Tretter and Jedrick Wills in COVID protocols. My calculated line is at Green Bay -6, but I am leaving this as low confidence pick.

Green Bay Packers 23 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +7.5

Confidence: Low

Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (10-3) at Baltimore Ravens (8-5)

Player absences have been a big theme in games this week and this game is no different, except for the fact that most of the absences in this game are injury related, rather than COVID. In addition to the sheer amount of players expected to miss this game, which I will get into later, there is also a significant amount of uncertainty because the Ravens don’t know if quarterback Lamar Jackson will be able to play through an ankle sprain and, even if he does play, his effectiveness would be a question, given how much he is dependent on his athleticism and how he has been struggling already in recent weeks.

The odds makers seem to think the Ravens will be without Jackson, shooting this line up to favor the Packers by a touchdown in Baltimore, after favoring them by just 1.5 points on the early line a week ago. Jackson is far from the Ravens’ only injury concern and not their only new absence or potential absence either. Already without stud left tackle Ronnie Stanley, their two best running backs JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, starting defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, starting cornerback Marcus Peters and starting safety De’Shon Elliott for an extended period of time, the Ravens are now without starting left guard Ben Powers, top defensive lineman Calais Campbell, starting safety Chuck Clark, top cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and his would-be replacement Jimmy Smith.

The Ravens are 8-5, but they haven’t been as good as their record even when they were healthier, as they have gone 6-3 in one score games and rank 14th, 24th, 1st, and 11th respectively in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency. The Packers have their own injury issues though and it doesn’t seem like this line has fully taken those into account, as this is an inflated line even if Jackson plays and is replaced by backup Tyler Huntley, an unproven, but promising replacement. 

The Packers have been banged up all season long, but the hits have kept coming in recent weeks. Already with a long-term absent list of left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, three of the best players in the league at their respective positions, as well as starting center Josh Myers and starting tight end Robert Tonyan, the Packers in recent weeks have lost slot receiver Randall Cobb, top defensive lineman Kenny Clark, and another two starters on the offensive line, Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner.

The Packers are 10-3 despite all of this, but they haven’t fared as well in more predictive metrics like first down rate and yards per play and, as previously mentioned, their injury situation is only getting worse. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is based on these metrics, the Packers rank 11th, 9th, and 32nd respectively on offense, defense, and special teams respectively, while ranking just 18th in mixed efficiency. One of their losses came without Aaron Rodgers, while a fluky blowout loss to the Saints week one skews their efficiency ratings, but missing all they are missing, it’s hard to argue the Packers are as good as their 10-3 record, at least right now.

The Ravens definitely aren’t as good as their record either, especially if Jackson sits or is heavily limited, but this line has swung too far in the Packers’ direction given all they are missing as well. In addition to their injuries, the Packers have also not been as good away from home in Aaron Rodgers’ career, unsurprising given that Rodgers’ 10 point QB rating drop off from home to away is well above average, and that has continued into this season, as their only road victory that would have covered this 7-point spread came in a 10-point win in Chicago in a game that was closer than the final score against a Bears team that the Ravens beat without Jackson a few weeks ago. 

Even without taking the Packers’ relative road struggles into account, my calculated line has the Packers favored by just 3.5 points, even if Huntley plays or Jackson is heavily limited. I am not really making much distinction between a limited Jackson and Tyler Huntley in my roster rankings and I would take the Ravens as touchdown home underdogs regardless, so I want to lock this one in now, as the line could drop on game day if Jackson ends up being able to play.

Update: It seems like Jackson is out, as this line has shifted to 9.5. I already assumed he would be out when I bet on the Ravens at +7, so I am going to increase this bet at the higher number. The Packers have just one double digit road win all season and Tyler Huntley is a promising backup quarterback.

Green Bay Packers 24 Baltimore Ravens 20

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +9.5

Confidence: High

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 13 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (4-8) at Green Bay Packers (9-3)

I was hoping the Packers would be a lot healthier this week, coming out of their bye week, particularly the trio of left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, who are all among the best players in the league at their respective positions. The Packers are 9-3, but they have not played as well as last year’s 13-3 team and are not beating teams in convincing fashion, while ranking just 14th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency and 10th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, in large part due to the absence of those aforementioned three players. 

Had the Packers gotten a couple of those players back this week, they would have been a very intriguing bet in this game against the Bears in Green Bay, where the Packers have been a great bet in games in front of games where Aaron Rodgers starts and finishes the games, going 49-22 ATS. Unfortunately, only Alexander has a shot to suit up for this game and even that isn’t a given. On top of that, the Packers will be down a reliable receiver, with Randall Cobb now out indefinitely. 

Despite that, the Packers are still favored by 12.5 points in this game. The Packers would have covered this number in three of their five home games so far this season, but a closer look at those games shows the Packers to not have been as impressive as the final score, as they were down to the Lions at halftime, got outgained on a per play basis by Washington, and shut out a Seahawks team that was starting a much less than 100% Russell Wilson. Those three games are the Packers’ biggest margins of victory of the season, which shows how unimpressive many of their wins have been.

My calculated line actually has the Packers favored by just 9.5 points in this game and, while that doesn’t factor in the Packers’ extra homefield advantage with Aaron Rodgers, it’s hard to get up to this 12.5 point number. The Packers could also be in a bit of a bad spot, as they have a much tougher game against the Ravens on deck and favorites of a touchdown or more cover at just a 43.6% rate before facing a team with a winning percentage over 40% higher than their current opponent’s winning percentage. 

This is still a big divisional rivalry game, so it’s very possible the Packers still bring a big effort despite a tougher game on deck, but it’s another reason not to be confident in the Packers this week. I’m taking the Bears for pick ‘em purposes for now, but I would probably switch to the Packers if it was determined that Jaire Alexander will be active and playing something close to his normal snap count. In either scenario, I don’t see myself taking either side confidently.

Green Bay Packers 28 Chicago Bears 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago +12.5

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Rams (7-3) at Green Bay Packers (8-3)

The Packers’ lost to the Vikings last week, their second loss of the season with Aaron Rodgers under center and their third loss overall, dropping them to 8-3, after a 7-1 start. The Packers have bigger concerns though. Even when they were winning games, they weren’t doing so in impressive fashion. Just three of their wins came by more than 10 points and those came in games in which they were down at halftime at home to the winless Lions, outgained at home on a per play basis by Washington, and facing an underwhelming Seahawks team that was starting a much less than 100% Russell Wilson. 

The Packers did go into Arizona and win, but they were very reliant on the turnover margin in that game, losing the first down rate battle by 5.93%, but winning by a field goal in a game in which they won the turnover battle by three. One of those turnovers was a late interception to seal the game when the Cardinals were in range to at least send the game to overtime, if not win outright. The Packers scored off the Cardinals’ other two takeaways too, so if any one of those turnovers doesn’t happen, the Packers could have easily lost. Given how inconsistent turnover margins are on a week-to-week basis, the Packers can’t count on that again and, given that the Cardinals outperformed the Packers in other key metrics, the Cardinals would likely win a rematch more often than not, so even that was not a dominant win.

On top of that, the Packers injury situation seems to get worse by the week. Already without left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, three of the best players in the league at their respective positions, who have missed all of most of the season, the Packers will now be without Kevin King, their best cornerback in Alexander’s absence, even if only by default, and Elgton Jenkins, a talented offensive lineman who has been by far their best offensive lineman in Bakhtiari’s absence. 

The Packers could get back Rashan Gary, their best edge defender in Smith’s absence, and top running back Aaron Jones, who both missed last week and seem likely to return this week, but even that isn’t a guarantee and, even if both played, their return would be offset by the loss of Jenkins and King. That doesn’t even include the injury that Aaron Rodgers is playing through, which is costing him valuable practice time and likely limiting him in games as well.

The Rams have a similar record to the Packers, but have been a much better team. They lost their last two games before the bye week, both by multiple scores, but in one game they threw multiple pick sixes, which won’t happen every week, and in the other they played a very underrated 49ers team. The Rams should also get a lot more out of mid-season acquisitions Odell Beckham and Von Miller this week, after both played sparingly across the two games before the bye. If both play close to a full set of snaps, the Rams are simply a much more talented team than the very banged up Packers right now.

This line favors the Rams by 2 points in Green Bay, but given the talent disparity between those two teams, my calculated line favors the Rams by 5. I am hesitant to bet heavily against the Packers because of how good Aaron Rodgers has been in his career at home and off of a loss, going 48-22 ATS in home games that he has started and finished and that had live crowds and going 41-21 ATS in the week following a loss, but the Rams are also coming off of a loss and a bye week as well, so they should bring their best effort this week and still worth a small play because of the value we are getting with them in a game in which they basically just need to win to cover.

Los Angeles Rams 31 Green Bay Packers 27

Pick against the spread: LA Rams -2

Confidence: Medium

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (8-2) at Minnesota Vikings (4-5)

The Packers are 8-2, a year after going 13-3, but they aren’t the same team as a year ago, primarily due to injuries. Already without left tackle David Bakhtiari, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, and cornerback Jaire Alexander, three of the top players in the league at their respective positions, who have missed most or all of the season, the Packers are now without talented lead back Aaron Jones with a knee injury he suffered in last week’s game. Green Bay’s record is obviously impressive, but they rank just 10th in point differential at +36 and, even if you exclude their two losses, one a somewhat fluky week one game and the other a game in which they lost by one score to the Chiefs without Aaron Rodgers, they would still rank just 5th in point differential at 77, so they are definitely not dominating teams.

That is despite the fact that the Packers have the 4th best turnover margin in the league at +7, which is not a predictive stat that they can rely on going forward. More predictive stats like yards per play and first down rate show this Packers team isn’t as performing at the same level as a year ago, ranking 14th, 13th, and 30th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency. The Vikings are just 4-5, but they have been competitive in every single one of their games, losing at most by 7 points, just once by more than four points, and totalling a +10 point differential on the season. 

I have not picked the Vikings lately because of all of their defensive absences, but, while they are still without stud edge defender Danielle Hunter, they will get stud safety Harrison Smith, top cornerback Patrick Peterson, and talented linebacker Anthony Barr all back from multi-game absences this week, which is a significant amount of talent that is being re-added to this lineup. 

My calculated line has the Vikings as the slight favorite to win this game, favoring them by 1.5 points and that is not even taking into account that the Packers typically drop off more on the road than the average team, in large part due to Aaron Rodgers having a well above average 10-point quarterback rating drop off between home games and road games in his career. 

Unfortunately, we are not getting much line value with the Vikings, who are underdogs of just 1 point. When this opened at 2.5, I was hoping we would get a full field goal at some point, but the line has moved the other direction, with sharp bettors recognizing that the Vikings are significantly healthier on defense than they have been in recent weeks. The money line is still worth a play, but there isn’t enough line value with the spread for that to be worth betting.

Update: This is a late bet, but Rashan Gary will be out for the Packers, despite practicing in limited fashion all week. He has been a big part of their defensive success without Za’Darius Smith, so having both him and Smith out will really limit this defense, in contrast to Minnesota being much healthier on defense. Despite that, this line has moved up to +1.5. I like both the spread and the money line in this game, as my calculated line has the Vikings favored by a field goal.

Minnesota Vikings 31 Green Bay Packers 27 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Minnesota +1.5

Confidence: Medium

Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Seattle Seahawks (3-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-2)

The Packers get Aaron Rodgers back from a one-game absence this week and they are 7-1 with him this season, but they have more reason to be concerned than it seems. Rodgers is returning, but they remain without three of their best players, edge defender Za’Darius Smith, cornerback Jaire Alexander, and left tackle David Bakhtiari, who have missed most or all of the season. The Packers have still been winning games without them, but they rank just 13th, 10th, and 30th in offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency and don’t really have any dominant wins. 

Just two of their wins came by more than 10 points and those came in games in which the Packers were down at halftime at home to the winless Lions and in which the Packers were outgained at home on a per play basis by a mediocre Washington team. The Packers did go into Arizona and win, but the Packers were very reliant in the turnover battle in that game, losing the first down rate battle by 5.93%, but winning by a field goal in a game in which the Packers won the turnover battle by three.

One of those turnovers was a late interception to seal the game when the Cardinals were in range to at least send the game to overtime, if not win outright. The Packers scored off the Cardinals’ other two takeaways too, so if any one of those turnovers doesn’t happen, the Packers could have easily lost. Given how inconsistent turnover margins are on a week-to-week basis, the Packers can’t count on that again and, given that the Cardinals outperformed the Packers in other key metrics, the Cardinals would likely win a rematch more often than not, so even that was not a dominant win.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, get Russell Wilson back from a three-game absence and might be a little underrated. In fact, I have them as the slightly better of these two teams right now. The Seahawks were just 2-3 with Wilson, but they faced a tough schedule and, even without Wilson, the Seahawks outscored their opponents across 3 games, as they went just 1-2, but had a chance to win both games they lost. Even with Wilson missing half of the season, they rank 17th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, while their defense and special teams rank 19th and 12th respectively. 

Despite possibly being the better team right now, the Seahawks are underdogs of more than a field goal in Green Bay. My calculated line has the Packers at -1, so we’re getting significant line value with the Seahawks at +3.5, especially when you consider that about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. However, I don’t want to bet against the Packers in Green Bay, where they are 47-22 ATS in games in front of fans in which Aaron Rodgers starts and finishes. Rodgers himself has a QB rating that is about 10 points higher at home than on the road, well beyond the average home/road differential. Between that and the uncertainty with both quarterbacks in their first game back, I don’t want to bet this game, but the Seahawks are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Green Bay Packers 23 Seattle Seahawks 21

Pick against the spread: Seattle +3.5

Confidence: Low