The New England Patriots enter the 2017 NFL regular season as the odds on favorites to win Super Bowl 52. Consider they’re the defending champions and got even better, that logic feels pretty sound.
Bovada and other top Super Bowl betting sites hand the Pats +375 odds to win it all, and few will bat an eye at that. Who takes second place, you might ask? The Green Bay Packers, with +750 odds to win Super Bowl 52.
Now that might be something we all should question.
Green Bay looks like a viable title threat on paper. The Packers overcame a rough 4-6 start to go 10-6 and win the NFC North a year ago. Aaron Rodgers put the team on his shoulders, literally predicted the team would run the table and got the green and gold all the way to the NFC title game.
Unfortunately, that’s where Green Bay’s miracle season ended. The Packers were ultimately no match for the Atlanta Falcons, who wiped the floor with them before almost running away with a title of their own.
Fast forward to where we are now, and the Packers have far better Super Bowl odds
than the Falcons, who inexplicably hold the league’s 7th best title odds (+1600).
There is an argument for the Packers living up to these gaudy expectations, but there might be a more convincing argument that they’ll end up disappointing anyone who bets hard on them. Here are six reasons why:
The NFC is Loaded
Before we get too excited about the Packers winning it all, let’s remember how hard it was for them to even reach the NFC title game a year ago.
That alone should tell us the Packers weren’t some elite world beater in 2016. They were good and more often than not they were simply good enough. That won’t fly against the top NFC teams, as the Giants, Redskins, Vikings, Lions, Panthers, Cardinals, Buccaneers and Saints all could give them trouble in their pursuit for a title at some point.
And that’s not even dealing with the real heavy hitters in this conference. It took everything Green Bay had to dispatch the Dallas Cowboys in last year’s playoffs. On top of that, the Seattle Seahawks should be back and as good as ever and something tells me the Falcons will come back pretty hungry, as well.
At the very least, Green Bay is going to face elite competition from three other teams, while you can make a pretty valid case for any of those other 7 teams rising up and taking the NFC by storm.
Maybe it is Green Bay who towers over the NFC competition. Who knows? All we’re saying is it won’t be easy for the Packers to race through the NFC, uncontested.
The Patriots Are Too Good
Say the green and gold do make it out of the NFC. They still will probably have to take on the Patriots, who have five titles to their name and just got done delivering the league’s biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.
Atlanta had Tom Brady and co. against the ropes, yet they completely face-planted down the stretch. Part of that is on the Falcons, but we also should credit New England’s coaching, talent, and overall resolve.
The Patriots do have some competition in the AFC – most notably the Pittsburgh Steelers – but after a very successful offseason, they look better than ever.
Talk of the Pats going 16-0 or even 19-0 doesn’t feel that crazy. Needless to say, the Packers would have their hands full by simply getting to Super Bowl 52. With just arriving there looking like quite the task, actually winning it might be a totally different mountain to climb.
The 2016 Packers Over Achieved
The biggest thing working against the Packers is that what we saw out of them in 2016 wasn’t that impressive. They got off to a terribly slow start because they had severe flaws, made some silly mistakes and didn’t edge out games they should have won. They also got smoked in matchups where they simply weren’t good enough.
Looking back at last season, Green Bay barely beat what ended up being a weak Jaguars team in week one, they narrowly edged out the Lions and Giants at home and got absolutely obliterated by the Colts, Titans, and Redskins.
To turn their season around during a much-needed 6-game winning streak, they topped the Eagles, Texans, Bears, Vikings, Lions, and Seahawks.
The win in Philly came against a rookie quarterback, the home win against a Brock Osweiler-led Texans team wasn’t impressive, the win over the Seahawks came against an Earl Thomas-less Seattle defense and Green Bay nearly choked a win away in Chicago.
The win over Minnesota was against a Vikings team that mailed it in and thanks to a Redskins week 17 loss, their would-be huge road win in Detroit ended up being relatively meaningless.
Their Defense Still Needs Work
One huge reason why things didn’t go as planned for the Packers was their atrocious defense. Green Bay initially held things together thanks to a solid run defense, but that got exposed in a blowout loss to the Cowboys and from there the wheels really fell off.
Eventually, nothing was working in Green Bay’s defense. Part of it was injuries, but more than anything it showed a lack of creativity in the defensive game-planning, as well as poor planning from a personnel perspective.
On the year, the numbers said plenty. Green Bay finished 21st in points allowed per game in 2016, 25th against the run and 31st against the pass. Green Bay’s saving grace was undeniably Aaron Rodgers, as well as a solid pass rush that generated the league’s 6th most sacks.
The Packers also benefited from an opportunistic defense that registered the 4th most interceptions when they weren’t busy getting torched by the opposition.
None of this is to say there isn’t any talent in Green Bay. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry give Green Bay two viable edge rushers and this year’s draft focused on adding depth and physical ability to the Packers’ shaky secondary.
Hypothetically, this unit could and should be better. But as the numbers indicate, that might not be saying much.
Where’s the Running Game?
Another huge problem lied on the offensive side of the ball, where Aaron Rodgers was simply being asked to carry way too heavy of a burden. Eddie Lacy got hurt early in the year and the Packers didn’t have much to work with, but a failure to commit to the running game forced Rodgers to dig Green Bay out of an early hole virtually by himself.
That worked out, and in the process, the Packers may have (almost by accident) uncovered a gem in converted wide receiver, Ty Montgomery. The emphasis needs to be on “may have” and “accidentally”, of course.
Montgomery was good, but he saw more than 9 carries just once on the year and the Packers suffered for it. That helped keep the Green Bay offense looking rather predictable and it shouldn’t shock anyone that the Packers finished 20th in rushing on the season.
All things considered, Green Bay could have been worse, but that still isn’t good. The Packers were turning to other team’s cast-offs and fullbacks to help carry the rushing load and it usually had poor results.
Green Bay did address their offensive need in the draft, as they brought in rookies in Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. Combined with an improved Montgomery, Green Bay could be vastly better here. That still might not be enough for a team that saw their quarterback be their second leading rusher by less than 100 yards.
Mike McCarthy Chokes in Playoffs
Everything we’ve gone over here could be problematic and individually or collectively cause the Packers to fail. But the biggest obstacle in Green Bay yet again will be head coach Mike McCarthy finding a way to avoid messing it all up.
Admittedly, McCarthy is a solid NFL head coach and he’s actually a brilliant offensive mind. Usually. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and too often McCarthy has made boneheaded calls at the completely wrong time
We almost saw more of it last year, too, when McCarthy and co. nearly blew their lead in Dallas and then didn’t even bother to show up in a total housing at the Georgia Dome.
Even former Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings agrees McCarthy holds the team back come playoff time.
McCarthy has his strengths, but he’s routinely fumbled the ball in the playoffs and continues to waste away Aaron Rodgers’ prime. In fact, the only time Green Bay got to (and won) a Super Bowl during his tenure, it was almost completely by accident as a 10-6 Wild Card team.
When the Packers are actually favored/expected to do anything, McCarthy and the team tend to wilt. Maybe the Packers will take the winnable NFC North again and perhaps they’ll even be one of the best teams in the NFC. But there is actually a lot more working against them than the NFL talking heads seem to care to admit.