Clay Matthews and the Green Bay Packers come in at number 5 in the Top 32 preseason NFL Power Rankings Countdown. Can the Packers become elite again?
Fan on Fire: Top 32 NFL Power Rankings
5. Green Bay Packers – (11-5)
Top Five Returning Players:
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB - Rodgers has arguably been not only the best QB in the NFL the past two years, but the best player. Despite the lack of a running game and so-so defense, Rodgers has kept the Packers as the top team in the NFC North.
2. Clay Matthews, OLB - Matthews has dealt with injuries the past few seasons, but he is still one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. If he can stay healthy this season, the Packers defense will be better because of it.
3. Josh Sitton, G - Sitton has emerged and an all-pro guard and is now the anchor of the Packers offensive line.
4. Morgan Burnett, S - Burnett led the Packers in tackling last season as a safety, and is fast approaching all-pro status.
5. A.J. Hawk, ILB - Has never been the dominant LB that some though he would be entering the NFL, but is still one of the most versatile LB’s in the league.
Top Newcomer: Eddie Lacy, RB - The Packers have struggled with their running game the past few seasons. Aaron Rodgers presence at QB is the reason it hasn’t hurt them much, but it’s still a hindrance. The Packers used a second round draft pick on Eddie Lacy, and he will enter the season as one of the favorites to become the feature back for the Packer.
Biggest loss from last season: Greg Jennings, WR - Jennings was the Packers number one receiver for years, and although his production dropped off some last season, his presence as a reliable target for Aaron Rodgers will no doubt be missed. Especially since Jennings signed as a free agent with the rival Minnesota Vikings.
Player who might surprise: Nick Perry, OLB - Perry missed most of last due to an injury. But the former first round draft pick in 2012 will be counted on this season to add some strength and quickness off the edge as a pass rusher for the Packers on defense.
What needs to happen to improve on Ranking:
1. The Packers need to improve their running game. They were in the bottom half of the league in rushing and they drafted two running backs in Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin to add some talent and speed to their stable of running backs.
2. The Packers need to get better at pass protection. Aaron Rodgers was sacked 51 times last season. Now there were some games where the Packers passed a lot, but still 51 sacks is too many for a team with aspirations of winning the super bowl.
3. The Packers need to get more out of their defensive front seven. Clay Matthews has another strong season, but he was the only player on the defense who had near double digit sacks at 13. Even though the Packers had a lot of sacks last season, no one else besides Matthews had over four. Which means defensive coordinator Dom Capers had to do a lot of other things to manufacture sacks.
What could make this ranking worse: This ranking could become worse if the Packers don’t find a way to get the running game going, and if their defense doesn’t become stronger at the point of attack.
Biggest off-season developments:
1. The Packers released future hall of famer and defensive leader Charles Woodson. He has since signed with the Raiders.
2. Long-time WR Donald Driver retired from the Packers after 14 seasons with the team.
2013 Prediction: 11-5 - The NFC North has become a tougher division with both the Bears and the Vikings getting stronger, and the Lions are still dangerous especially on offense. But the Packers still have the best player in the division in Aaron Rodgers and they are hard to beat at home. If head coach Mike McCarthy can find a way to get a running game going, keep Rodgers healthy, and find some more play makers on defense then the Packers will win another NFC North crown.
- Packers’ Aaron Rodgers says he was ‘lied to’ by Ryan Braun (cbc.ca)
- Green Bay Packers gearing up for 2013-2014 football season (fox6now.com)
- Green Bay Packers: 5 key players on defense (isportsweb.com)
- Packers sign S Burnett to extension (nbcsports.com)