When asked about his team’s Super Bowl aspirations after the Packers’ domination of the Raiders last Sunday, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wanted to keep excitement at a minimum.
“I think it’s a little early at this point,” he said. But a smile soon crept across his face and he reluctantly admitted, “But I think that we’re trending in the right direction.”
Head coach Matt LaFleur was also asked about his expectations for the season and whether he thinks Rodgers could contend for the NFL MVP award.
“I don’t know,” he responded. “We’re just trying to take it one game at a time and get better each and every day.”
But Lafleur, too, couldn’t hold back a smile.
“He’s pretty good,” he said of his quarterback. “There’s a lot of times when the ball leaves his hands and I’m just in awe.”
Whether or not Rodgers or LaFleur have high expectations, or are simply reluctant to admit them, won’t keep fans of the team from setting lofty goals for the team. The Packers will play their eighth game of the season and final game of the first half when they face off against the Chiefs this Sunday, and it’s time we re-evaluate what the Packers’ real expectations should be.
Let’s start with preseason expectations. They weren’t particularly high, especially considering that the Packers were a team with an aging quarterback and questionable defense, and had missed the playoffs the past two seasons. ESPN gave them a mere 46.8% chance to make the playoffs.
After a roaring start to the season in which Aaron Rodgers has re-established himself and the defense has become one of the top units in the league, the question is no longer “will the Packers make the playoffs?” but “how far will they go?”
Taking a look at the team’s final nine games could lead a person to believe that the Packers have a chance to be one of the top seeds in the NFC come playoff time. This weekend’s match-up in Kansas City is one that is very winnable, given that Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes will likely be sidelined with an injury.
They then take another trip on the road into Los Angeles to take on the Chargers, who are 2-5 on the season. This is a game that the Packers should expect to win.
In Week 10, the 4-2 Panthers come to Lambeau in a match-up that will test Green Bay’s ability to defend the run. This game will be a challenge, but it is one that they should win, especially at home, if they expect to contend for a Super Bowl.
The Packers have a bye during Week 11 and then travel to San Francisco for a game which will be the toughest test of the second half. The Packers haven’t played a team that is a true Super Bowl contender yet, and this may be the only chance they get all season. The 49ers are 6-0 on the year and are solid on both sides of the ball. This will most definitely be a game that has playoff seeding implications and would be a huge win if the Packers can pull it off.
The next two games are against two teams, the Redskins and Giants, with a combined record of 3-12 thus far. Nothing is a given in a NFL, but these should be relatively easy victories.
The Packers finish with three divisional games against three teams that they have already beaten. First, the Bears and their stout defense travel to Lambeau. Chicago was picked by many to win the NFC North this year, but they have struggled mightily on offense, ranking 29th in total offense thus far. Unless Matt Nagy and the Bears figure it out before Week 15, the Packers should pull out another home win here.
The Pack will then face another tough divisional test against another team they have already beaten as they travel to U.S. Bank Stadium to take on the Vikings. This game will probably end up deciding the fate of the NFC North. The Packers should prevail against Mike Zimmer’s squad as long as they can keep Dalvin Cook in check.
Week 17 is another divisional test against the Lions. There is no telling where each team will be in the standings at this point, but if the Lions are able to get hot and win some games, this game could affect the playoff standings. But as long as Rodgers and the defense keep doing their thing, the Packers should prevail at Ford Field.
All we can do at the midpoint of the season is speculate, watch games, and then speculate some more. One thing is for certain: the 2019 Packers are something to be excited about. They have dominated in a good division and have some quality wins under their belt. The goal at the beginning of the season was to make the playoffs. But the goal now should be to win the Super Bowl.
There is no way of telling where the Packers will be at the end of the season. They haven’t had a true test yet. They could be 13-3 and have the top seed in the NFC and a first round bye, or they could be 9-7 and miss the playoffs. Injuries happen. Trap games happen. Anything could happen.
But at this point, things are looking pretty solid in Green Bay.