Our Packers Insiders predict the season

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STU COURTNEY

PACKERS RECORD:  12-4

Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL, but the Packers were among the teams unfortunate enough to lose a key performer for the season before the games even counted. The Packers are deep enough at wide receiver to overcome the loss of Jordy Nelson, particularly with veteran James Jones added to a stable of emerging young talent in Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis. The key will be avoiding another major injury to a core player, particularly on the offensive line, where the depth is thin. Eddie Lacy will be called upon to carry a heavier load as the Packers figure to run more because of Nelson’s absence. The Packers will win their fifth straight NFC North title, with Detroit weakened by the loss of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley and the Vikings too dependent on young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. But come playoff time, beware of the Philadelphia team that looked so impressive in the preseason. If quarterback Sam Bradford finally can stay healthy, Chip Kelly’s Eagles will soar.

PLAYOFFS

NFC East: Philadelphia

NFC South: Atlanta

NFC North: Green Bay

NFC West: Seattle

Wild cards: Arizona, St. Louis

AFC East: New England

AFC South: Indianapolis

AFC North: Baltimore

AFC West: San Diego

Wild cards: Miami, Denver

NFC championship: Philadelphia over Green Bay

AFC championship: New England over Baltimore

Super Bowl: Philadelphia over New England

PETE DOUGHERTY

PACKERS RECORD: 12-4

Losing Jordy Nelson was big, no doubt. But if his season-ending knee injury made the Packers’ road to the Super Bowl tougher, it’s hardly a deal breaker. Aaron Rodgers is in his prime and has Eddie Lacy’s running to protect him and provide balance to the offense. That’s what matters. And there’s enough talent remaining at receiver (Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis, James Jones) for this to still be one of the top scoring offenses in the league. It just won’t be the juggernaut it might have been with Nelson. The defense is a wild card. If it plays like it did after Clay Matthews moved to inside linebacker last year, that should be good enough. Seattle is the Packers’ biggest obstacle in the NFC and a threat to go to its third straight Super Bowl, especially after adding some punch on offense with tight end Jimmy Graham. But don’t underestimate the damage from safety Kam Chancellor’s ongoing holdout. He’s a difference-maker on the field and in the locker room.

PLAYOFFS

NFC East: Philadelphia

NFC South: Carolina

NFC North: Green Bay

NFC West: Seattle

Wild cards: Dallas, Arizona

AFC East: New England

AFC South: Indianapolis

AFC North: Baltimore

AFC West: Denver

Wild cards: Kansas City, Cincinnati

NFC championship: Green Bay over Seattle

AFC championship: Indianapolis over Baltimore

Super Bowl: Indianapolis over Green Bay

WES HODKIEWICZ

PACKERS RECORD: 11-5

The Packers return nearly everyone from last year’s team that was within a few minutes of making their sixth Super Bowl appearance. The thing about general manager Ted Thompson is his teams always will have upside. Outside of Julius Peppers and John Kuhn, it’s conceivable every player on the roster still has his best football ahead of him, including MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The loss of Jordy Nelson stings, but the offense is well-stocked. Rodgers’ receiving weapons are ample, his offensive line is intact and Eddie Lacy is going to make defenses pick their poison. The defense always will be a question mark, but Clay Matthews' expanded role makes him more than a pass-rusher. If he can sustain how he played the second half of 2014, the five-time Pro Bowler has a chance to be one of the league’s top defensive players.This is the year. It has to be.

PLAYOFFS

NFC East: Philadelphia

NFC South: Carolina

NFC North: Green Bay

NFC West: Seattle

Wild cards: Dallas, St. Louis

AFC East: New England

AFC South: Indianapolis

AFC North: Cincinnati

AFC West: Denver

Wild cards: Baltimore, Miami

NFC championship: Green Bay over Seattle

AFC championship: New England over Cincinnati

Super Bowl: Green Bay over New England

RYAN WOOD

PACKERS RECORD: 11-5

There’s good reason Packers coach Mike McCarthy desperately wants to get off to a fast start this season. The schedule is loaded with home games at the front (four in the first six weeks) before finishing with a lot of road trips later in the year (six in the final 10). There’s every reason to think the Packers can get out to a 6-2, maybe even a 7-1 record. From there, things get hairy. A particularly tricky stretch starts in mid-November, when the Packers play four straight NFC North games, including trips to Detroit and Minnesota. It will be up to Aaron Rodgers to navigate the season’s potential speedbumps. He’ll have plenty of help on offense with one of the league’s best running backs, better offensive lines and familiar receivers. Still, there are unknowns on defense, and special teams remain a significant concern. If the Packers stay healthy this season, a second straight 12-4 record is certainly possible. Somewhere on the schedule, Jordy Nelson’s season-ending ACL injury is bound to cost the Packers a win.

PLAYOFFS

NFC East: Philadelphia

NFC South: New Orleans

NFC North: Green Bay

NFC West: Seattle

Wild cards: Dallas, Arizona

AFC East: New England

AFC South: Indianapolis

AFC North: Baltimore

AFC West: Denver

Wild cards: Pittsburgh, San Diego

NFC championship: Green Bay over Philadelphia

AFC championship: Indianapolis over New England

Super Bowl: Green Bay over Indianapolis

ROBERT ZIZZO

PACKERS RECORD: 12-4

Certainly, losing Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson hurts the Packers’ chances at the ultimate prize. But at least they have a full season to adjust. If there are no other significant injuries, and that’s a BIG if, the offense has a good chance to lead the league in scoring again. And with a linebacking corps that includes Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington inside, the defense should be better. The schedule is front-loaded with home games (four of first six) and there are no difficult back-to-back-to-back stretches, which means the Packers could get off to an uncharacteristic fast start and maintain momentum throughout the season. Seattle suffered some significant offseason losses in talent and Arizona relies heavily on immobile Carson Palmer for success. Dallas and Minnesota are the next-best contenders in the NFC but neither are at an elite level. So, I’m saying the Packers will use last season’s collapse in the NFC championship game as motivation to finish the job and get to Super Bowl 50, where they’ll beat the Colts.

PLAYOFFS

NFC East: Dallas

NFC South: Atlanta

NFC North: Green Bay

NFC West: Seattle

Wild cards: Arizona, Minnesota

AFC East: New England

AFC South: Indianapolis

AFC North: Baltimore

AFC West: San Diego

Wild cards: Denver, Miami

NFC championship: Green Bay over Seattle

AFC championship: Indianapolis over San Diego

Super Bowl: Green Bay over Indianapolis

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