The Green Bay Packers once again are considered one of the NFL’s elite contenders entering the 2016 season, at least in the eyes of Las Vegas bettors.
The Packers' win total over/under for 2016 opened at a league-leading 10.5, according to Bovada. They are one of five teams who opened at 10.5 wins, joining the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Packers led the NFL a year ago with their over/under win total opening at 11 entering the 2015 season.
The Packers can’t be considered Las Vegas' outright favorite to win the most games in the league in 2016. The Panthers are even money to win more than 10.5 games, while the Packers’ +135 payout was highest among the four teams whose money lines were released. The Steelers had no money line attached to their over/under win total.
There is a long way to go before training camp, let alone the Packers' regular-season opener Sept. 11 at the Jacksonville Jaguars. If Packers fans learned anything last preseason, it’s how quickly one injury can change an entire season’s outlook. Regardless, with the perspective available in mid-May, the Packers’ 10.5 over/under win total sure seems like a good bet —and not only because of the higher payout.
Last season, it seemed everything that could go wrong eventually did.
It started with receiver Jordy Nelson’s torn ACL in the Packers' second preseason game, an injury that forced him to miss the regular season. Nelson’s absence meant the Packers had no deep threat, forcing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to target receivers almost exclusively on underneath routes. The Packers never could get running back Eddie Lacy on track, with coach Mike McCarthy eventually admitting Lacy couldn't recover after entering training camp out of shape.
An offense that led the NFL with 30.4 points per game in 2014 plummeted to 15th in the league last season with 23 points per game, a difference of slightly more than a touchdown. And the Packers still won 10 games despite their struggles.
Nelson will return this season, and though it’s unclear how recovery from his knee injury will affect him at age 31, Rodgers should benefit from having his No. 1 target back. All reports about Lacy’s offseason approach have been positive, and pictures released through social media suggest he has trimmed weight. The Packers also signed free-agent tight end Jared Cook, who will give the offense a speedy target in the middle of the field.
There is a renewed confidence on offense, something that was evident when McCarthy spoke with reporters after the draft last month.
“Defenses were aggressive with us last year,” McCarthy said. “No doubt about it. It started early in the season and continued, and we didn’t get them out of it. We’ll see how goes. We’ve scored a lot of points around here. So we feel confident we’ll be able to do it again.”
The new and returning pieces on offense aren’t the only reason the Packers should win more than 10 games this fall. They also have the benefit of playing the league’s softest schedule, according to opponent winning percentages from 2015. The Packers will play only three opponents who had winning records in 2015: Minnesota, Washington and Houston. The best quarterback they face on the road is probably Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.
There is also history to consider. The last time Bovada opened the Packers’ over/under win total at 10.5 was 2014. That season, they finished the regular season 12-4 and advanced to the NFC title game, where they were 5 minutes from the Super Bowl before an unprecedented collapse.
Perhaps the Packers can take the next step in 2016.
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