The Green Bay Packers find themselves in a familiar position on the first day of the NFL’s offseason, once again among the league’s favorites for next year’s Super Bowl.
The Packers have 12-1 odds to win Super Bowl LI, according to Bovada. They’re tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for fourth-best odds in the NFL.
Only the Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots have better odds, each listed at 9-1. The Packers come in just ahead of the Arizona Cardinals (14-1), Dallas Cowboys (16-1) and Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos (16-1).
The Packers also have 6-1 odds to win the NFC, according to SportsBook. Those are the third-best odds in the conference, behind the Seattle Seahawks (9-2) and Carolina Panthers (5-1).
Bovada currently does not have conference championship future bets available.
With the apparent news of Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch’s retirement, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Packers moved up the odds rankings soon. It also isn’t surprising to see the Packers listed among the league’s early Super Bowl favorites.
The Packers have two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and a franchise quarterback is the primary ingredient to win a title. The Packers' offense struggled in 2015, but it's expected to get a major boost when receiver Jordy Nelson returns after missing the entire past season with a torn ACL.
If the Packers' offense can regain its explosiveness, it finally may be coupled with a defense good enough to win a Super Bowl.
The Packers' defense ranked 12th in the NFL with 20.2 points allowed per game, the fewest since they won Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 season. They were 15th in the league with 346.7 yards allowed per game.
Despite the positives, there’s good reason the Packers aren’t the prohibitive league or conference favorites. The team has an important offseason ahead. They must address key defensive free-agent decisions, especially along the defensive line as well as outside linebacker. B.J. Raji, Letroy Guion, Mike Neal and Nick Perry are among the Packers' 18 free agents whose contracts expire next month.
It’s also no guarantee their offense will rediscover its rhythm. Beyond Nelson’s injury, one of the main reasons the Packers offense struggled last season was running back Eddie Lacy reporting to training camp overweight and out of shape. Coach Mike McCarthy said Lacy never recovered, and the Packers operated with a patchwork running game all season.
Regardless, the Packers have the talent to be one of the league’s best teams in 2016, and they’ll play one of the league’s easiest schedules. They’ve reached the playoffs seven straight seasons, and they’ve won at least one playoff game the past two. Maybe Super Bowl LI will become the franchise’s sixth appearance in the big game.