Hello everyone, I’m so pleased to be making my debut with Game On Wisconsin this week. Throughout the season I intend to use this space as a sort of catch-all for my thoughts about the Packers, their upcoming matchup and the footballin’ world in general.
I’ve been “out there” in the world of the Green Bay Packers blogosphere for a few years now; you can find my writings on CheeseheadTV on Mondays and Thursdays this season, and can follow me on Twitter @timbackes. But it’s really great to be working on a brand new site and project in Game On Wisconsin that has a ton of passion and energy behind it, and I’m eager to help in some small way as it builds its niche in the fandom.
I’m looking forward to being a part of this team of super-knowledgeable (and awesomely intense) Green Bay Packers fans!
Five predictions for the 2020 season
In the interest of it being the very first day of the NFL regular season, I’m going to make a few season predictions for you all to return to and laugh at in a few months’ time.
1. The Green Bay Packers will be a better team than 2019, with a worse record.
The metrics I’ll use for this prediction will be offensive and defensive rankings. I expect the defense to move into the top 10 and the offense to improve on its performance from a year ago, but the team to finish 11-5. A 13-3 record is difficult to replicate in even the best of circumstances, and the way the Packers achieved it last year would probably be tough to sustain for another full season. The Packers lose five games, Twitter freaks out, but…
2. The Packers reach (at least) the NFC Championship game.
Despite not getting a first round bye and despite the online fury that the Green Bay Packers would *dare* lose five games, the team fights its way back to the NFC Championship game, which it will once again have to play on the road… this time in New Orleans.
3. Aaron Rodgers’ numbers will be closer to his MVP years than his 2018-2019 campaigns.
I’m not saying Rodgers will have an MVP caliber season, but he’s at least going to be closer to an MVP caliber player than he has been for the last couple years. This time, when he makes the Pro Bowl, there won’t be any salty losers crying over him “not deserving it.”
4. Za’Darius Smith will finally begin getting the national recognition he deserves.
There’s only so long you can go being criminally underrated before the national people start pointing out just how underrated you are. If Za’Darius Smith has another season of the caliber he did in 2019, he’s not going to be flying under the radar any more.
5. The Lions, not the Vikings or Bears, will give the Packers their toughest intra-divisional matchup this year.
This isn’t particularly going out on a limb, but consider what happened in 2019–the Packers never once led the Lions in regulation, but still managed to win both games on last-second kicks. With Matthew Stafford back in the lineup, they’ll pose a tough matchup for the Packers once again, having had their number in recent years.
The Vikings or Bears might win more games than the Lions, but Lions games will give Packer fans more anxiety.
One guy to watch this week
For week one, I’m particularly interested to see how the Packers use Tyler Ervin in their offense. When the Packers brought in Ervin late in the 2019 season, he instantly energized what had been a historically awful return game up to that point. We got a few peeks at what Matt LaFleur had in mind for him on the offense, but he really didn’t become a significant offensive contributor.
Now, though, most people are expecting Ervin to factor into the Packers’ offensive plans in a much more substantial way. The way the Packers move Ervin around the field will be fascinating to watch, given we haven’t been able to see any of what the Packers have been doing without preseason games.
Given the level of familiarity these two teams have with each other, the unique wrinkles Ervin could provide to the offense that he hasn’t really shown yet on film could prove a difference-maker.
Thursday night prediction
It may not be the Packers but it’s the first real football we’ve had since the Super Bowl and dammit, I’m pumped.
Very rarely does the defending champion lose the home opener, and the Chiefs have lost almost zero key pieces to their championship team from a year ago. They may not have the full effect of Arrowhead Stadium home-field advantage on their side, but they’re playing against the Houston Texans, a team that has proven time and time again under Bill O’Brien to be incapable of winning big games under the bright lights.
Frankly, I don’t think this one is close. Mahomes shows out, the Texans’ defense is unable to contain the Chiefs’ offense, and Kansas City wins by 20 only because the Texans get a couple of garbage time scores to make it look even that close.
Two Minutes’ Hate: Minnesota Vikings
The final part of this column during the regular season will be the Two Minutes’ Hate, in which I will spew venom over the Packers’ upcoming opponent. Fans of Orwell may recognize the source of this feature from 1984.
And to my good fortune, the very first Two Minutes’ Hate is dedicated to the Minnesota Vikings, one of the most hate-able teams in the league.
Ask any Packer fan which team they hate the most, legitimately hate, and it’s almost certainly going to be the Minnesota Vikings. With the Bears, there’s at least some sort of underlying respect for the franchise. You hate the Bears because you’re supposed to hate them. Sure, you get great joy out of their failure, but with the Vikings, it’s different. There’s no respect to be found. That’s because they deserve none.
The Vikings’ entire existence has been spent with them trying (and failing) to be the Green Bay Packers. Somehow, the franchise and its entire fandom have built up this insane delusion of grandeur that they are some premier franchise despite never actually having won anything. Whenever you see a Vikings fan spitting with rage on Twitter over the Packers, you have to remember that deep down inside, the Packers represent everything they want in fandom, but can never have.
This culture of fraudulence permeates the entire organization. Think Mike Zimmer refusing to shake the hand of Matt LaFleur after getting owned by the first-year coach who now, by the way, has as many meaningful victories in a single year as Zimmer does in his entire head coaching tenure. Think of how desperate the franchise is to hang any sort of banner in its rafters with the knowledge that an actual championship banner opportunity will never arrive. There’s the front office, constantly poaching past-their-prime Packers players just to try to chase some fleeting taste of what it feels like to be a part of an actual high-caliber organization.
The Green Bay Packers are everything the Vikings and their fans desperately wish they could be: successful, popular, a national brand, historic, you name it. The Vikings have spent so many years trying to be the Packers, and their fans have so fully bought into the inferiority complex, that their entire identity is formed around hating the Packers, like a nine-year-old bully who refuses to admit they have a massive crush on the girl they’ve been picking on for the last year.
Even Minneapolis itself is a city of frauds. It’s become the target destination for hipsters looking to “escape” their backwards small towns in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, you name it, fully convinced that Minneapolis is some paragon of hipness and enlightenment when in actuality, anybody who’s ever been there can tell you it’s basically Milwaukee trying to cosplay as Portland.
Packers by a billion.