The Packers enter the 2016 season as NFC North favorites in the eyes of many observer – and a strong favorite to contend for the Super Bowl.
They are a strong team overall made elite by the presence of 12-year veteran quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the NFL's top two or three quarterbacks – and indeed, one of the league's top two or three players overall.
They are also a team expected to be made stronger this season by the return of wide receiver Jordy Nelson. He's Rodgers' top target and a key to the offense. The Packers' offense lost some of its efficiency and explosiveness when he missed last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He did not play in the preseason but he is expected to start against the Jaguars.
"You rely on the thousands of reps we've put in over the years and trust we'll be able to make it work when he [Nelson] gets out there," Rodgers told Jacksonville media this week.
ONE STRENGTH …
Rodgers is unquestionably a Packers strength, and it's difficult to pick one trait that makes him special. He's accurate, makes superior decisions in the pocket and his career touchdown-interception ratio is the best in NFL history. What makes Rodgers particularly dangerous is he is difficult to sack and has an ability to extend plays – and to create chunk players after extending them. While pressuring Rodgers is key, Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said as important is keeping Rodgers inside the pocket. "Not very many people hit him," Wash said. "He does a nice job of avoiding the rush and his offensive linemen do a good job of just staying on people to allow him to avoid the rush. … That is a big concern of ours going into the game. We have really young rushers [Dante Fowler Jr. and Yannick Ngakoue] on the outside. We know they are athletic and can affect the quarterback, but they need to be disciplined this week when we are dealing with Aaron Rodgers."
… ANOTHER STRENGTH
The Packers' have a slew of high-profile players offensively, a list that includes Rodgers, Nelson, running back Eddie Lacy and wide receiver Randall Cobb. But defensive tackle Roy Miller said the Packers' offensive line is underrated. "I don't think the O Line gets enough credit," Miller said. "They do a good job opening up seams for Aaron Rodgers. They have been solid. They don't let the pocket collapse. They're physical and open up holes for Lacy, which is a whole issue in and of itself. I think it's a perfect matchup and a chance for us to continue finding out who were are."
One area to watch Sunday is the Jaguars' pass rush versus the Packers' offensive line. The Jaguars must pressure the passer better than last season and pressuring Rodgers is difficult because of his savvy and mobility. Of equal importance could be the matchup between the Packers' wide receivers and the Jaguars' secondary. Nelson's return means Rodgers again will have the player on whom he most depends in the deep passing game, and it also means Cobb could return to the slot receiver role where is most comfortable. The Jaguars' secondary may be the most upgraded spot on the roster, with the addition of not only No. 5 overall selection Jalen Ramsey at cornerback, but Tashaun Gipson at free safety and Prince Amukamara at cornerback. The Jaguars' pass rush is unproven, but the secondary could be good enough to give the pass rush an extra half second or two – and a half second or two can be significant.
Despite losing three of their last four regular-season openers, the Packers in recent seasons have been a very good September team. That includes last season when they were 3-0 in September and when Rodgers had a passer rating of 135.4 after the first month of the season. The Jaguars have won one game in September in Head Coach Gus Bradley's three previous seasons with the team.
"He's a guy you want to account for and make sure that he will be handled by the offensive line or by a running back or somebody in protection. You always kind of want to know where he's at and make sure he's being blocked."
--Jaguars QB Blake Bortles on Packers linebacker Clay Matthews
"He does a great job of utilizing personnel he has. … He always does a great job of utilizing the players and finding matchups in what he does on the defensive side of the ball.''
--Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson on Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers
"You have to run the football frankly. The conversation needs to be more about how you're going to do it. So we got away from the run last year and we're just going back to playing the way we feel we need to play."
---Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy