ESPN absolutely loves their analytics and prediction tools. Their numbers create countless topics for their talking heads to throw hot takes at.
One of the worldwide leaders favorite tools is the Football Power Index. A tool that predicts how teams will do in the following season. The criteria is as complex as it is long.
“The FPI rankings are based substantially on win totals from Caesars Sportsbook and strength of schedule, along with factors such as past team performance and returning starters.” Said Seth Walder in an article for ESPN.com. “We use team ratings to simulate the season thousands of times, creating our projections, which update every day during the season. Game predictions are also informed by factors such as travel, rest differential and changes at starting quarterback.”
In the article Walder gave the Packers, according to the FPI, a 27.9% chance of making the playoffs this season. That’s good for worst in the division. The Detroit Lions have a 65.4% chance, the Minnesota Vikings a 51.8% chance, and the Chicago Bear are a 34.2% chance.
To win the NFC North, the Packers are once again at the bottom with a 12.2% chance of topping the division. The FPI also puts the Packers’ probability of making the Super Bowl at 1.6% and winning it at .5%.
I’m here to tell you ESPN got it dead wrong.
The NFC North might be the most overrated division in football. The Lions have done absolutely nothing. Going one game over .500 for the first time in forever doesn’t make me ready to crown a team that is consistently inconsistent. Dan Campbell and Jared Goff still haven’t proven themselves and they will be without one of their best playmakers for the first six games. The Bears are terrible until proven otherwise. There is no world where the Vikings match what they did last season. They lost several key players from an already bad defense. Brian Flores will help, but we are not going to see a repeat situation in Minnesota.
Matt Lafleur is better than people think. The amount of heat that a coach that won 39 of his first 48 games is currently getting is outrageous. Ross Tucker ranked him the 17th best coach in the NFL?! Ludicrous! This is finally his offense to lead, and as Mina Kimes put it Lafleur is “one of the better play callers in the NFL.”
Despite still having Joe Barry at the helm, it would be hard for the defense to not improve. They were injured, lacked aggressiveness, and were undisciplined. Health and growth along with another first round pick should help at least two of those. It’s likely the Packers will build on their end of 2023 defensive run.
This team will relish in the underdog roll. You think LaFleur and all those young players aren’t going to come in with a chip on their shoulder? The wide receivers are already discussing the enviroment change. The whole team is together. It might seem like no big deal that Jordan Love and other skill players spent the holiday weekend in Door County with AJ Dillon, but it is. This unit is together and ready to prove people wrong.
And oh by the way, there’s a chanc they might have the steal of the draft. Jayden Reed is reportedly blowing people away in Green Bay. “I’ve had just about every coach come up to me, on our staff, and be like, ‘Holy wow. That guy is twitchy, fast and explosive.’ He has all those traits,” wide receivers coach Jason Vrable said last week.
ESPN, Vegas, and every national media talking head can put this team in last place all they want. Go ahead and predict 7 or 7 1/2 wins. I’m here to tell you to take the over every place you can. Take it from Kimes, who has become one of ESPN’s most level headed contributors. “You know most people when they think of a rebuild they think of a team that has very little chance of being competitive and I don’t think that’s true of the Green Bay Packers” Kimes said. “I think there’s just too much talent on this roster. It’s a defense that hasn’t played up to that talent level, but I thought played better at the end of last year. With tons of first round draft picks, it’s dominant offensive line, very good run game led by Aaron Jones, an underrated skill group and I think one of the better play callers in the NFL in Matt LaFleur. If Jordan Love plays in the top half of expectations they will absolutely be in the mix for the NFC North.”
Does that sound like a no-brainer last place in the division team to you? Me neither.