By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Las Vegas odds-makers install Chiefs, Packers as best bets to win it all in 2022
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay has the NFL’s MVP quarterback, a head coach who deserves but doesn’t get any “Coach of the Year” buzz, and a new defensive coordinator and special teams’ coach to shake it up.
The Packers also have great expectations … again.
Moments after the Bucs finished off Kansas City, 31-9, in a lackluster Super Bowl LV Sunday night, the Las Vegas sports books installed the Chiefs and Packers as the favorites to win Super Bowl LVI.
Kansas City (11-to-2) and Green Bay (9-to-1) drew the best odds in each conference to win Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 6, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif.
That’s small consolation to the Packers, who are still recovering from a 31-26 loss to Tampa Bay in the NFC championship game. If anything, the Bucs’ blowout of Kansas City reaffirmed two things:
** The belief that the Packers truly are among the NFL’s elite teams, especially given their great opportunity lost against the Buccaneers.
** The fact that NFL championship teams such as the Bucs bring to bear a cluster of terrific core players on both sides of the football.
It is no wonder the Packers own the league’s top offense. They have a creative head coach (Matt LaFleur) designing it, the NFL’s MVP (Aaron Rodgers) running it and a stellar cast (Davante Adams, David Bakhtiari, etc.) rounding it out.
Green Bay’s defense and special teams is another matter. The Packers fired Mike Pettine and Shawn Mennenga because their coaching decisions – personnel aside – repeatedly let the team down.
LaFleur offered the D.C. job to the University of Wisconsin’s Jim Leonhard, who holds the same position with the Badgers. Leonhard elected to decline the offer and remain at Wisconsin. It was a tough call for him, but loyalty and love to and for the Badgers and his family prevailed.
Next up is Joe Barry as the Packers’ next defensive coordinator. LaFleur and Barry worked together on the L.A. Rams’ staff in 2017. Barry, 50, had been hired by new L.A. Chargers coach Brandon Staley to be the linebackers coach and passing game coordinator.
Now Barry will get his third shot as an NFL defensive coordinator. Barry ran the Lions’ defense in 2007-2008 and the Washington Football Team’s defense in 2015-2016.
Most recently, with Washington, the Football Team ranked 17th in yards allowed and 18th in points allowed. Those numbers are underwhelming. But reports say that Barry is a “high-energy coach” who prefers to play an “aggressive” style of defense. The truth is Barry’s hiring is all about trust and communication. There is something to be said for a head coach bringing in his own guy. Now that LaFleur has his guy, he needs GM Brian Gutekunst and the scouting department to find the right defenders to fit Barry’s scheme.
The Packers’ defense isn’t without playmakers. It features a stud at every level in defensive tackle Kenny Clark, edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and cornerback Jaire Alexander. What it needs to acquire are complementary pieces, especially up front next to Clark, the edge opposite Smith and the corner across from Alexander. It also needs a leader and playmaker like the Bucs’ Devin White.
This might be the draft to trade up into the middle of the first round and select a kick-butt, sideline-to-sideline inside linebacker.
The fact that the NFL’s salary cap is expected to decrease by $25 million also means there are going to be very good veteran free agents available. With all things being equal financially, perhaps a veteran or two can be persuaded to come to Green Bay in search of a Super Bowl ring.
The NFC North appears to be the Packers to own again in 2021. The Vikings’ odds to win Super Bowl LVI are 40-to-1, which puts them 17th along with the Cardinals and Raiders.
The Bears’ odds are 50-to-1, which puts them tied for 20th with the Patriots and Eagles.
And the lowly Lions’ odds are 100-to-1, which puts them in a tie for dead last with the Jets and Texans. That’s six winnable games going into the season.
Now, if the Packers can add an impact player or two on defense, plus a running back with Aaron Jones’ skill set and a speedy slot receiver to run pre-snap motion and jet sweeps, they should be set to make a run.
The odds are in their favor.
** HALL OF FAME SHOUT OUT TO ‘C-WOOD’
Congratulations to Charles Woodson on his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the Class of 2021. Woodson was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection as well as the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998 and Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. He finished with 65 interceptions for his career, which was highlighted by the Packers’ Super Bowl championship in 2010.