AARON RODGERS is a paradox. At times he simply won't look at his primary receiver. He'll also hold the ball unnecessarily. And yet when he goes against these quarterbacking fundamentals, Rodgers doesn't just avoid turnovers—he often makes spectacular plays. Still, the Packers' offense operates better when Rodgers is playing on time and with discipline. He did that down the stretch last season and lit the world on fire.
• JORDY NELSON is the perfect receiver for Rodgers. Besides running Green Bay's staple routes—such as slants and posts outside, and deep "over" routes from the slot—Nelson is tremendous on the back-shoulder throws that Rodgers loves, and he has a feel for how to get open when a play breaks down late. This is a big reason that 11 of Nelson's league-leading 14 touchdown receptions last year came in the red zone.
• Let's not forget: Rodgers and Nelson can come up with magic late in the play because of their offensive line. No front five was better at sustaining pass protection in 2016—not even Dallas's. The Pack's O-line does have some built-in advantages, though. Instead of blitzing Rodgers, defenses like to drop eight into coverage, which means there are only three defenders to block. Also, Green Bay sees fewer designer pass rush tactics such as stunts and twists; defenses are so concerned with keeping Rodgers in the pocket that they tend to have rushers simply charge straight up the field.
• When the Packers drafted cornerback KEVIN KING and safety JOSH JONES in the second round this spring, defensive coordinator DOM CAPERS beamed. That's because Capers, the team's nine-year defensive coordinator, can only run his preferred system when he has cover men he trusts. (Last year he had to play safe, two-high-safety schemes to aid his floundering cornerbacks.)
• Capers loves to play "big nickel," even against running formations. He basically replaces a linebacker with a smaller, but more athletic, box safety. Former Packers great Charles Woodson and Micah Hyde (who signed with the Bills this offseason) both prospered in this role. In '17 eight-year veteran MORGAN BURNETT should ably succeed them.
"RODGERS CAN GO AGAINST FUNDAMENTALS AND NOT ONLY AVOID TURNOVERS BUT MAKE SPECTACULAR PLAYS."
SI'S 2017 PREDICTION
2016 RECORD 10--6
ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400
6 AARON RODGERS QB
58 MIKE DANIELS DE
63 DAVID BAKHTIARI T
97 JORDY NELSON WR
143 MARTELLUS BENNETT TE
145 BRYAN BULAGA T
154 CLAY MATTHEWS OLB
180 HA-HA CLINTON-DIX FS
200 MORGAN BURNETT SS
209 RANDALL COBB WR
226 NICK PERRY OLB