NFL 2014 Team Grades: Green Bay Packers
Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Image via USA Today Sports

This team that seems to have such a stranglehold on the division, even winning it last year while losing an incredible number of man games to injury, didn't disappoint in 2014 as they captured yet another NFC North title. The Packers came very close to securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and one wonders what might have happened if the NFC championship game had been played in the friendly frozen combines of Lambeau Field. Aaron Rodgers had an MVP season, and Green Bay - as they always seem to do - retooled on-the-fly, under the radar, while still reigning supreme in the division with a final record of 12-4.

Rookies Hasean Clinton-Dix, Cory Linsley, and D'vante Adams made immediate contributions and showed, again, why Ted Thompson is one of the best general managers in the game when it comes to securing talent. Additionally, Green Bay is normally reluctant to jump in the free agency waters, but when they do, it usually turns out well as it did this season with the addition of Julius Peppers.

Star running back Eddie Lacy had a pedestrian first half of the season, but by the final quarter of the regular season and in Green Bay's two playoff games, he ran as well and as hard as any back in the NFL. The Packers also extended the contract of Jordy Nelson, who promptly justified it with an outstanding first three quarters of the season, though he was relatively quiet in the final quarter as well as the playoffs.

The Packers survived a serious challenge for North supremacy from Detroit, but their long-held dominance over the Lions anywhere in the state of Wisconsin proved to be their ace in the hole. They also won a playoff game for the first time since their last Super Bowl winning season, outlasting the Dallas Cowboys in a thrilling divisional round game.

It's hard to talk about the Packers 2014 season without mentioning what was viewed by many as an epic collapse in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game at Seattle. The view from here is that the Packers control of that game was largely a mirage, helped in large part by securing five total Seattle turnovers, in addition to three inside the Seahawks' half of the field and one inside the red zone.

For an offense this good to have only put up 16 points before their final drive in that game was troubling, though a testament to the excellent Seattle defense. When you talk about who was the better team on the field in a given game, it's just hard for this writer to say that the team that scored one touchdown was somehow better throughout the day than the team that scored four.

Defensively, the Packers - as they did throughout the season - played much better than given credit for in the NFC Championship, but were unable to stop Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch down the stretch. On the whole for the defense, the aforementioned addition of Peppers, the emergence of Clinton-Dix, and the movement of Clay Matthews to an inside linebacker spot were big positive for Dom Capers' unit.

Having said that, some of the Packers coaching decisions and play down the stretch in the Seattle game will haunt the organization and the Packer faithful well into 2015, when Mike McCarthy's Packers should again be one of the odds-on favorites to not only capture the division crown but to challenge for the Super Bowl. Going into 2015, the key questions for the Packers seem to be shakeups in the coaching staff; adjustments in terms of game day assignments including play calling, as well as decisions on the return of injured defensive lineman BJ Raji and pending free-agent wide receiver Randall Cobb.

Overall grade: A

VAVEL Logo