Packers eager to take next step after NFC championship loss

GREEN BAY PACKERS (14-4)

New faces: TE Josiah Deguara, RB A.J. Dillon, DBs coach Jerry Gray, LB Christian Kirksey, QB Jordan Love, LB Kamal Martin, OT Rick Wagner

Key losses: WR Geronimo Allison, OT Bryan Bulaga, OLB Kyler Fackrell, TE Jimmy Graham, LB Blake Martinez

Strengths: Stability on both sides of ball in second year of coach Matt LaFleur’s system. Packers bring back most of nucleus and coaching staff. Offense has three exceptional playmakers with two-time MVP QB Aaron Rodgers throwing to WR Davante Adams and handing off to RB Aaron Jones. Rodgers has reliable blind-side protection from Pro Bowl OT David Bakhtiari. OLBs Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith combined for 25 ½ sacks last year. Promising young secondary features CB Jaire Alexander.

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Weaknesses: Packers didn’t do much to boost run defense after allowing 285 yards rushing in NFC championship game loss at San Francisco. Receiving corps lacks proven performers aside from Adams. Packers have uncertainty at right tackle after losing longtime starter Bryan Bulaga in free agency. Kirksey’s injury history creates potential concerns at inside linebacker with Martinez gone. Kirksey has played total of nine games over last two seasons.

Pandemic Development: Fans won’t be permitted for at least first two home games. Any home games that do have spectators won’t have crowds bigger than 10,000-12,000. WR Devin Funchess opted out and cited family health concerns.

Fantasy Players To Watch: Adams and Jones are Packers’ top fantasy threats. Jones had 16 TD runs, three TD catches last season but might not have as many scoring opportunities with second-round pick Dillon joining backfield. Potential sleeper Allen Lazard worth monitoring in late rounds of fantasy drafts after catching 35 passes for 477 yards and three TDs last season — all in Week 6 or later. With Funchess out, Lazard is Packers’ likely No. 2 wideout.

Vegas Says: Win Super Bowl: 30-1. Over/under wins: 8 1/2.

Expectations: Packers benefited from good health and uncanny success in close contests last season by going 9-1 in games decided by eight points or fewer. Packers may not be so fortunate on either count this year. Packers have good shot at defending NFC North title but likely won’t approach last year’s win total.

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