After a 17-7 loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City Thursday night, a 3-1 preseason is in the books for the Green Bay Packers.
Taking a conservative approach, head coach Mike McCarthy played only four starters and held out 20 players in the game, which comes nine days before Green Bay opens regular-season play at Jacksonville on Sept. 11. That game will be televised in Western Wisconsin exclusively on FOX 25/48.
Head coach Mike McCarthy is content with his team’s progress through an extended training camp due to the Hall of Fame game, which ended up being cancelled. For McCarthy and his staff, the arduous task is underway of trimming his roster to the NFL-mandated limit of 53 by Saturday. Teams can set their 10-man practice squad on Sunday.
“I tell you, it’s hard to cut players,” former Chicago head coach Mike Ditka said. “These kids are busting their tails to be part of your organization and the reality is you can’t keep ‘em all. It’s really hard—they grow on you.
“With a team like the Packers, they have a lot of talent on that roster so it really makes it hard. You have to let some good players go that will have a chance to play elsewhere.”
The Packers are a bona-fide Super Bowl contender this season, along with NFC stalwarts Carolina and Arizona and perennial AFC power New England. Ditka expects a wide-open race for the Super Bowl 51 title.
“A number of teams have a shot—I can’t pick a favorite right now,” Ditka said. “A number of teams could emerge this season. All I know is this: it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to be fortunate with injuries. Look at what happened to Bridgewater and the Vikings—it’s just too bad because he’s a talented player and a class act. It all can change in an instant.”
The Packers revolve around quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who Ditka said is among the league’s elite despite a sub-par 2015 season by his standards.
“Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league, but he’s got to have all the pieces to make it work,” Ditka said. “Jordy Nelson is back, the offense has other weapons. A very good defense. Well-coached. Mike (McCarthy) has a nice thing going there in Green Bay.”
Ditka said the focus has to be on divisional play.
“First off you have to take care of business in your division,” he said. “Detroit is an enigma to me. The Bears will be better and scratch out some wins and the Vikings are a talented balanced team that won the NFC North last year. Minnesota isn’t going away because they lost one key player. It will be an interesting race to watch play out.”