Green Bay Packers

They could be a top-tier defense, but plenty of "ifs" need to go right.

Green Bay’s Last Dance ended with a crash and a record scratch. It all seemed so promising at first. Save for getting the rust knocked off by the Saints in Week 1, the Packers were one of the best teams in the league throughout the regular season. They eventually won the division and even the No.1 seed in the NFC, the only seed that gets a bye anymore.

The heart of the Last Dance movement, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, again played at an All-Pro level and propelled the offense into the league’s upper echelon. Incomplete as the team may have been, by the end of December, it felt like these Packers might have enough because of those two. It felt like the Rodgers and Adams pairing alone was enough of a force multiplier to get this thing done.

In the end, it wasn’t. Rodgers and the Packers ran up against the 49ers in the divisional round, a tricky stylistic matchup for the Packers by itself, never mind the snowy conditions that only further debilitated their passing offense and ramped up the volatility for their league-worst special teams unit. Rodgers couldn’t connect with anyone but Adams and Aaron Jones, almost exclusively in the short area of the field, and the special teams unit gave up not one but two blocks— one on a field goal attempt at the end of the first half, and another on a punt that was returned for a touchdown, the only one the 49ers scored that night. The season fell apart in a way that screamed, “It’s not your year.”

Now Adams is gone. Losing that game isn’t the reason for his departure, but it makes it all sting even more. The Last Dance mantra was inspiring in the moment and painful in its conclusion because it really was the last time Adams and Rodgers would play together. According to Adams, the driving force for him asking for a trade and ending up in Las Vegas was actually longevity. Not his, but Rodgers’. The now back-to-back MVP made a stink last offseason about potentially being...