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The Packers were the talk of the 2021 offseason thanks to their future Hall of Fame quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, long refusing to commit to his place in Green Bay. Now, the Rodgers drama is old news, with the signal-caller back in the saddle for at least one more year in green and yellow. In a way, all the focus on his situation seems to have diverted attention from the Packers as a whole. This is a team that's come within one win of reaching the Super Bowl in two straight seasons, and they're returning the QB-head coach pairing that led the NFL's highest-scoring offense in 2020, when said QB won league MVP.

Other NFC teams are worthy of preseason hype: The 49ers are much healthier with options at QB, the Seahawks have yet to post a losing record with Russell Wilson, the Rams are touting flashy weapons for new QB Matthew Stafford, and so on. But if one team should be a lock to contend for a title this year, it's Green Bay. Here are three reasons Rodgers and the Packers can finally advance past the NFC Championship, reach and ultimately win the Super Bowl in 2021:

Aaron Rodgers' farewell tour

OK, so Rodgers hasn't said explicitly that 2021 will be his last year in Green Bay; in fact, a Super Bowl run might force the Packers to completely wave the white flag on their Jordan Love succession plan and hand the franchise keys exclusively to No. 12. But either way, Rodgers enters this season knowing full well this could, or likely will, be his Packers sendoff. If Love's abrupt arrival in 2020 motivated Rodgers to prove his own team wrong, who's to say the potential freedom to choose a new destination in 2022 won't motivate Rodgers just as much? What better way to one-up the Packers and the entire league than by winning it all just when everyone expected you to be pawned off on another franchise?

Beyond the mental motivations, there's also the fact that Rodgers is just Rodgers. Yes, he got a little too conservative for stretches in 2018-2019, but 2020 was proof that this man remains one of the most reliable and ridiculous arms in the NFL. At 37, he's rarely seemed more confident in his own abilities, and an offseason spent mostly away from team facilities should have him rested and recharged for the first 17-game regular season in NFL history. It's not like postseason Rodgers has stumbled mightily, either; he hasn't posted a QB rating below 90 in a playoff game since 2015.

Matt LaFleur's underrated coaching

The meme culture in which we live demands that any conversation about LaFleur's standing as an NFL head coach includes extra emphasis on his conservative decision to kick a field goal rather than trust Rodgers on fourth down in Green Bay's latest NFC Championship bid. But that overshadows the greater body of work -- the one in which LaFleur is a historic 28-8, including playoffs, in his first two seasons running the show. Rodgers plays a big part in that, sure, but there's a reason the Packers have thrived through both the air and ground under the former Titans coordinator's direction: He's a balanced decision-maker, respected in the locker room and a top-10 performer at his job.

At some point, regression will be inevitable. No one can go 13-3 and keep sniffing the Super Bowl forever. But the ascension and steadiness from LaFleur has been so apparent early in his tenure, with a solid and balanced roster as complements, that an Andy Reid-esque trajectory -- of a bunch of near-misses before an inevitable championship breakthrough -- feels very possible. Having an elite head coach matters, and despite the big-game slip-ups, LaFleur has quickly proven he belongs in that category.

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Added depth, upside on both sides of the ball

Most of the reasons the Packers should be considered title candidates have to do with the fact Green Bay has literally been on the verge of the Super Bowl since 2019. But this year, they don't just return many of the core starters that have made them explosive -- think Rodgers, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, Za'Darius Smith, Jaire Alexander. They also have added depth and upside on both offense and defense -- potential reinforcements for the stretch run and inevitable playoff hunt.

Let's start with the offense: Losing All-Pro center Corey Linsley was a big blow, and left tackle David Bakhtiari won't be around to start the year, but the Packers have ascending interior man Elgton Jenkins to serve as a fill-in bookend, plus newcomer Josh Myers as a capable swing guy at left guard and center. At wideout, Randall Cobb brings nice familiarity at slot receiver, with rookie Amari Rodgers providing more long-term juice there. On "D," where new coordinator Joe Barry looks to improve on Mike Pettine's work, De'Vondre Campbell gives Green Bay a higher floor than the departed oft-injured Christian Kirksey at linebacker, while Eric Stokes at least brings an athletic alternative to Kevin King opposite Alexander in the secondary.

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