How good are the Green Bay Packers?
Record wise, they’re 8-3, one game back of the New Orleans Saints for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But how good are they really. When I ask that, of course, I’m asking it in the sense of whether or not they’re real contenders for a Super Bowl, or if their record is inflating them more than reality.
When you look at the Packers’ schedule game-by-game, their wins are often big. Their 66 net points on the season are the sixth most in the NFL. Five of their eight wins have come by double-digits, with another win by nine points. But is who they’re playing a topic worth exploring when it comes to determining a realistic ceiling for this Packers team?
Of their eight wins, only one has come against an opponent with an above .500 record. To their credit, that team was the New Orleans Saints, but it was also at a time when the Saints weren’t exactly playing their best. Of the three teams they have played above .500, they’re 1-2 in those games. They have wins over the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, and San Francisco 49ers, who are all close to that middle mark at 5-6, however, the Packers’ total wins come against teams with a combined record of 37-51, while their three losses come against teams with a combined record of 19-15. Overall, the Packers’ current 16-game strength of schedule is .455, which is the sixth-easiest total schedule strength in the league.
Does this make the Packers frauds? “Beat down on the bad teams, can’t beat the good teams.” No, I wouldn’t say that at all. Their loss to the Vikings was a divisional matchup, which is always tough no matter the situation, and their loss to the Indianapolis Colts came in overtime after they were up 28-14 at half. But with an easy-ish schedule to close out the season, it is a narrative that will continue to come up as we get closer to the playoffs and people begin to fill out their playoff brackets.
Head coach Matt LaFleur is on pace to have his second double-digit win season in his first two years with the team. His current .778 win percentage is mighty high for a guy making his head coaching debut. With him, their quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing at an MVP level (not saying he wins it, but he’s playing well enough to be mentioned). They’re getting healthier with their offensive weapons and getting more comfortable as they go along there. It’s the flip side of the ball that might be holding them back from becoming true contenders.
The Packers are the 19th-rated defense in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. They’re currently 19th against the pass and 20th against the run. But their style of run defense under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has been a question mark all season.
The Packers’ defense has been questioned heavily under Pettine, as their unorthodox alignments up front have yielded less-than-favorable results. There’s a lot of underneath coverage being played by the Packers right now, which has limited the deep shots against them this year, as they have moved from a bottom half defense in that category to the top five in not allowing big plays. But it has bitten them, at times, as things have become too easy. And going back to the run, the Packers’ defensive alignments have made it too difficult for their players to contain their run fits, often leading to gash plays on early downs. It’s not that the Packers don’t have talent on defense, but it’s how they’re being deployed that seems to hold them back.
The Packers still need to find that groove between getting teams in 3rd-and-long situations and then playing those situations appropriately. It hasn’t all come together yet, but I don’t want to make it seem like this Packers team isn’t legit, either. Their schedule continues to work in their favor down the stretch, and their offense will give them a chance against basically anyone.
Are the Packers everything they can be? No, not quite. Does that make them pretenders or frauds? That’s a no, too.
Right now they’re 8-3 knocking on the door of a first-round bye. If that’s what we’re getting with a team that can be playing even better than they are, those kinds of teams belong in the championship conversation, no matter what their schedule says.
- Aug 22, 2022
- Aug 22, 2022