Packers Are Super No. 1: Here’s the Point

Bill Huber

Note: With an 8-2 record at the bye, the Green Bay Packers are a prime contender to be playing in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2 in Miami. This is part of a six-part series – three on why the Packers will get to the Super Bowl and three on why they will fall short.

Too often, the eye test is based on yards as much as the scoreboard. Because of that eye test, the Packers seem like something of a fraud in comparison to the league’s other top teams.

On offense, the production has been inconsistent as the passing game lacks a true No. 2 option. On defense, the Packers can’t stop the run and have given up too many big plays vs. the pass. Those warts show up in the numbers. Green Bay has been outgained by 287 yards. Of the 10 teams with at least six wins, Green Bay is the only team to have been outgained. In fact, the other nine teams average plus-557 yards.

So, how have the Packers been outgained by 28.7 yards per game but outscored their opponents by 4.5 points per game? Simple: The Packers have dominated in the red zone.

Offensively, Green Bay is third in the NFL with a 68.6 percent touchdown rate once reaching the opponents’ 20-yard line. Defensively, Green Bay is eighth in the NFL by allowing a 48.5 percent touchdown rate.

“We’ve gone through some adversity and we’ve found a way,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said on Tuesday. “It wasn’t pretty all the time, but our guys – I know Matt (LaFleur) uses the phrase ‘Don’t blink’ and our guys, they embody that. We’ve had some rough stretches that we’ve been able to get things figured out and find a way at the end to make it interesting but still come out on the plus side. I just think that’s a big part of it, the mental toughness of the group, the togetherness of the group. You see it by the way our guys celebrate, just stuff that you can’t force. I think it’s more that type of stuff, the intangible stuff than necessarily what we’re doing Xs and Os wise on the field.”

In NFL history, 106 teams have reached the Super Bowl. Only two have been in the negative in yardage differential and only the 2001 New England Patriots hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. Interestingly, those Patriots had the worst yardage differential of any Super Bowl team (minus-470) but beat the team with the largest differential of any team in NFL history, the St. Louis Rams (plus-2,219).

Can the Packers pull off a repeat of that history? Offensively, can the Packers keep scoring touchdowns in the red zone? That at least seems like a strong possibility given the brilliance of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the nose for the end zone of running back Aaron Jones. Defensively, can the Packers continue to keep the opposition out of the end zone? Or will that strength disappear against the type of quarterbacks that would loom in the playoffs?

Also working in Green Bay’s favor is the turnover table, with teams that win the turnover battle winning the game 77.0 percent of the time. The Packers are third in the league at plus-9. In a league driven by big plays, perhaps no quarterback in NFL history has been as good at creating game-changing plays while preventing the opposite type of game-changing play as Rodgers.

If the Packers can steal a possession or two per game with takeaways and limit enough drives to field goals rather than touchdowns, they will be a very difficult team to beat in January.