Photo: Jeff Gross/Getty Images
The Packers almost went undefeated last season. They scored the second-most points in NFL history, and gained the 14th most yards in NFL history. They scored 63 offensive touchdowns and turned the ball over just 14 times.They were the one of the best offenses ever.
Now they stink.
Well, they don’t stink. But for a team that was transcendent last year, they are depressingly OK this year. Check out the stats from year to year:
- Yards per game: 333.5 (20th) this year, 405.1 (3rd) last year
- Points per game: 21.3 (20th) this year, 35.0 (1st) last year
- Sacks allowed per game: 4.0 (32nd) this year, 2.56 (21st) last year
- Yard per passing attempt: 6.9 (20th) this year, 9.4 (1st) last year
On a per game basis, they’re scoring 14 fewer points, gaining 70 fewer yards, getting sacked more and making fewer big plays.
So what’s up?
Let’s go through the three possible causes:
Personnel. The Packers are struggling this year with basically the same players that dominated last year. They returned 8 of 11 starters on offence. Two of those changes were minor (Cedric Benson for Ryan Grant, James Jones for Donald Driver). But the departure of Pro Bowl centre Scott Wells has been key.
Green Bay’s offence relies on their offensive line more than the usual NFL team. They like to send a lot of receivers down the field, and for that to be successful they need a line that can protect the quarterback by itself without constant help from tight ends and running backs. As we witness on Monday Night, when Seattle sacked Aaron Rodgers 8 times in the first half, the offensive line simply can’t cut it.
As a result, the Packers are having to keep more players in to protect Rodgers, and his down-field options have diminished.
But still, four of the five starting lineman from last year’s team are back. The effect of one guy leaving shouldn’t be the difference between 35 points per game and 21 points per game.
Injuries. Greg Jennings has been banged up. That’s a factor in their decline, but again, it shouldn’t be that big of a factor.
Schedule. Here. We. Go. This is the easiest way to explain Green Bay’s offensive regression.
In their first four games in 2012, Green bay has played San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, and New Orleans. The Saints are awful, but those other three teams are top-5 in the league in points allowed and yards allowed.
How many top five defenses did Green Bay play last year? Zero.
How many top 10 defenses did Green Bay play last year? Zero.
In 2011, the Packers played one team ranked in the top 15 in both points allowed and yards allowed — the Kansas City Chiefs. They lost that game 19-14, their only loss in the regular season.
Conversely, they played 10 games against the 10 worst defenses in the league (based on points per game).
The Packers looked better than they were last year because they played a schedule of exclusively average or below average defenses. That’s why they’re struggling this year with the same players against good defenses.
They were never as good as their historic stats indicated last year, and they aren’t as bad as their below-average stats indicate this year. The real Packers offence is somewhere in between.
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