Analysis

Are undefeated Packers truly Super?

CREATED Oct 24, 2011

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  • Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy. | Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers are the National Football League's only 7-0 team after their 33-27 triumph on the road over the Minnesota Vikings.

The current Packers are the first team to start a season 7-0 since 1962, when the Packers won their second of five NFL championships under Vince Lombardi.

But are they a true favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champions, considering their penchant to give up lots of yards, and their lack of yards-per-game productivity in the running game?

Not necessarily.

Lots of teams have gone 7-0 to begin seasons, but not so many have reached the double-digit mark in victories before their first loss.

The majority of those teams going 10-0 failed to even win the world title, with seven getting the championship and eight losing in the postseason.

The Packers would need to defeat San Diego on the road, Tampa Bay at Lambeau Field and Minnesota at home to even reach that mark of 10-0.

Perhaps it's even putting the cart before the horse to do this, but we will take that chance: let's look at some details from teams that have gone 10-0 since 1962, including those champions under Vince Lombardi, and compare them to the 2011 Packers:
 

2011 Packers
Started 7-0
Scoring offense: 32.9 (2nd of 32)
Scoring defense: 20.1 (15th)
Scoring margin: 12.8
Turnover margin: +8 (4th)
Yards per game: 467.1 (2nd)
Yards allowed per game: 391.0 (27th)
Yards per pass attempt: 9.4
Yards per rush: 3.8 (26th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 7.4
Yards allowed per rush: 4.6 (9th)
1962 Packers
Started 10-0, won the NFL Championship over Giants
Scoring offense: 29.6 (1st of 14)
Scoring defense: 10.6 (1st)
Scoring margin: 19.0
Turnover margin: +22
Yards per game: 342.2 (4th)
Yards allowed per game: 234.0 (2nd)
Yards per pass attempt: 6.7 (6th)
Yards per rush: 4.7 (1st)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 4.4 (1st)
Yards allowed per rush: 3.8 (3rd)
1969 Rams
Started 11-0, lost in NFL Divisional Playoff to Vikings
Scoring offense: 22.9 (4th of 16)
Scoring defense: 17.4 (5th)
Scoring margin: 5.5
Turnover margin: +20
Yards per game: 281 (12th)
Yards allowed per game: 285.8 (6th)
Yards per pass attempt: 5.8 (10th)
Yards per rush: 3.7 (15th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 5.3 (5th)
Yards allowed per rush: 3.6 (5th)
1972 Dolphins
Went 17-0, won Super Bowl VII over Redskins
Scoring offense: 27.5 (1st of 26)
Scoring defense: 12.2 (1st)
Scoring margin: 15.3
Turnover margin: +18
Yards per game: 359.7 (1st)
Yards allowed per game: 235.5 (1st)
Yards per pass attempt: 7.4 (3rd)
Yards per rush: 4.8 (2nd)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 4.6 (3rd)
Yards allowed per rush: 4.0 (9th)
1975 Vikings
Started 10-0, lost NFC Divisional Playoff to Cowboys
Scoring offense: 26.9 (3rd of 26)
Scoring defense: 12.9 (3rd)
Scoring margin: 14
Turnover margin: +16
Yards per game: 353.9 (5th)
Yards allowed per game: 225.2 (5th)
Yards per pass attempt: 6.0 (10th)
Yards per rush: 3.8 (20th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 4.0 (1st)
Yards allowed per rush: 4.0 (14th)
1984 Dolphins
Started 11-0, lost Super Bowl XIX to 49ers

Scoring offense: 32.0 (1st of 28)
Scoring defense: 18.6 (7th)
Scoring margin: 13.4
Turnover margin: +8
Yards per game: 433.5 (1st)
Yards allowed per game: 338.8 (19th)
Yards per pass attempt: 8.6 (1st)
Yards per rush: 4.0 (16th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 5.5 (7th)
Yards allowed per rush: 4.7 (28th)
1985 Bears
Started 12-0, won Super Bowl XX

Scoring offense: 28.5 (2nd of 28)
Scoring defense: 12.4 (1st)
Scoring margin: 16.1
Turnover margin: +23
Yards per game: 364.8 (7th)
Yards allowed per game: 258.4 (1st)
Yards per pass attempt: 6.5 (4th)
Yards per rush: 4.5 (5th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 4.8 (2nd)
Yards allowed per rush: 3.7 (6th)
1990 Giants
Started 10-0, won Super Bowl XXV

Scoring offense: 20.9 (15th of 28)
Scoring defense: 13.2 (1st)
Scoring margin: 7.7
Turnover margin: +20
Yards per game: 300.9 (17th)
Yards allowed per game: 262.9 (2nd)
Yards per pass attempt: 6.5 (7th)
Yards per rush: 3.8 (24th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 5.2 (3rd)
Yards allowed per rush: 3.8 (7th)
1990 49ers
Started 10-0, lost NFC Championship Game to Giants

Scoring offense: 22.1 (8th)
Scoring defense: 14.9 (2nd)
Scoring margin: 7.2
Turnover margin: +1
Yards per game: 368.4 (2nd)
Yards allowed per game: 267.1 (3rd)
Yards per pass attempt: 6.7 (5th)
Yards per rush: 3.8 (25th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 5.3 (4th)
Yards allowed per rush: 3.6 (3rd)
1991 Redskins
Started 11-0, won Super Bowl XXVI over Bills

Scoring offense: 30.3 (1st of 28)
Scoring defense: 14.0 (2nd)
Scoring margin: 16.3
Turnover margin: +18
Yards per game: 358.8 (4th)
Yards allowed per game: 268.3 (3rd)
Yards per pass attempt: 8.1 (1st)
Yards per rush: 3.8 (18th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 4.9 (2nd)
Yards allowed per rush: 3.9 (11th)
1998 Broncos
Started 13-0, won Super Bowl XXXIII over Falcons

Scoring offense: 31.3 (2nd)
Scoring defense: 19.3 (8th)
Scoring margin: 12.0
Turnover margin: +10
Yards per game: 380.8 (3rd)
Yards allowed per game: 308.4 (11th)
Yards per pass attempt: 7.0 (3rd)
Yards per rush: 4.7 (2nd)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 5.7 (12th)
Yards allowed per rush: 3.6 (7th)
2005 Colts
Started 13-0, lost AFC Divisional Playoffs to Steelers

Scoring offense: 27.4 (2nd)
Scoring defense: 17.6 (2nd)
Scoring margin: 9.8
Turnover margin: +12
Yards per game: 362.4 (3rd)
Yards allowed per game: 307.1 (11th)
Yards per pass attempt: 7.7 (1st)
Yards per rush: 3.7 (24th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 5.7 (10th)
Yards allowed per rush: 4.4 (28th)
2007 Patriots
Started 18-0 (including playoffs), lost Super Bowl XLII to Giants

Scoring offense: 36.8 (1st of 32)
Scoring defense: 17.1 (4th)
Scoring margin: 19.7
Turnover margin: 16
Yards per game: 411.3 (1st)
Yards allowed per game: 288.3 (4th)
Yards per pass attempt: 7.8 (1st)
Yards per rush: 4.1 (14th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 5.3 (5th)
Yards allowed per rush: 4.4 (26th)
2008 Titans
Started 10-0, lost AFC Divisional Playoffs to Ravens

Scoring offense: 23.4 (14th of 32)
Scoring defense: 14.6 (2nd)
Scoring margin: 8.8
Turnover margin: +14
Yards per game: 313.6 (21st)
Yards allowed per game: 293.6 (7th)
Yards per pass attempt: 6.1 (16th)
Yards per rush: 4.3 (11th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 5.2 (4th)
Yards allowed per rush: 3.7 (6th)
2009 Saints
Started 13-0, won Super Bowl XLIV over Colts

Scoring offense: 31.9 (1st of 32)
Scoring defense: 21.3 (20th)
Scoring margin: 10.6
Turnover margin: +11
Yards per game: 403.8 (1st)
Yards allowed per game: 357.8 (25th)
Yards per pass attempt: 7.7 (2nd)
Yards per rush: 4.5 (7th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 6.2 (20th)
Yards allowed per rush: 4.5 (26th)
2009 Colts
Started 14-0, lost Super Bowl XLIV to Saints

Scoring offense: 26.0 (7th of 32)
Scoring defense: 19.2 (8th)
Scoring margin: 6.8
Turnover margin: +2
Yards per game: 363.1 (9th)
Yards allowed per game: 339.2 (18th)
Yards per pass attempt: 7.4 (4th)
Yards per rush: 3.5 (30th)
Yards allowed per pass attempt: 5.5 (4th)
Yards allowed per rush: 4.3 (19th)


What do these numbers show, and what do they mean?

Two things seem to stand out.

1) The Packers can ill-afford to allow a defensive genius or a stalwart defensive unit to stop their world-beating offense, particularly in a playoff game.


Of the seven championship teams in this listing, five of them had larger margins of victory than the current Packers team.

Of the eight teams that didn't win titles: three of them had larger margins of victory than the current Packers team.

Something that could help the Packers in this category is the fact they have the second-highest points-per-game of any team we are comparing them to in this analysis.

However, the team that's ahead of them, the 2007 Patriots, lost Super Bowl XLII - particularly because of a Giants team that figured out how to stop their offense.

2) The odds are against the Packers if they cannot excel in all areas of their game - meaning they either need improvements in their weaknesses or an incredible level of productivity in what they do best.

The majority of champions in this analysis were amongst the best - or at least in the top half - of every important category or productivity.

Of the seven teams that won titles, these teams failed to either produce in one part of their offense, or failed to stop high levels of productivity with their defense:

The 1990 Giants: They ranked 24th of 28 teams in yards per rush.

How did they overcome it?  The best scoring defense in football, ranking first.

They also overcame it by dominating Super Bowl XXV with their running game, upending the Buffalo Bills...in other words, they improved on their weakness.

The 1991 Redskins: They ranked 18th of 28 teams in yards per rush.

How did they overcome it?  The explosive passing attack powered by quarterback Mark Rypien, which kept them as the best offense in football.

The 2009 Saints: They ranked in the bottom half in all four overall defensive categories.

How did they overcome it?  The passing of Drew Brees and a penchant for causing turnovers in their NFC Championship win over Minnesota and Super Bowl XLIV over the Colts.

Almost all the eight teams that did not win championships found themselves ranking in the bottom half of the league in one of the four per-play statistics: passing yards per attempt, yards per rush, passing yards allowed per opponent's attempt, and yards allowed per opponent's rush.

In other words, they had a deficiency which became their undoing.

Compared to these 15 teams that went 10-0 - three more consecutive wins than the current 7-0 Packers, what kind of Green Bay team are we looking at here?

it's a team that excels in the passing game - one of the best in the NFL today and in recent years, and a team that - despite the big day by Adrian Peterson of the Vikings on Sunday - can stop the run.

Aaron Rodgers' current 9.4 yards per pass play would place him top 10 all-time in that category for a single season if he keeps the pace up, and the all-time mark of 10.9 (Sid Luckman, 1943 Chicago Bears) isn't out of the question.

But they also have a team that has trouble running the football consistently (though they did it when it counted against Minnesota), and they give up a LOT of yards in the passing game.

Should the Packers gain home field advantage, they will be playing on grass...or snow...or mud, when the running game will be a critical piece of their puzzle.

They also cannot take chances in a potential shootout, which could happen in the playoffs against New Orleans or the Super Bowl against the Patriots, teams that can go pass-for-pass, score-for-score against Green Bay.

The 2009 Saints got away with this style of football and won a Super Bowl.

Looking at all this, it seems like the Packers are not as dominating as their 7-0 record shows.

That doesn't necessarily bear well in terms of guaranteeing a Super Bowl title, particularly with the balance this team has.

But it also shows that not excelling in every stage of the game does not mean they won't win it all, particularly if the dominance of Aaron Rodgers continues.

Stay tuned.