ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Packers are the best team in the NFL, but our DVOA ratings say they don't qualify as historically great. It's more accurate to say the Packers have the best passing game ever... and are mediocre in every other way.

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76 comments, Last at 07 Nov 2011, 10:28am

1 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

I'd say that is a pretty good characterization, along with the caveat that for the best passing team ever, they don't protect the passer all that well. It would not be a shocker in any way for the Packers to meet a team in the playoffs that makes Rodgers very uncomfortable, resulting in the Packers losing decisively. Having said that, they remain the obvious favorites to hoist the silver football.

8 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

I agree with all that. However, a possible caveat to your caveat is that, even though he runs a fair bit and takes his share of sacks, Rodgers has seldom fumbled in the last two seasons. His 93 runs and 47 sacks in 2010-11 have led to just five fumbles (cf Cutler's 14 fumbles, Vick's 19, Eli Manning's 12, etc). Is this fluke? (Rodgers fumbled 10 times in both 2008 and 2009.) Or is it sustainable?

15 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

They may not protect the passer all that well, but they're not that bad either. Rodgers has been sacked 16 times which is in the upper half of the league. He's also a proven blitz killer. I'm not sure there's a defense, save perhaps the Niners, that can make Rodgers uncomfortable in the playoffs, and the Niners have a tight margin for error due to their pedestrian passing game. The Super Bowl is on another fast track like last year so I can't see the Ravens/Steelers doing much to slow down the Packers offense (if they get there). I agree with Schatz that the Giants game is a potential tough one due to the revitalized Eli Manning. If they get past Detroit (a big if) on Thanksgiving undefeated isn't out of the question.

45 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Actually he had a very good game in the first meeting (#1 in QB DYAR, see link to Quick Reads below), however the GB offense was undone by fumbles, penalties, and a blocked FG.

Overall though, I'd say that your basic point stands in that no team has consistently frustrated the Packers' offense like the Bears has.

31 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

The Super Bowls were on "fast tracks" in 1999 when the Rams were held to 23 points, in 2001 when the Rams were held to 17 points, and in 2007 when the Pats were held to 14 points. If the defense is good enough, it can play anywhere. Baltimore I think has a good shot of at least containing the Packers offense. They just need to score enough.

2 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

-When you have the Greatest Passing Game Ever, there is a strong probabililty that being mediocre at everything else is fine.

-GB is also exceptional at forcing Turnovers (and has been for at least 2-3 years now)

-GB has now tied a 70 year old Record having gone 13 games in a row never trailing or even being behind in the 4th Quarter (granted part of the streak goes back to last year).

-If GB goes Undefeated (Huge If) and continues its streak of never trailing or being tied in th 4th Quarter it'd be extremely hard to not list them as the Greatest regardless of their DVOA

48 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Not so odd, if by odd you mean unusual. A lot of people incorrectly consider the 17-0 '72 Dolphins to be the GOAT, or at least a contender for that title. That team is not one of the strongest Super Bowl champs, and many of its players say that the '73 Dolphins were better. But people remember the unbeaten record.

It is indeed unlikely this will come up with the Packers. They're the most one-dimensional really good team I can remember. It's a hell of a dimension, but if Rodgers is ever mediocre against a non-crappy opponent the Packers are hosed.

3 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

As a longtime Packer fan and without reading the article, I have no problem agreeing. Nick Collins is gone for the year (and maybe his career) and Cullen Jenkins is gone as well, but the hope is that the defense will improve as Shields, Williams, Bennett, and Zombo get healthy. The defensive backfield has had one injury problem after another. Mike Neal is the wild-card if he can come back in time for the Lions game.

This is not the 1985 Bears or the 1996 Packers, but they can still go deep into the playoffs.

6 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Not an insider, so I cant read the article. Is there statistical proof that the Pack has the best passing game ever? How is that measured exactly? I know Rodgers is having a craaazy accurate year, but is that the real statistical conclusion that its the best passing game EVER...or just the best QB performance ever? I do realize that those 2 may be one in the same.

32 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

The passing game for the Packers has a 81.8% DVOA. Rodgers is on pace to set the NFL record in yards, passer rating and completion percentage. (It should be noted that Drew Brees is on pace to beat Rodgers in the passing yards).

There's a lot of season left, and Rodgers performance is probably guaranteed to fall off a little.

As a point of comparison, because I was bored and watched the game yesterday, here was Tom Brady's conventional statistics in 2007 entering the MNF game with the Ravens (team was 11-0). 72.4% completion percentage, 3,439 yards, 39-4 TD-INT and a passer rating of 127.9. Other than yards, I think, each is higher than what Rodgers is now (39-4 is a better ration than 20-3). He ended the year with a great season obviously, but the cmp% dropped back to a human 68.9, the passer rating even fell behind the current record holder (Brady finished at 117.2 vs. Manning's 2004 season at 121.1). Brady didn't have a great end to the season. Rodgers could be different, but history probably tells us that he'll have a hhistorically great season, but I'll be surprised if he does set single-season records in all those three marks.

40 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Fine, using the anecdotal of the last QB to start the season in a similar fashion to Aaron Rodgers, just because Rodgers is having the greatest QB season through 7 games does not mean he will have it through 16 games. By the way, I don't know the specifics, but I'm pretty sure entering the Indy game in 2007, Brady had a TD/INT of 30-2.

62 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

I agree-- that point is way too convenient. They're both in the stratosphere and Rodgers hasn't done it for a full season yet. Leave it at that. And btw, I have to admit I was surprised on further thought to see that the Completion Percentage/Yards Per Attempt combo has been done as much as it has-- but actually when you think about it, completing all those passes gives one a leg up. The harder combination would be yards per completion-- and not sure Rodgers even leads that right now.

7 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Given the result of last year's Packers-Giants game, and the decimated Giants secondary, that's a ballsy call on the Giants ending the streak, Aaron.

9 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

GB is a horrible matchup for the Giants. NYG lacks speed in the secondary which is perhaps the last thing you want against GB. Eli historically being turnover prone is also not ideal against 1 of the top ball hawking secondaries in the league.

I think the 2 biggest threats are @Det and @SD

33 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

NYG can rush the passer. They can also score with any team in the league. Eli is having a year much better than any in his career. He's cut down on his turnovers, and really taken his game to a nice level. To me, that is also the most likely loss. I wouldn't count out a shock upset this Sunday though.

69 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

The Chargers only decent pass rushers (Phillips/English) are injured and likely won't play. They also benched CB Antoine Cason before Monday Night's game in favour of rookie Marcus Gilchrist, who was subsequently abused all night - by the Chiefs. I would suggest that does not bode well for a game against Green Bay.

13 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Packers fan here... and I do not have the sense that people are thinking about the Packers as being "historically great." Anyway, I don't get the sense that Packers fans are thinking this - more a case of 'hey, this is fun to watch, we have some weaknesses but lets not complain too much because we have won all our games so far.' The fans I know, and discussions I read, are not talking about 'undefeated season' - I've only read that from ESPN writers. We've only played 7 games so far, no need to make big claims yet...

Is this a case of writers setting up a straw man argument so they can make their point look more controversial than it is? (Even if there are 'Packers are greatest' proponents out there, they are a lot quieter than proponents of some other claims, such as 'Tebow will be an average or good quarterback' or 'team X should take Luck' or 'Manning for MVP.') Heck, even the claim of them as the 'greatest passing team ever' is made more in this article than outside of it.

30 Re: Strawman

Yes. Writers are being told to write 'undefeated' stories, even when there's no reason to justify it. GB clearly is the class of the NFL, even if the lose to the Bolts. The difficulty in going undefeated isn't that you eventually run into a better team than you are. The difficult is in being YOUR best every game. Letdown games happen, even to great teams.

49 Re: Strawman

In reply to by Long Time Fan (not verified)

Another obstacle to going undefeated is that the Packers may not be at full strength the last few games if they choose to rest key players like Rodgers, Woodson, Matthews, Finley, Jennings, etc., if they have the #1 seed wrapped up. The Colts took this approach a few years ago, playing Manning only the first half in one game and then just a series or two in their last game. They also rested other key starters and players who were dinged up and ended up losing both games. Of course, the Patriots took the opposite approach in 2007, playing Brady, etc. and going for and achieving their goal of an undefeated regular season.

The Packers last two games are both at home, against the Bears and the Lions. Those last two games likely will be very meaningful for the Bears and the Lions, as they probably will be fighting to get into the playoffs or to get the #5 seed rather than the #6 seed. If Rodgers and Co. sit out all or most of the games to make sure they are healthy for the playoffs, the Bears and Lions very well could beat the Packers.

64 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

I agree with the great #14 here. No one in Green Bay is considering this team to be historically great. No one here is seriously suggesting the team will go 16-0. We're just enjoying a very good team with an incredibly precise passing game entertaining us weekly, and winning.

18 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Don Hutson has it about right.

To me the most fascinating aspect of the Packers' streak-- looking backward and forward-- is where the games have been played. If they win in San Diego, that will mean only 3 home games out of the last 12 consecutive wins-- I doubt such a road-oriented streak has ever occurred in the NFL before. But of course the NFC playoff games are almost certain to be in Lambeau, and it may be that Lambeau in the cold is the best place for some team to come and knock them off-- like SF, the Lions or Giants (happened in the 2007 season, didn't it??). They are a fast track team that may be ill-suited to play in the classic home field advantage situation-- FROZEN TUNDRA LAND.

19 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

This is the first I've heard that anyone was calling this team historically great, but I do think this team is historically well-coached. Outside the handful of truly great players on the team, most scouts and personnel types are not that impressed with the talent on this roster. I mean, if you're waiting for the likes of Frank Zombo and Vic So'oto to save your defense. . . Meanwhile, they've got a guy who was cut by both the Rams and the Dolphins rushing the passer (and not very well) so that Clay Matthews can play run-stuffer. Yes, having Aaron Rodgers makes up for a lot of deficiencies, but for some reason McCarthy is not often acknowledged for the magnificent job he's doing.

20 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

I guess my question is who is saying the Packers are historically great at this point? I know lots of talking heads have talked about the historic year Rodgers is having (and Dilfer has been over the top trying to graft onto Rodgers the key attributes of other top QBs), but I haven't really seen any claims that the Packers are, to this point, better than other teams that started off with long win streaks (like the 16-0 Pats). Of course, I'm not an 'insider' so I don't know if Aaron presents any documentation for that or if it is just a straw man. I look at the Packers as the best team in the NFL right now, but one with flaws. If that means that they are over-rated, so be it.

22 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Dilfer is hardly over the top. What he has been saying-- and he started saying it last year-- is that no one has ever played the position better. Not Montana, not Unitas, not Brady, not Manning. Statistically he is dead on-- prime evidence (out of many different pieces) being that Rodgers leads the NFL in completion percentage AND yards/attempt, a combination considered unthinkable for the last 20-30 years. Highest career QB rating ever; Highest career completion % ever; 13 game winning streak; etc, etc.. (yes, he has benefitted from not having to play his first 3 seasons and this isn't saddled with "growing pain" statistics) Those aren't "grafted on" skills producing those numbers. Whether or not Rodgers will remain in that pantheon-- or even climb to the very top historical rung eventually-- will be a question of longevity and rings. As a Packer fan it'll be fun to see what the answer is.

34 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

I wrote this above, through 11 games in 2007, Brady was at a 72.4%, with 3,439 (not sure if he led the league in ypa), with a 39-4 td-int (better than 20-3) and a passer rating of 127.9. Needless to say, other than that ungodly 50-8 td-int (which Brady bested anyway with the 36-4), he didn't hold onto any of those single season marks. I think Brady weeks 1-12 of 2007 was the best QB, or at least the best passing offense, I've ever seen.

59 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

They were still picks. One of his TDs was because two DBs ran into each other so Nelson went 97 yards. That should've never been a TD pass. Should it be 19-1? What happened matters. Not what could've happened if he had receivers who never dropped ballls. Off the top of my head, one of Brady's picks last year was a end of half hail mary, and one other was a drop. Did he have a 36-2 ratio? I'm sure there have been passes that Rodgers has thrown that have been dropped by the other team.

76 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

The assessment is biased. Where is the list of inteceptions that were dropped by the defense? How about the list of tipped interceptions for all QBs under consideration? You can't make subjective judgments in only one side of the comparison and use real stats on the other side. It doesn't add up.

I have an idea, let's just enjoy the journey. As fans of precision passing, these are good times.

44 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Rodgers leading the league in completion percentage and yards per attempt would be impressive. Mike Wallace has a chance to do something similar as a WR: before last week's games, he was 1st in yards per target by a mile (2.44 yards above Jackson) and is 4th in catches per target.

46 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

"Rodgers leads the NFL in completion percentage AND yards/attempt, a combination considered unthinkable for the last 20-30 years."

That word you are using - I don't think it means what you think it means.

We're talking about something that's been done 8 times in the last 30 years. Kurt Warner did it three times in a row.

51 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Hey, he just said it was "considered" unthinkable. He didn't say the considerers were right!

In seriousness, I think assuming high completion % and high Y/A are in tension is an error based on a false assumption that high Y/A requires lots of throws downfield. Steve Young's career completion % and Y/A are both terrific, and he ran an offense based mostly on short passes with lots of YAC.

EDIT: Of course just because it's been done doesn't mean it's not hugely impressive. Six of those eight times you mention are Young and Kurt Warner; I remember both of them being pretty good.

53 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

At first, I thought "there is no way Warner led the league in cmp% from 1999-2001." Anyway, I looked it up, and lo and behold, you are right. That 2000 season is amazing. He had a 98.3 rating with a 21/18 td/int. I guess that incredible 9.9 ypa helps.

60 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

I thought the poster might have meant yards/completion (which would make far more sense anyway), but that's actually been done twice recently as well: Warner in 2000 and 2001. I think* the last time before that was Greg Cook in 1969 (as a rookie, of course).

*I just looked at leaders lists in both categories by hand, so I could have missed one somewhere.

63 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

well I did and I didn't (see above) Is Rodgers leading in YPC right now?? Warner sure has a bizarre career doesn't he-- obscurity (one of the many Favre backups or training camp QBs that went on to start elsewhere) than meteoric rise to best in league status, then a multi-year fall to near-obscurity only to rise again-- "Phoenix-like"-- to brilliance before he hung it up. HOF, to be sure.

68 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

He really had only one bad year, which was the beginning of 2002. He only played a game in 2003. He was awful in that game, but he didn't have a chance to do anything after that. He was effective in 2004-2006 before becoming good again in his last three years. I think it was more in Arizona where they were losing, but his pre-2007 stats in Arizona aren't really that bad.

74 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

He is indeed currently leading in ypc at 13.9. Cam Newton, Matt Schaub, Eli Manning, and Chad Henne are all within .3 of him, so he definitely doesn't have a stranglehold on it, but he has the lead right now.

One thing I actually find very interesting about his stats so far is that his ANY/A+ is coming out almost identical to the two current contenders for greatest statistical QB season of all time, 1984 Dan Marino and 2004 Peyton Manning:

23 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

I don't know if Rodgers learned it from Favre but like Favre he keeps the ball c*cked looking downfield for a bigger play. UNLIKE Favre he has the accuracy to pull off some pretty amazing throws.

That is what leads to a good number of the annoying sacks. Rodgers always trying for a play 20 plus yards down the field versus settling for a dumpoff.

As for the Packers, the big surprise is the improvement of the special teams which has mitigated the defensive decline. One cannot help but think Capers will get the personnel to perform better. If that happens the Packers should be in a good position even with what has to antcipate is an offensive decline

25 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

I don't know about the claim of "historically great", but I have heard many many times that Green Bay is head and shoulders above the rest of the league, that the league is "Green Bay and everybody else", etc. etc. While the Packers are the favorite (but not a prohibitive favorite) to win it all, I think even this kind of talk is over the top. I'd still bet the field against Green Bay to win the title (not a terribly bold claim-- FO/DVOA only has the Packers at 19.9% to win the Super Bowl, which I think is a bit low but not by too much).

28 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Do the three teams to pull off a repeat SB win in the past 25 years tell us anything about GB's chances?

COWBOYS 1992/3: very young core of great players, including the QB. Terrific balance in offense. Same SB opponent;

BRONCOS 1997/8: Older QB at end of his run. Great RB at end of his run, it turned out. Perhaps got lucky in dodging the most dynamic offense around in the 2nd year; and helped by defending champs' confused focus (Holmgren to Seattle?) in 1st year-- and there were focus problems the 2nd year, come to think of it, thanks to Eugene Robinson;

PATRIOTS 2003/04: Younger QB hitting his stride. Terrific defense hitting its stride. Very good intelligence about opposition (sorry, couldn't resist that one)

I dunno-- blow the whistle and we'll see. I will say that the presence of players/leaders such as Rodgers, Matthews and Woodson may boost their chances a little more than the models would indicate.

35 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Wouldn't a lot of teams that didn't repeat have those same circumstances (young team hitting their stride, good leaders). The best example is probably the 1996 Packers. Yeah, they did go one game away from repeating, but they had the young brilliant QB (Favre's late career pick-laden years obscure just how amazing he was from 1995-1997), they had Reggie White and a young Darren Sharper. They had the stable coach (well, that only lasted two more years). Same with the 2006 Colts (who had the elongated period of success, but haven't won a Super Bowl since).

54 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Favre's slide after those peak 95-98 years had more to due with the talent around him. Freeman was no longer a top WE, and starting WRs became Corey Bradford and Bill Schroeder. It is remarkable that the Packers remained a top offense in spite of the lack of talent around Favre. In years with good WR cores, Favre's stats were better. No surprise.

37 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

At the end of the article, Aaron wrote, "Mark your calendars for the day the Packers will likely lose their first (and possibly only) game of 2011: Dec. 4 at the New York Giants." I was surprised reading this. Currently, the playoff odds page has the Pack going at least 15-1 as only a 11.2% possibility. The only GB road game after the Giants is in KC. If 1 or 0 losses is highly unlikely (roughly a 1/9 chance), it seems likely that an additional loss will come either at SD on Nov 6 or at DET on Turkey Day. Or perhaps the simulations can take into account GB clinching and taking the last few weeks off.

39 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

There's always the chance they lose at home. If Carson Palmer stabilizes in Oakland, that game probably isn't a gimme, and neither is the home game against the Bears. The Bears always play the Pack tough on D, and just a year ago, in a game that meant nothing to the Bears and meant clinching a playoff spot for hte Pack, the Pack only won 10-3.

43 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Well, by current DVOA the Giants are their best remaining opponent, with Det a close second. I don't think many would be surprised if the Lions knock them off. NY probably has the best chance of winning a shootout, while the Lions might have one of the few defenses that could shut them down.

47 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Getting way ahead of things but if GB is in the primary position for the playoffs given the 49ers schedule I cannot imagine the Packers putting it in coast with the very obvious concern of losing home field advantage.

It does help that GB have reduced their penalties. That was a real drag on earlier McCarthy teams as he publicly stated he didn't care about infractions and coached that way.

Once GB lost to the Bears in no small part due to 17 penalties Mike changed, the coaching changed and the team has benefited. It's not a HUGE boost. And I am well aware of the lack of correlation between winning teams and penalties. But anyone who watches the team can tell the advances made and how the team is no longer fighting uphill on offense thanks to stupid holding/illegal procedure penalties.

55 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

My life is way too busy to understand or decipher this DVOA stuff. All I know is that there still is a "0" on the right side of the W-L hyphen. Shall we alert Eugene Morris in South Beach??

65 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Regarding Rodgers' sack totals, I wonder how many occurred during scoring drives. Down and yards lost are the critical factors for sacks. Obviously, a sack on third down kills a drive, but short sacks on first or second may not be drive killers. I may have to find a web site with play by play of the games, find Rodgers' sacks, find how many killed drives.

66 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

The packers are on an incredible run. Let's not start sucking each other off yet though. This Chargers game is a tough one coming up.

Let's see how they can respond after they lose a game(maybe not this one). Lets see what happens when Rodgers regresses because it would probably be prudent to bet against him keeping this up. Lets see if a team that has stayed relatively healthy after being the most injured team last year can keep that up.

If you can't tell I think whats going on right now is a crock and the Packers are going to come crashing down. Been wrong plenty of times before.

67 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Despite holding onto the ball, Rodgers has actually been really good at getting ride of the ball. According to Bob McGinn, prior to the Minnesota game only 1 of 12 sacks were Rodger's responsibility. I think 2 of 4 were on him against Minnesota, so I think he's at 3 of 16 now.

75 Re: ESPN: The Overrated Green Bay Packers

Everyone seems to assume that the Packs defense will not get better as the year goes on. I think it will. I also think this may be the best football team of all time. They haven't been challenged yet so we will see what happens tomorrow.