Monday, 12 September 2016

The Green Bay Packers Bandwagon May Be Headed for a Crash

One week into the new NFL season, it appears that all is right again for the Green Bay Packers’ offense.

Green Bay’s high-flying passing game was unexpectedly grounded for most of the 2015 season after the Packers lost star receiver Jordy Nelson to a knee injury in the preseason. But on the opening weekend of 2016, the Packers finally looked a little more like their old selves. Nelson returned to the lineup and scored a touchdown. Aaron Rodgers threw for two scores and ran for another. Green Bay held on for a 27-23 win.

But as much as that Week 1 win offers some encouragement for the season ahead, the numbers paint a more worrisome picture. Specifically, the Packers finished the game with a yards per pass play of just 5.7 yards—almost exactly the same as their overall figure for last season, which was worst in the NFC.

Even before Sunday’s opening win, that 2015 statistic made for bleak reading. Teams that finish the year with the lowest yards per pass play numbers in their conference usually struggle the following season.

In fact, the 90 teams who trailed in their conference since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger averaged just a .375 win percentage the next season, according to Stats LLC. None made it to the Super Bowl.

That streak is particularly noteworthy given that oddsmakers have made Green Bay the NFC preseason Super Bowl favorites, according to

Ignoring the Packers’ passing woes last year made sense because Rodgers has a stellar career YPP of 7.0 and led the NFL in the stat in 2014. He’s also now reunited with Nelson, with whom he has formed one of the most efficient passing duos in NFL history. Since 2011, Rodgers averages 11.2 yards every time he throws a pass to Nelson with 39 touchdowns and just four picks on 375 attempts. But on Sunday, the Rodgers-to-Nelson tandem yielded a paltry 32 yards on nine passes (3.6 yards per attempt).

Sacks were a major factor last year as Rodgers was taken down 46 times, or about three per game. But while he was sacked only once on Sunday, he was still forced to throw short too often. Green Bay tallied just 199 yards on his 34 attempts. Just five passes gained over 10 yards.

The Packers actually finished with a worse YPP total than the Jaguars, who gained 7.1, yards on average on their pass plays, meaning Green Bay was fortunate to escape with a win. Since 1970, teams that have won this yards per pass play statistic have won 75% of games.

Fortune could keep smiling on Rodgers and co., however. Next up, they face a Vikings team that doesn’t even know who its starting quarterback will be.

Although I appreciate your attempt to bring statistics into the discussion, I'm not sure your conclusion is correct.

First, with a win yesterday, the Packers are already near the total wins of three of the teams on your list. I suspect a previous year YPP for those teams was just one of many problems.

Second, the Nelson was not the sole injury that hurt the passing game. One could argue that the top 4 WR's were injured, with 2 of them landing on IR.

Finally, the Packers were not the only team with a poor YPP last season. If I'm looking at the stats correctly, Seattle, Dallas, and Carolina had nearly the same YPP as the Packers.

Using your theory, those teams will join the Packers at the bottom of the NFC. As much as I'd love to see three of those teams at the bottom, Dallas will likely be the only one vying for a top-10 draft pick this year.

But please continue to write about the Packers! I'll even take you to a game in Dec if you actually write something nice about them. :-)

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