The Green Bay Packers have enjoyed their well-earned bye in the 2020 NFL playoffs (yes 2020 as that’s how the NFL tracks their entire season of when they kick-off, I like it). It’s been well-documented now, but Green Bay signed T Jared Veldheer from Indianapolis’ Practice Squad (he started at LT @ Buffalo in the Wild Card Round). He has since tested positive for, well yeah, I’ll leave it there.
When working to figure out how the Packers will fare in each match-up, if you’ve been reading along, you’ll see I track their rankings in the major categories (Offensive and Defensive ranks among yardage and points). With an entire season under our belts, teams’ rankings give more light to that and I think is a very good gauge as to a team’s quality (likeliness to win and move on).
Of the main stats to track, especially the deeper in a season you are, is total point differential. While it could be a bit misleading, you’ll notice a trend in the top 10:
- Ravens +165
- Saints +145
- Packers +140
- Buccaneers +137
- Bills +126
- Chiefs +111
- Steelers +104
- Colts +89
- Seahawks +88
- Rams +76
While each of these team made the postseason, you can see the rankings of these teams seem rather accurate on a strength basis, aside from Kansas City, whom sat their starters in week 17 and lost by 17 points. It’s safe to assume they would’ve won, had they tried, thus giving them at least a 20-point swing (putting them about +131). Which puts them right at or near Tampa Bay, with whom they clashed and won by a close margin after a record-setting 1st half performance. My point, is while this is nothing to live by, it’s a great barometer of each team’s power potential.
I’ve taken this a step further and averaged in their Offensive and Defensive rankings to give a true Power Ranking of sorts. Without getting into the details (I’m happy to share if you ask), it determines the most balanced team. For example, the Packers finished the season with a 6.00 power ranking; i.e., they had the 1st ranked offense, 13th ranked defense, finished 7th in turnover differential, and 3rd in net points. Add those together and it averages to a 6th ranking…of course many teams will have similar numbers as they’re averages, but in the graph below, you get an idea of true strength/balance of each team. Pretty nerdy stuff, but some may like it.
|2020 NFL Playoff Teams|
|Team||O rank||D rank||TO rank||Pt Diff Rank||Total Power Rank|
To give this further context, you can see the top 4 teams all remain, with the lowest remaining of Cleveland and LA Rams (also low seeds, 6s). How have the last 10 Super Bowl champions ranked in this manner? Glad you asked:
|Super Bowl Champs Last 10 Years|
|Year||Champ||O rank||D rank||TO rank||Pt Diff rank||Total Power Rank|
They averaged 6.6 ranking, which gives you an idea of teams that truly “Got in and got hot.” I’ve always claimed that 2010 Packers team was far better than revered. Had Rodgers not been concussed, they go 12-4 with the likely 2 seed and nothing is considered an upset. However, looking at those BAD teams that won (2011 Giants, 2015 Broncos, and 2012 Ravens), those are the outliers. Meaning 30% of the past winners wouldn’t be considered Legit Contenders. What does this all mean for Saturday?
|LA D v GB O||LA O v GB D|
|LAR||190.7 (1st)||91.3 (3rd)||281.9 (1st)||18.5 (1st)||250.9 (13th)||126.1 (10th)||377.0 (11th)||23.3 (23rd)|
|GB||256.6 (9th)||132.4 (8th)||389.0 (5th)||31.8 (1st)||221.2 (7th)||112.9 (13th)||334.0 (9th)||23.1 (13th)|
Everyone will highlight the Packers’ 1st scoring offense vs. the Rams’ 1st (in pass, total yards, and points) defense. However, the key may be the other match-up. Yes, everyone should be well aware of ALL WORLD DL #99 Aaron Donald and superstar CB #20 Jalen Ramsey, and the key offensive component LA features is WR #10 Cooper Kupp. He’s a modern-day Wes Welker or poor man’s Julian Edelman. Very effective and crucial on 3rd downs for the Rams offense. What (it seems like) EVERYONE is forgetting, is that Jaire Alexander is arguably every bit as good as Ramsey. While not as tall, just as effective. Also, to note, the previous matchup from these two teams, could be considered Jaire’s coming out party. Alexander had 5 passes defensed, and made his mark as a rising star. Actually, the Packers (at the time, a far inferior team) controlled that game essentially throughout. The Packers put such pressure on LA, that they were down 10-0 and faked a punt just to get momentum. The momentum swung, twice, once when GB had the ball, up 10-0, on their own 1 and on the first play, Aaron Jones was tackled in the backfield for a safety. Then the final dagger, was after GB had driven down for a go-ahead TD (27-26), LA rebutted with a FG drive of their own (up 29-27) with 1:56 left in the game, KR Ty Montgomery fumbled and the offense never saw the ball again. What’s changed since then (aside from the Rams updating their logo and jerseys) is LA getting Jalen Ramsey on defense, and the Packers completely flipping the roster (for the better, obviously) and becoming far more balanced.
Now this game is at Lambeau, and while the forecast isn’t too lethal (high of 36°and a low of 25°), the Packers will deem this to be “warm,” whereas the Rams will think this is “cold,” or at least “not that bad.” Is there much stock to put into it? Probably not, but the Packers are (finally) built for this weather. They feature as good a backfield as anyone in the NFL, and all 3 backs offer different attributes. Aaron Jones is dynamic, Jamaal Williams is steady (pass blocking too, which can throw teams for a loop when in), and A.J. Dillon is a bruiser. All capable of being a feature back in any given game. LaFleur has been masterful in utilizing them to produce maximum results—couple that with a QB who’s fully bought in and in sync—it seems that Packer nation should have little to worry about.
Bravo if you’re still here with me. When discussing with a good friend this week, he mentioned “I like our chances too, beat this team 9 times out of 10…but football.” Yes, the wording is intentionally choppy, and it’s important because the message is delivered. If you’re still scared/worried, keep in mind this Rams team lost to the Jets just (what will be) 27 days earlier, at home, in a must-win, when the Jets were benefitting from losing…Devil’s Advocate: The Jets beat the LA Rams. Aka, the far inferior team can win, sometimes.
*Yes, I believe I’ve picked the Packers every game so far, it’s technically worked. *