Welcome to the first edition of the “Packers Beer Mug,” where I will take a look at a particular aspect of the Green Bay Packers from two different angles, then determine whether to ultimately view the mug as half full or half empty.
This week’s question:
Is the Green Bay Packers’ current winning streak a trend that will continue through the final seven games?
The Green Bay Packers and their fans have been on a wild roller coaster ride ever since training camp. After displaying some offensive and defensive muscle during preseason, the Packers had two respectable wins at Philadelphia and against Buffalo.
But then came the first division game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, and suddenly the team was looking eerily similar to its 2009 unit.
They gave up crucial plays on Special Teams and drew a record eighteen penalties. Add to the mix a narrow victory against the Detroit Lions, plus two overtime losses to the average-at-best Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins, and the season’s outlook became quite dull.
Fans started becoming skeptical of what their team was really made of, and if they could overcome the rash of injuries.
Jump to the present, and all of sudden the Green Bay Packers are riding a three game winning streak that began with a tough but crucial victory against the rival Minnesota Vikings and followed with a strong defensive win against the New York Jets. Now maybe the 2010 Packers really are following a similar road as last year’s team, who won five straight games after a 4-4 start.
Will the trend continue, though? Have the Green Bay Packers truly turned their season around?
THE MUG IS HALF FULL
Let’s look at a few statistics:
|Wks. 1-3||Wks. 4-6||Wks. 7-9||2010 Total|
|Penalties per Game||8.7||6.3||2.3||5.8 (T-8th)|
|Pen. Yds. Per Game||72.0||46.3||18.3||45.6 (6th)|
|Def. Sacks per Game||4.1||2.7||2.3||3.1 (T-1st)|
|Off. Sacks per Game||1||3.7||1||1.9 (T-11th)|
|T/O Margin||+0||-2||+8||+6 (T-4th)|
|Opp. Pts. Per Game||15.7||21.7||10.3||15.9 (1st)|
|Scoring Margin||+10.3||-1.4||+17.0||+8.7 (1st)|
The first item to jump out at me when looking at some of the statistics across the season was the number of penalties the Green Bay Packers had in each game.
In five of the six games won by the Packers, they incurred no more than three penalties; whereas in each loss, they drew at least seven. And as can be seen in the chart, the average number of penalties and penalty yards has decreased through each set of weeks.
Considering the games against the Vikings and the Jets had the potential for some more yellow flags to be thrown the Packers’ way, this is one trend that should definitely continue.
Turnover margin was another statistic that was quite striking. Green Bay had a positive margin in each of their past three games, whereas they only had one game in their first six with a positive turnover margin – against the Buffalo Bills.
This is one area the Packers excelled in last season, when they led the NFL with a +24 turnover differential. Protecting the football is something Mike McCarthy stresses constantly, and creating fumbles and making interceptions is a cornerstone of the defense. As of the last three games, the Packers are now back on track to what they accomplished last year in this department, which is crucial to their success going forward.
Lastly, the Green Bay Packers have finally seemed to settle in with their starting personnel. With eleven players now on the injured reserve list, this team has made the necessary roster changes to fill in the gaps. Players like Desmond Bishop and Charlie Peprah have risen to the occasion, while mid-season additions like Howard Green have proven worthwhile.
Injuries will continue to be an obstacle – as can be seen with Donald Driver and Ryan Pickett – but the major holes have been filled, and we have seen that the Packers can find ways to rise above it.
THE MUG IS HALF EMPTY
All of that is great, you might be thinking, but hasn’t Green Bay played mostly lousy to average teams?
The short answer? Yes.
As you may have noticed, the Packers’ first nine opponents have a combined record of 36-45, and their final seven opponents currently boast a 34-29 record. That’s quite a significant difference.
Plus, Green Bay will have to travel for four of their next five games, two of which are against teams with a 7-2 record overall and are enjoying perfect records at home – the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.
No, the Packers will not have it easy these last seven games. They won’t have the benefit of playing the Dallas Cowboys during their lowest point of the season again. Nor will they get to play the Detroit Lions or Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field (two teams they beat by only a margin of two and four points, respectively.)
And I’m sure they’re counting their blessings that they don’t have to face Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles once more before the end of regular season.
The Packers have had some nice opportunities and lucky breaks so far, but their cushy schedule ends this week, and so might their winning ways.
GETTING THROUGH THE FOAM
So what’s the verdict? Will the Packers continue this trend?
Call me an optimist, but I’m going to say they will. This mug is half full.
I definitely think at least a couple of losses are in store for them during this final stretch, but their level of play will continue to rise. They have weathered the worst of the injury storm and have come out on top, the defense is beginning to stifle opponents and create turnovers, and the offense might have finally found its rhythm against Dallas.
Sure, the Cowboys team had little motivation to play before Wade Phillips was fired, and the New York Jets have become more suspect following their two overtime wins against the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns; however, to watch how well this team is working together should excite any fan. Individuals across the roster are stepping up, making big plays at the right times, and holding solid even when they’re not spectacular.
Even Mike McCarthy has gone from 0% to 60% in his success rate for coaching challenges!
This next game against the Vikings will prove whether I am right or wrong, but I fully expect to see the Green Bay Packers continue this trend and make their way into the postseason as NFC North champions.——————Follow @ChadToporski