I’ve had this nagging feeling for years now that the Green Bay Packers of Mike McCarthy’s tenure do very well against weak opponents, but tend to fold when it comes to stronger opponents, or at least not do nearly as well. So I went back and looked at every game, regular and post-season, that the Packers have played since their 2006 season opener against the Bears, Mike McCarthy’s first game.
My Theory: that McCarthy’s Packers have serious trouble beating teams 10-6 and above.
My categories went like this:
Category 1: Teams that went 0-16 to 6-10
Category 2: Teams that went 7-9 to 9-7
Category 3: Teams that went 10-6 and above.
(My reasoning here is that there doesn’t tend to be huge differences between 8-8, 9-7, 7-9 teams. Also, I wanted to measure how the Packers did against the best teams in the league, which I defined as teams with a 10-6 record or better.)
2009 Cat 1: 5-1, Beat St.Louis, Detroit, Detroit, Cleveland and Seattle. Lost to Tampa Bay.
2009 Cat 2: 3-1, Beat Chicago, Chicago and San Francisco. Lost to the Steelers.
2009 Cat 3: 3-4, Beat Arizona (weighted), Dallas and Baltimore. Lost to Arizona (playoffs), Cincinnati, Minnesota and Minnesota.
2008 Cat 1: 3-1, Beat Detroit, Detroit and Seattle. Lost to Jacksonville.
2008 Cat 2: 1-4, Beat Chicago. Lost to Chicago, Houston, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
2008 Cat 3: 2-5, Beat Indianapolis and Minnesota. Lost to Minnesota, Atlanta, Dallas, Tennessee, Carolina.
2007 Cat 1: 3-0, Beat Kansas City, Oakland and St.Louis.
2007 Cat 2: 8-2, Beat Philadelphia, Washington, Minnesota, Minnesota, Denver, Detroit, Detroit, Carolina. Lost to Chicago, Chicago.
2007 Cat 3: 3-2, Beat New York, Seattle (playoffs) and San Diego. Lost to Dallas and New York (playoffs).
2006 Cat 1: 6-0, Beat Detroit, Detroit, Miami, Minnesota, Minnesota, Arizona. No losses.
2006 Cat 2: 1-3, Beat San Fransisco. Lost to Buffalo, St. Louis, Seattle.
2006 Cat 3: 1-5, Beat Chicago (weighted). Lost to Chicago, New England, Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York Jets.
Totals through four years:
Category 1 (0-16 to 6-10): 17-2.
Category 2 (7-9 to 9-7): 13-10.
Category 3 (10-6 and up): 9-15, with two wins against teams who had already clinched a playoff berth and did not play starters for most of the game (thrown games).
So if I may present my interpretation of this data…
-The Packers will almost always beat a team with a final record of 6-10 or worse, regardless of their own record. They don’t “lay an egg” very often.
-Good Packers teams (’07, ’09) will clean up in the mid-range department and beat the Category 2 teams, which are not easy or guaranteed victories.
-Even good McCarthy teams, however, won’t necessarily beat the other good teams. 2007 was by far the best, with a 3-2 record. But the record was only 2-4 in 2009 after subtracting the “thrown” game.
-When the Packers were able to beat the good and mediocre teams consistently, in 2007, they advanced to the NFC title game.
-If the Packers can beat the “good” teams consistently, they will be the Super Bowl contenders everyone is currently making them out to be. In each of the four “good” losses in 2009, the offense gave up five or more sacks and the defense allowed 31 or more points. With Minnesota and Arizona, as well as Pittsburgh, the other team was consistently able to attack the middle of the field. Bunched-up and stacked receivers killed the Packers against Arizona.
So my challenge to Mike McCarthy is the following.
Keep doing what you’re doing, fix those problems and keep your players from becoming overconfident. Get them prepared and downplay the hype you’ll hopefully be getting all season (coming next Packers note).
Do that and we might be looking at a division title and a first-round bye come December and January.
Seriously, if these guys take that second-year boost, we could be princes of the universe.
This year’s opponents:
Cat 1: Detroit (2-14), Detroit (2-14), Buffalo (6-10), Washington (4-12).
Cat 2: New York Jets (9-7), N.Y. Giants (7-9), San Fransisco (8-8), Atlanta (9-7), Chicago (7-9), Chicago (7-9), Miami (7-9).
Cat 3: New England (10-6), Dallas (11-5), Philadelphia (11-5), Minnesota (12-4), Minnesota (12-4).
I can’t wait for training camp, gentlemen.
For more of Andy Tisdel’s writing, check out Tisdel’s Tirades.