For the better part of the last year and a half, the Green Bay Packers defense has taken the majority of the criticism for the Packers inability to get back to the Super Bowl.
While this notion may have held water in previous seasons, it is not true of the 2012 Green Bay Packers. Let's take a look at the numbers and see how this year's offense and defense are performing in comparison to each other as well as to the rest of the league.
The Green Bay offense is often viewed as having to carry the defense in terms of scoring/allowing points. A closer look at the numbers shows otherwise. The Packers offense averages 24.7 points per game, good for 12th in the league. Meanwhile, the defense allows 21.6 PPG, good for 13th in the league. Such a slim margin in terms of raw points and rank in the league makes this too close to give either side an advantage.
Total yardage paints a similar picture for both sides of the ball. The offense is averaging 350.6 total yards, good for 16th in the league. The defense is allowing 349 yards per game, good for 15th in the league. Again, such a slim margin between the two sides is not enough to reward either side. The narrow margin of one and a half yards is actually quite remarkable for 12 games into the season.
Is the Packers Defense a liability?
Rushing yards is the first category that we come across that has a large enough discrepancy to be considered a strength for either side.
The offense is currently ranked 20th in rushing yards, averaging 105 yards per game. Meanwhile, the defense is ranked 15th in the league, giving up 115.2 rushing yards per game. By being ranked five slots higher than the offense in this category, the defense has shown that it is more than 15 percent better against the run than the offense is at producing a running game.
The statistics for the passing game are almost the exact opposite of the rushing stats. The offense averages 245.6 passing yards a game, good for 11th in the league. Meanwhile, the defense allows 233.8 passing yards a game. This ranks the defense at 17th in the league. At six slots higher in the rankings, this would put the offense about 18 percent better in the passing game than the defense. This should not come as much of a surprise considering the offense has the current league MVP throwing the ball.
In terms of turnovers, the Packers offense is one of the best in the league at holding onto the football. The offense has turned the ball over just 12 times this season, good for fifth in the league. The defense has produced 18 turnovers so far this season, good for 16th in the league. The difference in rankings puts the offense about 34 percent better than the defense in the turnover category. With the combination of the offense having one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history and the defense missing two of it's captains for parts of the season, these numbers should be of little surprise.
A closer look inside the turnovers finds the two sides incredibly even. The offense has thrown eight interceptions so far this season, good for fourth best in the league. The defense has produced 14 picks so far this season, good for sixth in the league rankings. With just a six percent differential in the rankings, it is not enough to be a significant advantage for the offense. The surprising part of this category might be the ranking of the defense in interceptions. Many have viewed the defense as struggling to produce interceptions with the absence of Charles Woodson, however, this shows that they are still producing picks at a high rate.
Sacks is the most lopsided of all the comparisons. The offense has struggled mightily protecting the quarterback, allowing 39 sacks, ranking 31st in the league. The defense has collected 34 sacks, good for fourth in the league. That is an 84 percent higher ranking for the defense than the offense.
While it is no secret that the offense has had trouble protecting the quarterback, many may be surprised by how high the Packers defense ranks in the sacks category. Without Clay Matthews the last few games, the Packers defense has still managed to find the quarterback pretty regularly.
While there are a couple of categories that the offense ranks higher than the defense in, the lead in those categories is so slim that it has to be considered marginal at best. The offensive and defensive statistics are actually remarkably close.
While these numbers by no means show that the defense is the strength of the team, they do show that the production of the defense is so close to the production of the offense that the defense can not possibly be viewed as a liability. If that were to be the case, the offense would have to be seen in the same light.
And no one in their right mind is going to call an Aaron Rodgers led offense a liability.