Green Bay Packers: How the Pack Has Set Itself Up for Another Super Bowl Run
It's been an interesting season for the Green Bay Packers—there's really no way to get around it.
A "Fail Mary." A throng of injuries to key players. A second-half collapse in Indianapolis, followed by a stomping of the Houston Texans to kick off a five-game winning streak, only to run into a buzz-saw in New York.
And now, after a game that included a failed trick play and three offensive pass interference calls—on the same player—the Packers are champions of the NFC North, and to be 10-4 after all the adversity this team has faced, they have certainly earned it.
Now, the picture is clearer, but at the same time, it's become larger. Early on, it was about surviving and making the playoffs. Then it was about the division title. Now, several different scenarios come into play, including a legitimate chance at a first-round bye, and of course, the Super Bowl.
With the NFL as unpredictable as ever thanks to the high level of parity throughout the league, let's throw predictions out the window and take a look at what we actually know about Green Bay with two weeks—and the playoffs—still ahead of us.
Despite being known as a "dome" team that plays better on turf, Green Bay is 8-1 on a grass surface and 2-3 playing on turf this season.
Green Bay has won eight of its last nine games, but its average point differential during that stretch is only +5.67.
Are the Packers better suited for a Super Bowl run than last season?
Despite injuries to defensive starters Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith, Nick Perry, Sam Shields, Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews and C.J. Wilson, Green Bay's defense ranks ninth in the NFL in points allowed per game (20.9).
A result of injuries to Greg Jennings, Cedric Benson, Jordy Nelson, Bryan Bulaga and James Starks in addition to the adjustment period to a majority of opposing defenses using a Cover 2 scheme, the Packer offense ranks 13th in points per game (24.6) and 17th in yards per game (349.0).
What does this all mean?
Incredibly enough, the Packers' defense has played better than their offense, and believe it or not, it's largely by design.
Granted, the Cover 2 has slowed Rodgers and Co. down, but last season, the run-and-gun style of the offense had a negative effect on the defense because of how much time it was forced to spend on the field.
This season, a more conservative approach—more commitment to the running game and a dip in yards-per-pass attempt—has improved ball control and given the defense extended periods of rest.
No, the rushing attack hasn't been anything to call home about, but establishing at least a resemblance to a running game is all this offense needs to create balance and keep defenses honest with Aaron Rodgers under center.
The three-headed attack of Alex Green, Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris isn't going to create any 100-yard rushers, but it helps keep each back fresh throughout the course of a game, and so far that has proven to be effective.
Not even two years removed from Green Bay's victory in Super Bowl XLV, the comparisons between that team and the 2012 Packers are encouraging.
In 2010, the Packers averaged 24.3 points per game and had better ranks on defense compared to offense despite also enduring over a dozen injuries to key contributors throughout the season. This defense was better in the takeaway and points allowed department, but what's important is that in both 2010 and 2012, the defense has performed better than the offense.
Why is this a good thing? While Green Bay's offense may have been a near-unstoppable force last season, it was the lack of defense that allowed doubt to enter the minds of Packer fans. Eventually, it culminated with the Giants' dismantling of the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs.
To win a championship, defense is essential, and the Packers have put what they learned from the disastrous end of the 2011 season to good use this year by altering their offensive philosophy to aid their defense.
The comparisons to the Super Bowl team have been an appraisal often made, but for good reason. Even though the Packers didn't clinch a playoff spot until the final week of the season in 2010, a good offense—with an even better defense—was the formula for success.
At 10-4 with a division title in pocket and a potential first-round bye in sight, Green Bay has placed itself in an even better position than it was in entering the 2010 postseason. Not only that, but getting back players like Nelson, Woodson, Wilson, Jennings and Shields for the stretch run only strengthens this team.
So what's the final comparison the Packers need to make to their former selves of 2010 if they want to win their second Super Bowl in three years?
Keep Mason Crosby off of the field.
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