Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Mid-Season Review: Packers Currently Miss The Playoff

If the season ended today, the Packers are currently out of the NFC playoff picture (the tie-breaker goes to the Seahawks) so there is reason to be concerned about their playoff chances. On the other hand, almost every advanced stat indicates that the Packers are better than most of the NFC, and it seems like only a matter of time before the Packers either move ahead into a playoff spot. Home field advantage hasn't helped the Packers at all in two of the last three years, so the most important thing is that they just make the playoffs in any way they can.
He did something to his hamstring during their last game against the Saints, but he seems over it. His health and playing time is the most important factor going forward. Here's how he ranks compared to other NFC quarterbacks based on ESPN's QBR, where each of their teams stand in the playoff race, and how each of their teams are currently ranked overall by Football Outsiders:
QB QBR Playoff Standing FO Ranking
Rodgers 81.6 7 5
Romo 77.8 5 15
Brees 74.4 4 11
Palmer 70.1 1 16
Wilson 60.9 6 4
Stafford 60.5 2 12
Kaepernick 52.7 8 20
Bridgewater 44.1 9 27
The Philadelphia Eagles are the one team (and quarterback) missing above. QB Mark Sanchez has a 53.4 QBR after one game, which is about what I would expect from him for the rest of the season, but I'm leaving him out of the discussion since that's a small sample size to evaluate. I'm expecting they'll win the NFC East.

Rodgers is comfortably ranked as the best QB in the NFC and his lead over QB Tony Romo should widen if Romo's back injury(ies) linger. Though QB Drew Brees is probably going to improve his ranking now that TE Jimmy Graham is healthier. It would be surprising if the best QB in the NFC isn't on a playoff team.

While the Seahawks are now rounding into one of the best teams, they've moved ahead of the Packers in overall team rankings this season according to Football Outsiders. The Top 3 teams are in the AFC, so the Seahawks and Packers are clearly the elite of the NFC at the moment. All the other teams are a clear step behind; the Saints at No. 11 overall have half the team DVOA ranking of the Packers while the Packers and Seahawks are statistically neck-and-neck. That makes it look like the Packers and Seahawks should be considered the favorites for the Wild Card spots or winning their respective division.

I've also listed the 49ers and Vikings, who are currently the two teams right behind the Packers in the playoff race, to see if either one is a candidate to move ahead of them. It might be a surprise to see the 49ers with a 4-4 record, but the stats above indicate that they've earned it. QB Colin Kaepernick is not playing great and overall their team is in the bottom half of the league according to Football Outsiders. The situation is even weaker for the Vikings, where QB Teddy Bridgewater's QBR of 44.1 is just below the QBR for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was just benched by the Texans this week. The Vikings's defense is above average, but it's not strong enough to overcome one of the weaker offensive attacks in the NFL.

Bottom line; the Packers are playing like one of the best teams in the NFL, though their record doesn't look like it. It's going to be a tough November for the Packers, with two division games (Bears, Vikings) and two home games against two of the best teams in the NFL (Eagles and Patriots). Playing three of those four games at home will help, but it's not going to turn them into easy match-ups. The Packers have to start playing up to their advance stats over the next month.

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