Green Bay’s ineptness at stopping the run might not be a factor on Sunday against the Lions. Darrell Bevell, the Lions’ second year offensive coordinator, was just named the team’s interim head coach, and he got a win against the Bears in his first outing last week. Bevell immediately turned QB Matthew Stafford loose – Detroit launched 42 passes, versus only 22 runs, and Stafford connected on 27 of them for 402 humongous yards. Meanwhile, in eking out a 34-30 victory, the Lions gained only 60 yards on the ground. Bevell was previously the offensive coordinator for Seattle and its potent pass attack from 2011 through 2017, before being let go after the 2017 season. Before that he was on the Pack’s coaching staff from 2000 through 2005, and served as Brett Favre’s QB coach from 2003-05. Detroit ranks 27th this season at defending the pass (and 28th against the run). It all makes for an interesting clash on Sunday.
I mentioned on Tuesday that I thought Aaron Rodgers played his best game of the year last Sunday. The analytics, namely Pro football Focus’s grading system, agrees. PFF graded Rodgers on Sunday at 96.9 overall, and with a career-best 97.1 passing grade. The passing grade was the second highest since PFF began grading players in 2006! That means PFF graded Aaron even higher than when he achieved a “perfect” passer rating of 153.8 last season. His line on that day, against the Raiders on October 20, was 25 of 31 for 429 yards, 5 TDs, and no picks. Under PFF’s system, Rodgers is not penalized when his receivers drop passes.
Taysom Hill, the Saints’ substitute QB, has been more than adequate since taking over for the injured Drew Brees. Though he’s not a dominating passer, the Saints have won all three of the games he’s started, and he’s finished with a passer rating over 100 twice. His not-so-secret weapon is his running ability – he’s rushed 34 times in his three starts, and gained 176 yards, an average of just over five yards per carry. By the way, I just heard that Drew Brees has eleven (11) distinct rib fractures, so he might not return to the field anytime soon. The media is thinking Brees will be back soon, but it seems to me that would be taking a considerable risk of re-injury.
Following up on my post about Pro Football Focus and its player grading system, here’s what PFF has to say about its methodology:
“PFF employs over 600 full or part-time analysts, but less than 10% of analysts are trained to the level that they can grade plays. Only the top two to three percent of analysts are on the team of “senior analysts” in charge of finalizing each grade after review. Our graders have been training for months, and sometimes years, in order to learn, understand and show mastery of our process that includes our 300-page training manual and video playbook.”
Believe it or not, the 6-6 Vikings are at the moment positioned to be the #7 (last) playoffs seed. According to the PFF predictive model, however, the Buccaneers are favored to beat them this weekend. The Vikes, with Kirk Cousins favoring his two highly-rated receivers, Adam Thielen and rookie Justin Jefferson, are on a roll. After having started out losing five out of six, they’ve now won five out of their last six games.
What’s with the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson? After starting out 5-0, the Hawks have lost four of their last seven. Wilson through the first 10 games had 13 turnovers, and in the embarrassing home loss to the Giants in Game 12, he threw another interception and lost another fumble. Russell now has 11 interceptions on the year.
Green Bay started out the season converting a lot of third downs. Well, that hasn’t let up. To date they’ve converted on 68 out of 142 tries. That’s a sterling percentage of 47.9 – which leads the league by a couple of points. In 2019, the Pack converted only 36 percent of the time. One of Coach LaFleur’s points of emphasis going into this season was more third down success, and his offense has delivered.
Another stat that the Packers are doing well at concerns penalties. Green Bay’s 63 yellow flags are the sixth fewest. They are tied for third worst, however, at offensive holding., the Packers’ receivers, despite being a group of large guys, have yet to be flagged for offensive pass interference.