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Midweek Miscellanea: Will the Air Be Filled with Footballs on Sunday?

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.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and tight end Robert Tonyan (85) celebrate after connecting on for a touchdown during the second quarter of their game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, December 6, 2020 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

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.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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5 Comments

  1. Howard December 10, 2020

    Since it is mid week and it appears Travon Austin is going to take over Ervin’s roles, is anyone concerned with the fumble rate that Austin has had over the years?
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    Rob one other stat that the Packers offense is very good at is red zone scoring (TDs). The Packers were very good last year in the regular season at 64% (8). This year they are at 75.6% (2). Just slightly behind Arizona. If only the Packers defense could have kept up last years opponents red zone scoring (TDs) %. The Packers defense last year was ranked #8 for the regular season at 50%. This years defense #24 at 66.67%. That is the main reason the Packers defense has allowed more defensive points this year.
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    Last year LaFleur emphasized red zone play and it paid dividends on both sides of the ball. This year LaFleur emphasized third downs and the offense has improved. The defense has stayed about the same as last year with a #11 ranking at 38.69%. Last years defense was #15 at 38.07%.
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    I think it is safe to say that when LaFleur puts emphasis on situational offense or defense he gets results. I hope LaFleur spends some more time on the defense and special teams. I think LaFleur’s input would help both phases put out better products.
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    Did anyone hear what LaFleur said in yes today’s press conference when asked about 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, and his brother about getting head coach or coordinator jobs this off season? LaFleur would not talk about his brother, but did offer opinion on Saleh. The one comment that caught my attention is LaFleur, in part, said Saleh runs a very good defensive scheme. I think a 4-3 defense in the Pete Carroll style is coming to the Packers this off season.

    Reply
    1. Howard December 10, 2020

      That should have been * yesterday’s press conference.

      Reply
      1. PF4L December 10, 2020

        Yes Sir….i noted earlier in the season the reason for the scoring fallout stemmed from the red zone, and last year (related) the defense made timely plays.
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        Our problems on defense this season are rooted from the front seven, more so than the def. backs imo. I think with the 2 free agent resources spent, plus Kirksey. The 2 1st round draft picks spent, Clark and Gary, a well paid Lowry. It seems to me that this group is underperforming their expectations.
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        Maybe it’s a matter of schematics with how their used. But who’s fault is that?
        LeFleur’s?
        Gute?
        Murphy?
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        Like i said at the beginning of all this after Thompson got sent back home to Texas with a new job title, and a boatload of cash……..
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        This team would not only have to draft very well, acquire talent, but make as few mistakes along the way as possible. But reality tells me, after 3 seasons, they are still trying to get it right.
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        How much of a window of time with Rodgers, does Murphy and Gute think they have.
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        More importantly……Do they even care?

        Reply
  2. PF4L December 10, 2020

    Excellent new information Rob.
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    I only have a quick minute but….
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    It seems what PFF is trying to sell, is that only their top experienced analyst put the final score on a player,
    But i contend all they are using is the initial 2 grades put on a player from their lower level analyst . The Senior analyst aren’t going to double check the work of the lower level analyst. Simply because in a 24 hour turnaround, time doesn’t allow it.
    They may (should) at the very least do spot checks.
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    That quote from PFF is informative, but keep in mind of it’s intention…a sales pitch.

    Reply
  3. PF4L December 10, 2020

    Ok…so PFF says it has over 600 analyst. Lets take 620 analyst as a template number.
    Pff says that less than 10% of analysts are trained to the level that they can grade plays. The rest apparently still in the training process.
    So according to their own words, only about 60 analyst are trained to grade plays.
    Then after those 60 analyst have graded every single player in every single game…then only 2-3% of analyst are qualified as “senior analysist” to where they can stamp a final grade on a player.
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    So it’s all done with 60 analyst qualified to grade players on a 24 hour turn around?
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    Funny….i have more questions now than i did before…lol.
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    Keep in mind….PFF offers far more services than simply grading players.
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    I’m now PFF’d out, but as stated, it’s the best thing going so far.

    Reply

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