By: Russ Goldman
With the lockout situation before this season began, I was concerned how the overall play would be affected in the NFL. I really think we are witnessing average at best competition this season. How many dominant teams are there? Many fans and the media will point to one team and, that is the Green Bay Packers. However, how different are the 2011 Patriots from the Packers?
There is no question that the Patriots have flaws right now as we are 8 games into the season, but what team doesn’t have issues right now? The Steelers and Ravens are tough, but they can be shut down offensively. The Jets are looking great defensively, but do they have the quarterback to lead them to a Super Bowl?
My point is that this season is wide open, and when we get to the play-offs there might not be one team that is head and shoulders better than anyone else in the AFC. The Patriots, with all of their shortcomings, are far from done this season. They have much work to do especially defensively, but it is way to early to rule them out.
So I thought it would be interesting to compare the Patriots to the so called “elite team” right now in the NFL, and that would be the Packers.
The Packers (8-0) are undefeated, and the question is beginning to come out. Who can beat them? Well, there is no question that right now offensively they are head and shoulders better than any other team. They are #1 in the NFL in points while averaging 34.4 points per game, and are 3rd in passing yards.
However, the Patriots are #5 in points and are averaging 27.8 points per game. They are also #1 in the passing game, and are higher in rushing yards than the Packers. Honestly, though the Packers offensively are playing at a higher level, the Patriots are not that far off.
On defense, the Packers and the Patriots are statistically very close, and that may surprise many people. The Packers in overall yards are 31st in the NFL, and are 31st against the pass. They are 8th against the run, and they are 17th in points giving up 22.4 points per game.
On defense, The Patriots in overall yards are 32nd in the NFL, and are 32nd against the pass. They are 9th against the run, and they are 20th in points giving up 23.0 points per game.
As you can see the Patriots are not that far off from the Packers in many statistical categories. On offense, your eyes tell you that the Packers are better, and Aaron Rodgers is playing at an extremely high level right now. Defensively, the difference I think comes down to style. The Packers play a very aggressive 3-4 defense. The Patriots play the passive “read and react” defense. However, the numbers don’t lie here, as both defenses are not elite right now.
Another comparison that might surprise people are the rosters. The Packers definitely have more draft picks since 2007 still on their team. Right now they have 23 players still playing a role on the Packers. The Patriots only have 17 draft picks since the 2007 draft still on the team. The Packers have an advantage with youth.
However, this statistic next might surprise you. To fill out rosters, most teams do have a good amount of undrafted free agents agents on their team. I had heard in the media this week that the Patriots have a huge amount of these players currently on their roster. The Patriots have 16 un-drafted players currently on their team. What might surprise you is the Packers also have 16 un-drafted players on their roster.
I am not going to deny that the Packers are the best team right now in football. However, in a season that has been very affected by the lock-out, they are not necessarily a given to win the Superbowl.
In fact, there are many teams that are still in the hunt, and we might not see much separation between these good teams until we get to the play-offs. My point is that the Patriots are still right there. They are one of several teams in a mediocre season of NFL football that can ultimately win the Super Bowl.