In football, whether it be Pop Warner games or all the way up to the NFL, the premise is quite simple: When the offense has the ball… SCORE. In the NFL, scoring a TD is the first objective, but if that fails, at least kick a field goal and get three points on the scoreboard.
For the 2020 regular season, the Green Bay Packers were the league’s best at scoring when they had the ball. We can go a step further and say that the Pack had the league’s “most effective offensive unit” this season.
Based on stats cultivated from Pro Football Reference.com, the Packers led the league by scoring on 49.7 percent of their offensive drives. Green Bay had 161 offensive possessions in 2020, and scored 80 times on 64 TDs’ and 16 field goals.
(Note: Of those 161 offensive possessions, the Packers actually had 17 possessions that were either at the end of the half or the end of the game and the clock ran out on their possession. We can make a case that in many end-of-the-half and end-of-the-game possessions a team does not get a chance to finish their drive and a chance to score. If that was the case in the Packers 17 possesions at the end of the half or the end of the game, their offensive drive effectiveness was probably closer to 56 percent. That’s a debate for another time.)
What makes this weekend’s divisional matchup between the Packers and Rams so interesting is that it features the NFL’s most effective offense against the league’s most effective defense. The Rams defensive squad topped the NFL this season by allowing their opponents to score on only 27.9 percent of their possessions.
There were 5,567 offensive possessions in the NFL this year with teams scoring a TD or field goal 2,217 times; that’s scoring just under 40 percent of the time (39.8 percent to be exact). Of those 2,217 scores, 1,405 were touchdowns, 812 were field goals.
Of the eight teams still in the playoffs, six finished in the Top 10 of most effective offensive units. On the defensive side, five of the eight teams remaining in the playoffs finished in the Top 10.
Here’s a look at the eight teams remaining in the playoffs and on what percentage of offensive possessions they scored and on what percentage of possessions their opponents scored. (Each team’s rank in the regular season in these stats is noted.)
Offensive Possessions Effectiveness
Green Bay (#1) 49.7%
Buffalo (#2) 49.4%
Kansas City (#5) 47.9%
Tampa Bay (#6) 47.8%
New Orleans (#7) 45.5%
Baltimore (#8) 45.3%
Cleveland (#15) 40.6%
L.A. Rams (#25) 34.2%
Defensive Possessions Effectiveness
L.A. Rams (#1) 27.9%
Baltimore (#3) 30.0%
Tampa Bay (#6) 33.7%
New Orleans (#7) 34.7%
Kansas City (#9) 36.1%
Buffalo (#15) 39.4%
Green Bay (#16) 39.9%
Cleveland (#20) 43.0%
The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered an embarrassing first-round playoff loss to their division rival Cleveland Browns last Sunday, a loss that included a 28-0 first quarter deficit and five turnovers. It was the first time that a team had five or more turnovers in an NFL playoff game since the Arizona Cardinals had seven turnovers in a 49-15 loss to the Carolina Panthers on January 24, 2016.
It was also the 79th time in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) that a playoff team had five or more turnovers in a game. Teams have a record of 9-70 (.114 winning percentage) in those games. This was the fourth time in Steelers’ playoff history (since 1966) that they had five-plus turnovers in a post-season game; ironically, however, it was the first time they had lost a playoff game when they had five or more turnovers in a playoff game. They are the only team since 1966 to win more than one playoff game (they won three) when committing five or more turnovers in a contest. That trend did not work for them in this year’s playoffs.
All of that leads to this obvious statement: Turnovers are a key factor when looking at playoff success. To put some numbers to that statement, let’s look at the last 10 years of NFL playoffs, 2010-2019, a total of 110 playoff games.
Here are the records of playoff teams from 2010-2019 when they committed zero, one, two, three or four-plus turnovers in a post-season game:
Turnovers in a playoff game, Record
Zero: 38-20 .655
One: 43-30 .589
Two: 24-28 .462
Three: 3-20 .130
Four or more: 2-12 .143
A couple of interesting stats jump off the page when you look at these numbers:
1. Playoff teams in 2010-2019 were 81-50 (.618) when they committed one or no turnovers; they were 29-60 (.326) if they committed two or more turnovers. That’s a winning percentage difference of .292.
2. Just under 60% of the playoff teams in this timeframe had zero or one turnover in playoff games during this time.
3. Playoff teams that had no turnovers were 38-20 (.655) while those that had one or more turnover were 72-90 (.444). Again, a significant winning percentage difference (.211).
Just look at the first weekend of this year’s playoff games. In the six playoff games played last weekend, the six teams that won all had zero or only one turnover. Ten of the 12 teams last weekend had either zero or one turnover; the other two teams were the Steelers with five turnovers and the Seahawks with two turnovers. When you look at all six of the games, the winning teams had three turnovers, the losing teams had nine.
For Packers fans, the turnover stat in the playoff has some very distinctive numbers. In the Super Bowl era, the Packers have played 48 post-season games. Here is their record in those games based on the number of turnovers:
Packers turnovers in a playoff game Record
Zero: 11-1 .917
One: 10-4 .714
Two: 5-5 .500
Three: 1-3 .250
Four or more: 1-7 .125
If we break it down just one more step, we see that Green Bay was 21-5 (.808) in those playoff games when they committed one or no turnovers and were 7-15 (.318) when they committed two or more turnovers in one of those playoff contests.
Here’s one more stat on the Pack: Green Bay is 28-20 in the 48 playoff games since 1966. In the 28 wins, they had 27 turnovers (.96 per game); in the 20 losses, they had 57 turnovers (2.85 per game).
It’s pretty clear (for the Packers and any NFL playoff team for that matter)… turning the ball over once or not at all gives playoff teams the best chance at winning a post-season game and advancing to the next round.
Twelve of the 14 NFL teams that made the playoffs this year will begin the post-season with games this weekend. Fourteen of the league’s 32 teams made the playoffs this year, up from 12 that made the playoffs in recent years. The Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers are the #1 seeds in this season-ending tourney and are the favorites to reach this year’s Super Bowl.
Each of these 14 playoff teams played at least four of their 16 regular season games this season against fellow playoff teams. The Chiefs, who had the best record this year at 14-2, played four games against teams that made the playoffs this year, going 4-0.
Here’s a look at the record of the 14 playoff teams in games this season versus other playoff teams on their schedule.
Kansas City, 4-0
Green Bay 4-2
L.A. Rams, 4-2
New Orleans, 4-2
Tampa Bay, 1-5
Let’s take this stat a little further… here’s a look at how the 18 teams that did not make the playoffs did this season against the 14 teams that did make the playoffs. Notice that the Houston Texans played a league-high 10 of their 16 regular season games this year against teams that eventually made the playoffs. Their record in those 10 games? 0-10.
N.Y. Jets, 2-5
San Francisco, 2-6
L.A. Chargers, 1-4
New England, 1-5
Las Vegas Raiders, 0-7
- Here’s one more quick stat about the upcoming NFL playoffs: The Packers and Chiefs were the only teams to receive a bye in this year’s playoff format as their conference’s #1 seed. Obviously there is a benefit to being the number seed, but that #1 seed does not come with a free pass to the Super Bowl. Since 2000, there have been 40 #1 seeds (20 each in the AFC and NFC). Of those 40 #1 seeds, only 21 of the 40 reached the Super Bowl that year. And when those 21 #1 seeds did reach the Super Bowl, only seven #1 seeds won the Super Bowl. In addition:
- In the last 20 years, at least one #1 seed has made the Super Bowl in 16 of those seasons.
- Since 2000, both #1 seeds played in the Super Bowl in 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Here are some of the numbers that helped define the Packers 35-16 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday January 3, 2021 in Chicago.
- In the season-long battle between Aaron Rodgers and Packers punter JK Scott, Rodgers wins… Rodgers ended the season with 48 TD passes. Scott ended the year with 46 punts.
- Rodgers ended the season with 48 TD passes and only five interceptions. He broke his own NFL record for most TD passes in a season with exactly five interceptions. In 2014 he had five interceptions and 38 TD passes.
- Rodgers also broke the NFL record for fewest interceptions by a quarterback with 40 or more TD passes. In fact, Rodgers now holds the top three spots in this stat: 48 TD passes with five interceptions this season; 45 TD passes and six interceptions in 2011; and 40 TD passes with seven interceptions in 2016.
- Mason Crosby became the sixth kicker in NFL history to go an entire season without missing a field goal (minimum of 16 field goal attempts). Crosby was 16-for-16 this season. Seattle’s Jason Myers also joined this club by going 24-for-24 this season. Indianapolis’ Mike Vanderjagt holds the NFL record going 37-for-37 in the 2003 campaign.
- Since the 1998 season, the Packers and Bears have met in the last game of the season. The Packers have won all six of these games.
- Since 2000 in the last game of the season (Game #16), the Pack has won 16 of 21 games played, a .762 winning percentage. That is tied for the second-best winning percentage in Game #16 games since 2000. Pittsburgh tops the list at 17-4. The Packers are tied with Indianapolis at 16-5.
- In the 11 games played in Chicago between the Packers and the Bears since January 23, 2011, Green Bay has won 10 of those games.
- The Bears scored first in the game. Since 2000, the Packers are 12-6 versus the Bears when the Bears score first in the game.
- Davante Adams (18), Robert Tonyan (11) and Aaron Jones (11) each had 10 or more TDs this season. It was the first time the Packers had three players with 10+ TDs since 2014 when Randall Cobb (12), Eddie Lacy (13) and Jordy Nelson (13) each had double-figures in touchdowns that year.
- Punt returner Tavon Austin had the only Packers’ turnover in the game. That miscue prevented the Packers from tying the 2010 New England Patriots NFL record with 11 games in a season without a turnover. The Pack ended the season with 10 games without a turnover, tied with the 2016 New England Patriots for second on this list.
- Marques Valdes-Scantling had a 72-yard TD reception in the game. He ended the season with the highest yards-per-catch average in the league, 20.91 (minimum of 30 receptions in a season . The 20.91 yards per catch is the ninth highest in Packers history (Don Hutson tops the list at 24.88 yards per catch in the 1939 season).
- The Packers scored 21 points in the second quarter giving them a total of 219 second quarter points for the season, most of any NFL team. Their 80 points in the first quarter ranked 17th in the league; their 103 third quarter points ranked fourth in the league; and their 107 points in the fourth quarter ranked 22nd in the league.
- Green Bay held a 21-13 lead at halftime. Since 2010, the Packers are 47-2-1 in games when they have a lead of eight points or more at halftime.
- The Pack had only 24:31 Time of Possession in the game. That was the lowest for the team in the 2020 season. Usually having under 25 minutes TOP is not necessarily good news for the team; since 2010, the Packers are 9-10 in games when they have less than 25 minutes TOP in a contest.
- Davante Adams had 115 catches for 1,374 yards for the season. He became the 17th receiver in league history to reach those numbers in a season. He did become the first receiver in league history to reach 110 catches, 1,300 receiving yards and 18 TD catches in a season.
- Aaron Jones had a TD run in the game. The Packers were 7-2 in games this season when Jones scored a TD. He carried the ball 11 times for 42 yards; the 42 yards was the second-lowest rushing yardage output of the 2020 season.
- Since the 2016 season, Adams has 58 TD pass receptions, first in the league. Tyreek Hill of Kansas City is second to Adams with 47 TD receptions in the last five seasons.
- Rodgers had four TD passes in the contest, the seventh game this season that he had four or more TD passes. That is now tied for the second-most in NFL history in a season. Peyton Manning holds the NFL record with 10 games with four or more TD passes in the 2013 season.
- The Packers became the seventh team in league history to score 30 or more points in 12 or more games in a season. The 2013 Denver Broncos hold the record with 13 games with 30+ points in a season.
- Rodgers had a Passer Rating of 147.9 in the game, the 10th game of 2020 where his Passer Rating was 120 or higher. Those 10 games in a season with a Passer Rating above 120 is a league record. Rodgers ended the year with a Passer Rating of 121.5, the second-highest Passer Rating in NFL history (he holds the record with a 122.5 Passer Rating in 2011). Of the 40 highest Passer Rating seasons in league history, Rodgers holds four of those 40 spots.
Here are some of the numbers that helped define the Packers 40-14 win over the Tennessee Titans in Green Bay on Sunday, December 27, 2020.
- The Packers are now 12-3 for the 2020 season. This is the second straight year the team has won 12 or more regular season games… the first time they have accomplished this feat since 2001 and 2002 when they went 12-4 in consecutive years. It was Mike Sherman’s second and third seasons at the helm of the Pack. The team went 13-3 last season and could match that record from last year if they defeat the Chicago Bears in the season-finale. The last time the Packers won 13 or more games in back-to-back seasons was in 1996 and 1997 when they went 13-3 in back-to-back seasons under Mike Holmgren. They went to the Super Bowl in both of those seasons.
- Even though the Packers came away with a 40-14 win in this game versus the Titans, the Packers still have a losing record versus this franchise (6-7) going back to the days when they were the Houston Oilers. Green Bay is 3-4 against the Tennessee Titans since 1998; they were 3-3 versus the Oilers from 1972-92.
- Green Bay is now 15-6 in Game #15 of the season since 2000. That is the second best record in Game #15 contests since 2000. The New England Patriots top this category with an 18-2 record in the 15th games of the season this century.
- The Packers have now won five straight games against AFC opponents in December.
- Green Bay has now won 11 of their last 12 Sunday Night Football games at home dating back to 2009.
- The Packers scored first in the game on an Aaron Rodgers-to-Davante Adams pass play. Since the 2018 season, the Pack is 10-3 in games at Lambeau when they score first. Since 2015, they are 22-6-1 in games at Lambeau Field when they score first in the game.
- Davante Adams took over the NFL lead with his 16th TD reception of the season. The Packers have had three players lead the league in TD receptions since 1970: Sterling Sharpe (1992, 1994), James Jones (2012) and Jordy Nelson (2016).
- Adams became the 35th player in NFL history to have three or more TD receptions in two or more games in a single season. The record is four games in a season with three-plus TD receptions by Sonny Randle in 1960.
- Equanimeous St. Brown in the second quarter caught his first career TD pass. He became the 42nd player to catch a regular season TD pass from Aaron Rodgers.
- The Packers had two interceptions in the game, one each by Darnell Savage and Christian Kirksey. Green Bay since 2010 is 44-6 in games when they have two or more interceptions in a game.
- With his three TD receptions, Adams has now had 13 games in his Packers career with multiple TD receptions. The Packers are 12-1 in those games. The Packers record for most games with two or more TD receptions is 15 held by Jordy Nelson.
- Kirksey had a sack and interception in the game. It was the second game this season that a Packers player had a sack and interception in a game; Jaire Alexander had a sack and interception in Week #1 versus the Minnesota Vikings.
- Za’Darius Smith also had a sack. He had a sack in seven of the eight Green Bay home games this year. Of his 12.5 sacks this season, he had 9.5 sacks at home.
- The Pack held a 19-7 lead at halftime. The last time the Packers lost a home game where they had a 10-point (or more) lead at halftime was in 2007.They are 44-0-1 since that game.
- Rodgers had four TD passes in the game for the 29th time in his career. That ranks fourth on the all-time list. Drew Brees tops the list with 37 games with four or more TD passes. Green Bay is 26-3 in those games when Rodgers tosses four or more TD passes in a contest.
- For the ninth time in his career, Rodgers has surpassed 4,000 passing yards in a season. That’s the sixth most in NFL history. Peyton Manning had 14 seasons with 4,000 or more passing yards, most in NFL history.
- AJ Dillon had a pair of TD runs. At 22 years of age (and 239 days) he became the second-youngest Green Bay player to have two or more rushing TDs in a game. Paul Hornung was 21 years-308 days when he had two rushing TDs in a game on October 27, 1957.
- At 22 years-239 days, Dillon is the youngest Packers player to rush for 120 or more yards in a game.
- Rodgers did have an interception in the game, the fourth game of the season where he threw an interception. The Packers were 2-2 in those games.
- Rodgers’ interception was the only Packers turnover in the contest. If they can not turn the ball over in the final game versus the Bears, the Packers would tie the league record for most turnover-less games in a season with 11.
- Adams had 11 catches for 142 yards and three TDs. It was only the 36th time since the merger (1970) that a player had 10 + catches, 140+ receiving yards, and three or more TD receptions in a game. He became the third Packers receiver to reach these numbers in a game; Javon Walker did it on 9-26-2004, Sterling Sharpe did it on 10-24-93.
- Green Bay punter JK Scott did not have to punt in the game. It was the first time since October 7, 2018 (vs. Detroit) that the Packers did not punt in a game. In the Super Bowl era (since 1966), the Packers have played in only eight games where they did not have to punt.
- Green Bay scored in every quarter in the game. Since 2000, the team is 46-3 in games when they score in each quarter.
- Adams scored on receptions of 5, 7 and 8 yards. Of his 61 career regular season TDs, 29 of them have been less than 10 yards.
- Aaron Jones had 10 carries for 94 yards, an average of 9.4 yards per carry. Of all his games where he had at least 10 carries, this was the second-highest yards-per-carry game of his career. His highest was 9.67 in a game on 11-11-2018 against the Dolphins. He had 145 yards on 15 carries in that contest.
- Mason Crosby did have a field goal blocked, but a penalty on Tennessee wiped out that play. He is 16-for-16 in field goal attempts this season and if he doesn’t miss a field goal attempt in the final game next week, he will become only the sixth player in NFL history to not miss a field goal in a season (minimum of 15 attempts). Seattle’s Jason Myers has gone 22-for-22 this season and could join Crosby on this elite list.
- The Packers held the Panthers to only 16 points a week ago and then held the Titans to only 14 points this week. It was the first time since last year (also in Games #14 and #15) when they held the Bears to 13 points and the Vikings to 10 points in consecutive weeks. The team record for most consecutive games holding the opponents under 20 points (in the Super Bowl era-1966) is eight… that happened in 1968.