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Seaside Joe: Packers have yet to prove themselves against a real test

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Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Hey, it’s Kenneth Arthur again. Don’t mind me. Just moseying through, you’ll barely notice. Anyhow, I won’t have many pieces on Field Gulls left, but I wrote this little diddy for Seaside Joe, a daily Seahawks newsletter that I’m still pumping out. I’ve loved the process of connecting through my readers through that and you can sign up here if you choose to. Not every Joe looks like this — in fact many will look quite different and often includes moments where I reflect on things outside of football — but when they are so clearly about the Seahawks, I feel compelled to share them here at times.

This is a Joe:

When I (correctly) pointed out that Cam Newton wasn’t the real 2015 MVP and that the Panthers weren’t a very strong 15-1 team (for 15-1), I caught a lot of heat. I would still stand by what I said.

Carolina was 15-1 but 4th in DVOA, including 8th on offense. A team ranked 4th in DVOA is a great team for that season, but 15-1 has happened only 7 times in history. The ‘84 49ers and ‘85 Bears are among them and won Super Bowls in their respective seasons. The 2007 Patriots went 18-0 until they weren’t undefeated anymore. The 2011 Packers went 15-1 the year after winning the Super Bowl and were quickly bounced by the Giants that also bounced New England four years earlier. (Seriously, what the hell is Eli Manning’s career?) The 2004 Steelers went 15-1 and failed to make the Super Bowl but as you undoubtedly know, the rings came a year later.

The only teams to really fail at that single-season success are the ‘98 Vikings (5th in DVOA, 18th on defense when they went 15-1 with a schedule ranked 25th in strength) and the ‘15 Panthers. Carolina faced the easiest schedule in the NFL that year. I pointed out SOS when I argued that Carolina was overrated and that the defense and opponent were more responsible for their (and Newton’s) success in 2015 than Newton himself, and I was roundly mocked by Panthers fans for it. They were throwing “What’s the strength of schedule though? lmao your stupid lmao” type stuff at me. And then they lost to quite possibly the worst Super Bowl champion of the 2010s (no offense to Denver but to win a Super Bowl with the worst QBs in the league at that time was really something) and then went 6-10, 11-5, 7-9, 5-11, your coach is fired.

Dancing on the grave? Like I said, Panthers fans have been relentless in their pursuit of the belief that Newton was the MVP, the Panthers were the best team, and that Im an idiot. People can mock others for anything really, but I’ll continue to use strength of schedule as an indicator of potential future success because of facts.

Onto the 2019 Packers.

What really stood out to me today is that Green Bay has won their last five games following a 37-8 loss in San Francisco, but the opponents included the teams that are picking 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the 2020 NFL Draft. They beat the Giants 31-13, Washington 20-15, and the Lions 23-20. The important thing is that they won, but the margins were pretty slim over Dwayne Haskins and David Blough. Washington scored a late touchdown that was mostly meaningless, but they were only down 17-9 midway through the fourth quarter. It was a really close game and it was in Green Bay.

As you probably saw from watching and hoping in Week 17, the Packers were down 20-13 to Detroit in the fourth quarter and needed a last second FG by Mason Crosby to win a game they needed to win. Aaron Rodgers had a bad game against one of the worst pass defenses and teams in the NFL.

And the Giants game was much closer than the final score indicated, as New York was only down 17-13 going into the fourth. The Packers did build a big lead on the Bears but Mitchell Trubisky made it 21-13 with 8 minutes left. Chicago had three more drives in the game and they all got close to or over midfield, but Trubisky didn’t have any more good drives left in him. The fifth win in that streak was on Monday night in Week 16 over the Vikings. The game was close going into the fourth quarter and the Packers won 23-10, making it their first sweep over Minnesota since 2014. The Packers had two wins over Minnesota, a good team clearly, and also beat the Chiefs 31-24, giving them at least three quality wins in 2019.

Wait... let’s cut that back to two quality wins -- because Matt Moore was starting for an injured Patrick Mahomes that week. Regardless of Moore having a good game, he’s not Patrick Mahomes. Also out that week: Chris Jones, Frank Clark, Eric Fisher, and Kendall Fuller. That’s not the Chiefs. So who did Green Bay beat this season?

They swept the Bears, Vikings, and Lions, going 6-0 in the division. Outside of the division, they went 7-3, including wins over the Broncos (during an 0-4 start and before they seemed to “get it” without Joe Flacco), Cowboys (who put up season-high 563 yards of offense that week and then lost to the Jets a week later), Raiders (a season-high 484 yards of offense), Chiefs, Panthers (kicked off an 8-game losing streak), Giants, and Washington.

Those 3 losses:

In Week 4, they suffered a 7-point loss to the Eagles. The Packers had 1st and goal from the 1 in the fourth and Rodgers went 0-for-4. They then had 1st and goal from the 7 and Rodgers threw a pick on the 2-yard line on 2nd down. Rodgers went 0-for-5 with an interception in his attempt to tie the game. In Week 9, they lost 26-11 to the LA Chargers. They trailed 26-3 midway through the fourth quarter in a game they were never really in. In Week 12, they lost by 29 points to San Francisco. The last home win that Green Bay has over a current playoff team is Week 2 vs Minnesota.

You could argue that Green Bay is a good team and you could argue that Seattle has been at least as fortunate but you could not argue that the Packers have proven themselves against any quality opponents in 2019 other than Minnesota and the Vikings may have their own specific issues with beating this version of Green Bay. The Packers played 16 games and I would argue that they had 0 elite wins, 2 good wins (both over Minnesota), a couple of decent wins (Kansas City, Dallas, and maybe Denver), and the rest of their wins are kind of useless in proving anything for the postseason. Then they have 3 losses, including two blowouts -- one vs a great team and one vs a mediocre team -- and a loss to middling Eagles team coming off of losses to the Falcons and Lions before they stood Rodgers up at the 1.

I won’t go over this entire thing for the Seahawks but I’d say Seattle (ranked as the 5th hardest schedule in 2019) has 1 elite win (49ers), two good wins (Rams, Vikings), and some more decent wins (Eagles x2, Steelers, Bucs). I don’t mind if someone argues against Seattle in the same manner, I didn’t really do this to make comment on the Seahawks or their chances on Sunday, I only wanted to focus on the opponent they’ll be facing. And while the Packers don’t need to have any of their wins vacated, they should not scare anyone in the ways that the Ravens, 49ers, and Chiefs should scare people.

It’s pretty obvious to me that two teams couldn’t be closer in quality for a 5-seed traveling to face a 2-seed. The Packers will have their advantages in this game and I would even say they should be favored thanks to homefield (Seattle is 8-1 on the road but Green Bay is 7-1 at home and we just know by now that playoff games at home are a huge leg up) but they are lacking a resume necessary to strike fear into anyone and I’ll be surprised if Jimmy Graham has more Super Bowl rings than Cam Newton when the playoffs are over.