The most reported Packer stories of recent vintage have been Jeff Saturday’s benching, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings’ post-2012 prospects, and, of course, Mason Crosby’s kicking. Yet none of these will have the greatest impact on the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.
Though little to no attention is being paid, the Green Bay defense is playing as well as – perhaps even better than – its 2010 incarnation.
That defense, as you might recall, won a Super Bowl. While the 2012 defense will not match the full season production of its 2010 counterpart, 2012 is finishing off the regular season in a very similar fashion. Since the massacre in the Meadowlands, Green Bay has given up more than two touchdowns only once, and for the stretch have averaged 13.5 points allowed. Over the final four games of 2010, the Packers allowed only a slightly superior 12.5 points.
Yet, this year’s defense is perhaps finishing stronger. During this stretch, all but the Titans game were largely decided by the defense. Specifically, Morgan Burnett’s redzone interception of Christian Ponder and Casey Hayward’s interception return setting up a short field and lead changing score were the turning points in their respective games. More frightening still, Clay Matthews has only just returned from injury and Charles Woodson is still awaiting return. Accordingly, this defense still has some room to grow.
But what about the offense?
There’s good news here as well with Aaron Rodgers playing as well as he has all year (107.7 passer rating over the past four games) and the running game finally showing life (130.5 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry). The aerial assault isn’t what it was last year, but with Randall Cobb’s development into a number one receiver in the Wes Welker mold, the offense is capable of keeping up with anyone in the playoff field.
With the offense now consistently producing and the defense peaking, there is considerable reason for optimism that this year’s playoffs will play out a little differently than last year.