Packers turnover ratio big contributor to late-year success
At face value Aaron Rodgers is to blame for the Green Bay Packers’ six-game win streak. Rodgers said the Packers would run the table and that’s exactly what they did.
But when digging a little deeper, in addition to the elite performance of the receiving core, the solid offensive line and a defensive line that is performing well, the biggest reason for the Packers’ late year success can be attributed to the 15-1 turnover ratio in the last six games.
In fact, in a press conference earlier this week, head coach Mike McCarthy was asked about his opinion on the biggest area of improvement outside of Rodgers and said, “We’re taking care of the football and we need to take care of it Sunday,” he said. “Zero gives is a focus each and every day at practice and will definitely be a focus against this defense.”
The Packers turnover differential is currently at plus eight for the year, with the bulk of the takeaways coming after the Seattle game in week 14. Green Bay currently sits at sixth best in the league with the takeaway totals being 17 interceptions, eight fumble recoveries and only eight interceptions given (seven by Rodgers, one by backup QB Brett Hundley) and nine fumbles lost.
In the 10 games played before the Eagles on November 28, the Packers turned the ball over 16 times, including twice against the Giants in week five and four times against the Cowboys in week six. Since playing the Eagles, the Packers have only turned the ball over once and have had fifteen takeaways, including one against the playoff bound Texans on December 4th, six against the playoff bound Seahawks on December 11 and one against the playoff bound Lions last week. How’s that for playing well in December?
It’s obvious that there is a positive correlation between total takeaways and games won (and vice versa). Just how much it matters, in addition to other factors, is debatable. According to one study ‘if a team has even one more turnover than the other team over the course of a game, it will win 69.6 percent of the time’ (via Pro Football Reference data). Meaning that a team has a near 70 percent chance of winning a single game if their turnover differential is plus-1, obviously that only increases as takeaways increase and the impact only grows when the turnover differential increases over the course of a season. Looking at that alone, it makes sense the Packers are 6-0 in the last part of the season.
There has been a lot of talk this year around the Packers struggles at cornerback. When we look at these simple numbers and the correlation between takeaways and wins, the lack of depth in the secondary (especially the loss of Sam Shields) seems even more impactful. Although, much credit can be given first time pro bowler Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who has had five takeaways this season (even though all five came before the late season surge).
As the Packers move forward in the playoffs this week, not letting Eli Manning make big passes down the field and also taking the ball away from him are going to be key to a getting a win. If the Packers can force Manning to throw the inceptions he’s so prone to (he has thrown 16 interceptions this season), the chances of winning dramatically increase.
We know by now that Aaron Rodgers performs exceptionally well in December and that was especially clear this season. But the fact that the defense has been able to step up and perform at this level late in the season despite the injury plague they seemed to have been hit with, is encouraging.
Next: The resurgence of Davante Adams
If Rodgers is able to perform like he has the last few weeks and hold on to the ball, in addition to the Packers getting a takeaway or two, the Packers stand a good chance against a solid Giants team.