By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Pack-A-Holic
The Green Bay Packers represent that most unique and intriguing of football teams – a team built to win in the future that wins now.
On paper, the Packers' fourth Super Bowl championship shouldn't have happened. Key injuries, a still-too-young nucleus and a No. 6 seed in the playoffs shouldn't have added up to a Lombardi Trophy ... but it did.
The Packers do have some decisions ahead, with a lot of money committed to the 2011 season and some contributors eligible to hit the market (assuming, well, you know). But with the core group locked down and one of the most stable front office/coaching staffs in football in place, the sky's the limit.
Oh yeah, and Aaron Rodgers is pretty good.
The 2010 storyline: The team with one of the unique home-field advantages in all of sports manages to win three on the road and one in Dallas to bring home an unexpected Super Bowl. Not bad for a team that was 8-6 through Week 15.
The Vital Signs
2010 record: 10-6 (24.2 PPG – 15.0 PPG)
Last five seasons overall: 48-32 (.600)
Best Quality Stat in 2010: Bendability, Passer Rating Differential, Defensive Passer Rating (1st)
Worst Quality Stat in 2010: Offensive Hog Index (16th)
Defensive Passing YPA: 3rd
Quarterback Rating: 5th
Defensive Quarterback Rating: 2nd
Relativity Index: 2nd
Statistical curiosity of 2010
The whole season was a bit of a statistical curiosity for the Packers. But the biggest oddity was their 10-6 regular-season record. A team that's an impressive +148 in point differential (388 PF, 240 PA) would be expected to win 12 games. The Pack was also statistically dominant and never trailed by more than a touchdown all year. Only the regular-season juggernaut 14-2 Patriots posted a better point differential (+205). The Pack was just a couple of plays away from 14-2 themselves and a chance to be remembered as one of the great teams in Super Bowl history.
Best game of 2010
48-21 win at Atlanta (divisional playoffs). Green Bay's two regular-season wins over Minnesota and Dallas were great (Brad Childress and Wade Phillips remember them well). But the playoff deconstruction of the NFC No. 1 seed 13-3 Falcons, on the road in Atlanta, was the signature victory of 2010 for this great squad.
Worst game of 2010
7-3 loss at Detroit (Week 14). The Packers just didn't have it on offense – Aaron Rodgers couldn't get much done before exiting in the second quarter with an injury, and a good defensive effort wasn't enough to avoid a road loss to lowly Detroit.
All things passing game. The Packers were No. 1 in Passer Rating Differential this season, an all-important stat that more or less separates the men from the boys.
On offense, Rodgers didn't have an elite group of targets – there were an awful lot of drops and bobbles happening out there – but he more than made up for it with his precision. The return of TE Jermichael Finley in 2011 should only make things better.
But the Packers might have been even better at stopping the pass. Charles Woodson, the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, might have been the team's third-best corner by season's end, with Tramon Williams and Sam Shields having breakout seasons. The Packer linebackers were also extremely good in coverage, which all added up to the team's No. 1 rank in Bendability and Defensive Passer Rating.
Offensive tackles. The Packers' interior line was quite good in 2010, and their group of running backs was as good in the blocking game as they were poor at running the ball.
The tackles, however, were another story. Bryan Bulaga was too young, while Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher were too old, and Rodgers needed every bit of his premier poise to stay upright and keep the offense moving.
Green Bay's only real need going into the offseason is finding a left tackle and upgrading the No. 2 tight end spot with a punishing blocker; unfortunately, franchise LTs aren't easy to find.
General off-season strategy/overview
The Packers are pretty well set. Rodgers is signed through 2014, they'll be well-stocked in the backfield with Ryan Grant's return, the defense is scary (they shrewdly re-signed ILB Desmond Bishop in the middle of a breakout season).
They could lose Cullen Jenkins to free agency, which would be a blow as he was their best all-around member of the defensive front in 2010. Decisions will have to be made on more marginal contributors like WR James Jones, guard Daryn Colledge and kicker Mason Crosby, but they're all replaceable.
In general, look for the Packers to promote from within – and that's a system that has worked beautifully over the past decade, including at the quarterback position.
Totally premature 2011 diagnosis
It's always good to be the defending Super Bowl champion, but it's particularly good to be this particular defending Super Bowl champion. The Packers will have to run the gauntlet in 2011 to be sure, with the NFC North shaping up to be even better than it was in 2010. And there's that pesky Super Bowl hangover stuff. But having a franchise QB with a Super Bowl ring is a huge asset, and so is learning how to play through injury – which this team did big-time in 2010. If they stay healthy this time around, 12-4 is a minimum and we could be looking at the 14-2 team the Packers looked like by season's end in 2010.