How Much Better?
It goes pretty much without saying that the 2013 version of the Green Bay Packers was not good enough to win a Super Bowl. The offense was too unimaginative, the defense too limited, and the quarterback situation too injured. It just wasn't going to happen.
But how much better do the 2014 Packers need to be to be Super Bowl contenders?
I did a quick study on a few of the key stats from the last 20 Super Bowl winners to see if we could get an idea. 20 teams is still a pretty small sample size, but I think it should at least give us a reasonable profile of what a Super Bowl winner looks like.
For time purposes, I couldn't do an exhaustive breakdown of the complete statistical record of every team, but I looked at the five I thought would give us the best idea where the Packers stacked up: points scored, points allowed, point differential, turnovers, and takeaways.
Here's a chart of the last 20 winners and how the Packers compared.
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Let's get the obvious talking point out of the way: the Packers allowed too many points and turned the ball over too many times, and didn't force enough turnovers. The question is, how much do those measures need to improve for the Packers to be a real Super Bowl contender?
Point differential is likely the best place to start, but that's a multifaceted issue. Despite a 2-5-1 stretch without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers still managed to stay nearly even with their opponents. The average Super Bowl winner however, beat their opponents by an average of 8.9 points per game, a significantly better mark than the Packers, although that mark can hardly be blamed on the Packers offense, which was still top ten in the league in scoring.
How can the Packers narrow that gap? Forcing more turnovers would be an obvious starting point. Your opponent can't score when he doesn't have the ball (duh), and a turnover frequently puts your offense in position to score more easily than otherwise (duh, again).
The Packers can also improve their differential by scoring more, but that's a tall order. There's less room for improvement on that side of the ball, which makes it difficult to rely on the offense for the necessary improvement to improve the Packers' point differential. However, with the return of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have the potential to field their most potent (and balanced, with Mr. Lacy's running) offense in quite some time.
If Green Bay can add just two points per game on offense, that eases the burden on the defense, but not by much. It still leaves about six points per game for the Packers to make up the difference in average point differential and where the Packers were last year. That's doable, but it's a tall order, and it would still put the Packers among the most generous teams in term of points allowed for Super Bowl contenders.
All this makes me a little bit concerned about the chances for the Packers' overall success in 2014. They may not be quite ready yet to make the leap to Super Bowl contender, but there's a slight ray of hope. Recent Super Bowl winners have a far narrower point differential than the 20 year average. That means the Packers need to improve slightly less over last year to be a contender. Perhaps having an elite quarterback for an entire season is the edge they need.