Green and Bold: It's Time for Packers to Focus on Turnovers

After three weeks of play, Green Bay has a turnover differential of minus-2, which is tied for 22nd in the league.

It's no surprise that the most successful NFL teams tend to have the most positive turnover differentials (the difference between takeaways and giveaways). 

For example, of the the NFL's 2016 playoff teams—the Raiders, Texans, Dolphins, Steelers, Patriots, and Chiefs in the AFC and the Lions, Seahawks, Giants, Packers, Falcons, and Cowboys in the NFC—only three (Texans, Lions, and Giants) had negative turnover differentials.

Unsurprisingly, the four teams that advanced to the conference championships (Packers, Falcons, Steelers, Patriots) all had turnover differentials in the top 10 in the league. 

It's hard to game plan for turnovers, but the fact remains the best football teams protect the football on offense and take away the football on defense.

So far in 2017, that hasn't been the case for the Packers. 

After three weeks of play, Green Bay has a turnover differential of minus-2, which is tied for 22nd in the league.

Everything about this is uncharacteristic. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown three interceptions, one in each game, and lost a fumble in Week 2 against the Falcons, which means that QB1 is responsible for every single Packers turnover so far this season. 

Heading into the 2017, Rodgers was on a career-long streak of 251 consecutive attempts with no picks. It ended on the first drive of the season against the Seattle Seahawks, thanks to Nazair Jones. 

If you take a look at the Packers' record books, you'll see that football security became the name of the game in the Aaron Rodgers era.

Of the seasons in which the team recorded the fewest passes intercepted, five were years Rodgers was at the helm (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016), with only eight interceptions.

The most interceptions Rodgers has ever thrown in a season is 13, back in his first season as a starter in 2009.  

Meanwhile, the Packers defense isn't doing anything to mitigate those losses on offense.

Green Bay has recovered two fumbles but hasn't come up with a single interception so far this year; as Jon Meerdink of The Power Sweep pointed out, only two other times since 1988 have the Packers not recorded an interception through the first three games. 

Now, Dom Capers' scheme doesn't encourage freelancing to make a play on the ball. It asks its players to stick to their assignments and, most of all, hone their fundamentals. So in recent years, the Packers have had ranked near the top of the league in turnover differential less for takeaways and more for lack of giveaways:

Season Turnover Differential  League Rank
2017 -2 22nd
2016 8 6th
2015 5 10th
2014 14 1st

Undoubtedly, Rodgers isn't going to keep up his current pace of turning the ball over (though having an offensive line beleaguered by injuries isn't helping his cause). But it's about time the defense steps in and does its part to get the differential back into the black. 

It just seems like if the Baltimore Ravens could pick Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton off four times in one game back in Week 1, the Packers should have been able to do it at least once. 

Matching up well against future opponents is so crucial, but looking solely at Green Bay's own personnel, some Packers are more disruptive than others. As long as Mike Daniels remains out, the Packers probably aren't going to be forcing as many fumbles up front; he is responsible for their first of the season on a Russell Wilson strip sack. 

But the secondary has some snipers among its ranks. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix led the team in picks last season, with five. This season, the safety put up 10 solo tackles through the first two weeks and had a pass defended in Week 1, but had a relatively quiet game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. 

Micah Hyde generated three interceptions roaming the field for the Packers in 2016, and they've certainly missed him in that role this season. And safety Morgan Burnett, who had two interceptions last year, has been lining up at inside linebacker this season. While it's not impossible to pick off a QB from that position, it explains why he's yet to nab one this year. 

Against the Bengals, we saw Burnett's role evolve once again, as he primarily played slot corner to make room for rookie standout Josh Jones at safety. Now there is an opportunity for Green Bay to put one of its best players in more coverage situations and, therefore, give him the opportunity to change the game by creating takeaways. 

As for cornerback Kevin King? It's understandable that he wasn't able to shut down A.J. Green, but as he faces lesser competition and grows more comfortable in his assignments, perhaps he'll be able to hone his instincts and come away with some balls. (The former Washington Husky had six in his college career.)

The Packers haven't wowed anyone on offense or defense through the first three weeks of the season (excepting, perhaps, Aaron Rodgers' final drive against Cincinnati to bring about overtime). But one way Green Bay can take better control of games and limit falling into a hole come halftime is by improving that turnover differential. 

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Comments (18)

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Patric Moncada's picture

September 27, 2017 at 07:01 am

Morgan Burnett needs to be in the slot and allowed to freelance a bit. Between him and Jones I think they can, as the season progress, create some coverage turnovers

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The TKstinator's picture

September 27, 2017 at 12:39 pm

IMHO: cherry turnovers>apple turnovers

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Nick Perry's picture

September 27, 2017 at 07:02 am

Truth be told the Packers Defense wasn't on fire last season creating TO either. They had a slew of them against Seattle towards the end of the season and that kinda kick started them somewhat for the last few games.

This is a really young secondary with the exception of Bennett. There's been a lot of turnover whether it's injury, FA, or just poor play. I'd imagine once the Packers become more set with their starters AND stay healthy, the TO's on the defensive side of the ball will pickup.

Same can be said for the giveaways. Once our Tackles are back in place Rodgers will go back to streaks of 252 consecutive passes without an interception.

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The TKstinator's picture

September 27, 2017 at 02:08 pm

He might even go 253.

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croatpackfan's picture

September 27, 2017 at 04:19 pm

Or 254. You never know. It is that kind of game...

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The TKstinator's picture

September 27, 2017 at 05:05 pm

Whoa! Somebody is way out on a limb now.

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Norm's picture

September 27, 2017 at 06:19 pm

No, I'm sure it's now 280.

We're talking new Twitter character limit right?

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HankScorpio's picture

September 27, 2017 at 07:14 am

Turnover margin is the single most telling stat when it comes to predicting victory. Nothing else comes close. Advantages in yards, ToP, STs, field position, you name it, can be wiped out by turnover margin....especially if those TOs result in a defensive score.

Interceptions tend to come when there is pressure on the QB. I think that old saw is bearing out with the Packers. They have allowed more pressure on Rodgers than they have generated on the opposition. The result is a negative TO margin, something that cannot hold if the Packers want to achieve their ultimate goal.

Getting healthy will help a bunch. Their best pass rushers are (in no particular order) Daniels, Perry, Matthews and Brooks. They have yet to have all 4 active at once. On the other side, they have not had both starting OTs at once. And now there is the possibility they will be playing at least one guy that could not even make a roster after final cuts.

Fortunately it is still September. So there is plenty of time to turn this around.

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Razer's picture

September 27, 2017 at 08:26 am

... Interceptions tend to come when there is pressure on the QB. I think that old saw is bearing out with the Packers. They have allowed more pressure on Rodgers than they have generated on the opposition...

In a nutshell. Thanks Hank

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 27, 2017 at 07:36 am

The turnovers have been missing from the defense.

They really haven't had many opportunities for interceptions so far.

I do believe that will come. With King getting more comfortable and confident I think we will see him making plays. Same with Randall. He has shown he can make interceptions and the more he plays with confidence the more we will see him making plays.

I think we will see the Safety's starting to make more plays as well. Once the CB's get trusted more, they will be allowed to roam a little more.

Getting back 2 of our top pass rushers will help as well. Pressure forces QB's into mistakes. Getting Daniels and Perry back, as well as getting Brooks going more will definitely help.

I think the turnovers will come, and usually when they do they come in bunches.

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Handsback's picture

September 27, 2017 at 07:41 am

With the offense going through OTs like sausages at a cookout....the Packer's fumbles and interceptions won't be going down. It's up to the defense to get some pressures and turnovers. If they don't it's going to be a rocky season until those killer "Bs" OTs come back from injury.

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Since '61's picture

September 27, 2017 at 08:16 am

We should remember that the Packers have played against 3 good QBs during their first 3 games. A better pass rush will help and that will come when we get our players back. Although Jones may continue to provide a pass rush boost as we saw against the Bengals.
Creating turnovers help but holding opponents to 17 points or less as we've seen against Cincy and Seattle is most important. Keep making stops, the turnovers will come. Thanks, Since '61

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 27, 2017 at 08:29 am

I agree Since '61.

One of the stats I saw, and wish I could remember where it was at. But the Packers are one of the top teams in 3rd down sacks. That is a very good stat to have.
Also they currently rank 9th in total sacks. That is also without playing with 2 of their top pass rushers the last 2 games.

I honestly would rather rely more on getting stops on 3rd downs then getting turnovers to stop drives. I think a defense that can get stops will be better for it then to rely on turnovers.
I think the turnovers will come though. Sometimes it just takes getting that first one.

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EdsLaces's picture

September 27, 2017 at 08:32 am

As I said in that other thread King with his first career int tomorrow ......place your bets LVT. For those who have kept up I don't like blasting it allover here, but my little brothers Lung transplant was successful so far. A couple weeks removed and he's still out of it for the most part, but still kicking Cystic Fibrosis in the teeth. Love life. Love your family. Go pack go.

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LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

September 27, 2017 at 11:48 am

EdsLaces, I'm Happy for your little brother. I had Lung Surgery 2 1/2 yr's ago. I lost 1/3 of my Right Lung. I pray the Transplant is Successful.

I'm going to try & Hang It UP. It's Time. I made one of the Worst Bets I ever made last week, along with one of the Best. I can't see the Games anymore, like I used to. Maybe I'm getting too old. On Friday, without Thinking, I Bet Oakland, without even looking at the game. Only an Amateur would do that. I knew after I made the Bet, that I was the wrong way. I even posted that, but they don't give you your Money Back once you Bet. It was a Free Bet, cause I won on a slot, but I don't like losing even 1 bet if I can help it. Only 1 game jumped out at me last week. Tenn -2 1/2 on Seattle. Had to be the Toughest Bet on the board. I took Tenn & Won. I couldn't see anything else on the board, including the GB game.

I couldn't see that game till the very end. Taryn had that game from the beginning. I think it's time to quit. Besides, my wife is Getting Tired of Me throwing things through the Wide Screens. (Just Kidding) She's just Getting Tired of me.

Once again I looked at the board this week & only 2 games draw my attention, neither one of which I really like. I'm 70 now, & my Memory isn't what it use to be. Few if any on here are interested in what I have to say anyway. I've had my fun Beating Las Vegas whenever possible. I hope your brother makes it. Tell him LVT is Betting on him.

Anyway, I think it's time I Hung It Up. Trends occur every year in the NFL, but I only remember a few of them. To Win with consistency out here, you need to be at the Top Of Your Game, & I don't feel like I am. I may post from time to time, but for the time being, I'm going to try to get away from this. Once again, I've already Prayed for your Brother!!
LVT

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Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

September 27, 2017 at 08:36 am

There is a certain amount of luck with turnovers, as well as the things you can control (pass rush, tighter coverage, hard tackling). We haven't had many tipped balls, overthrows, or flat out drops that typically add to a decent margin.

While we converted the strip sack into 7, we had no luck with our other turnover. I assume the second one was the dropped punt we recovered at the end of the half on Sunday. Couldn't even do anything. That's bad luck on top of the only good luck we've had.

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Qoojo's picture

September 27, 2017 at 09:13 am

After score, turnovers are probably one of the more important statistics to watch for a game. The statistics on winning vs turnovers in a game, go something like this (only a could seasons, and is the only thing I could find):

0 - 50%
+1 - 71%
+2 - 78%
+3 - 82%
+4 - game over

No matter what the exact numbers are, they always show that even going +1 in a game, gives a team a significant advantage. Which is one reason why I have always liked Rodgers, and Favre drove me nuts.

But Rodgers is having some issues early in games this year that he needs to get fixed. He probably has 3 or 4 dropped INTs, plus the one pick-6 that did not count.

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AFL Ref daughter's picture

September 27, 2017 at 09:35 am

This should always be a priority.

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