Time For Packers to Dispel "Lucky" Image

National narrative gives Green Bay something to prove in 2020.

 

I don't know if the Green Bay Packers will play the 2020 season with a chip on their shoulder.

But they should.

Despite being a 14 win team last season and advancing to within a game of the Super Bowl, the Pack is getting very little respect from the national talking heads as 2020 approaches. Perhaps the ultimate insult came when ESPN recently released its FPI rankings. They pegged the Packers as winning just 8 games this year and finishing second in the division behind the Vikings. Overall Green Bay was ranked 15th in the entire NFL.

There are several reasons for this. One is the last impression left by the team in 2019. The national folks seem only to have the enduring memory of the shellacking the Packers took at the hands of the 49ers in the NFC championship game. Add to that the perception that Green Bay had a terrible draft (while the Vikings had a spectacular one), and that the 2020 schedule will be more difficult. The network folks have also convinced themselves that there will be turmoil in the locker room because the drafting of Jordan Love will create tension with Aaron Rodgers, Matt LeFleur, et al.

Okay, it's true the Packers had no answer for the 49ers. But seemingly forgotten is that the week before Green Bay had beaten a very good Seattle team. In fact, Seattle had beaten the 49ers during the regular season. No one can say at this point whether anybody had a good draft or a bad one. And the same applies to the schedule. Who knows what games will be easy or difficult this coming season? Aaron Rodgers has already assured everyone his attitude will not be a problem. And if anything, it should motivate him to play even better.

But the thing that has really gotten under my skin is this notion that the only reason Green Bay had a great season last year is because of a string of pure, lucky breaks.....one right after another.   That the Packers are a mediocre team that only won because everything went their way.   The luckiest of these is the perception the Packers stayed incredibly healthy all season long.

Did they really? Each year Football Outsiders uses a complex formula to determine a ranking of NFL teams according to how severely they were affected by injuries. They call it AGL, which stands for Adjusted Games Lost. The team least affected is ranked number one, and so on. For 2019, the Packers ranked 14th. Middle of the pack. Lucky? Lucky is relative. Green Bay was lucky with injuries compared to 2018, when they were ranked 22nd. But nearly half of the league was "luckier" than them in 2019.

Here's a look at a handful of other "lucky" breaks the Packers received last season, along with a few comments:  

The Packers should have lost at home to Detroit, but they were bailed out by two incorrect hands to the face penalties on the final drive

The NFL league office eventually labeled the first call "supportable". The second call was deemed a mistake. Had it not been called the Lions would have received a kick-off trailing by one point with about 1:30 to play. Assuming they would have been able to drive down and kick the winning field goal is far from a given. Green Bay's defense had been dominant in the 4th quarter.

 

Green Bay got to play Kansas City when the Chiefs were without Patrick Mahomes.

Losing Mahomes certainly hurt the Chiefs but veteran replacement Matt Moore is not chopped liver. He threw for 267 yards and a pair of touchdowns and had the game tied with nine minutes left to play. Rodgers executing a 67 yard touchdown pass to Aaron Jones to take the lead and win the game was not "lucky". By the way, the Packers played without Davante Adams.

 

Oakland quarterback Derrick Carr's fumble out of the end zone cost the Raiders the chance to take the lead at halftime and completely changed the game.

Um....Aaron Rodgers threw for five scores and 429 yards in this game with a perfect QB rating. And since when is aggressive defensive pursuit causing a player to stretch the ball out and leap for the end zone considered lucky?

 

Green Bay played the Vikings when Dalvin Cook was injured.

Aaron Jones ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Davante Adams caught 13 passes for 116 yards. Cook's absence had nothing to do with that.

 

Green Bay played at Detroit in Week 17 when Matthew Stafford was out.

Well, the Packers had beaten the Lions when they had Stafford earlier in the season. And considering the Lions dominated the first half of this game, it's hard to imagine Stafford could have done much better. After sleepwalking through the first half, the Packers outscored Detroit 20-3 to win the game. I don't see that as lucky.

Look, I'm not saying that good fortune didn't smile on the Pack more than a few times last year.   But this is a good football team.   They earned what they got.   They should be regarded as a legit Super Bowl contender.   To be ranked 15th is a slap in the face that should stick in their craw.

Oh, one more note.   Did you know that in 2019 the Seattle Seahawks got to play the Bengals without A.J. Green, the Falcons without Matt Ryan, the 49ers without George Kittle, and the Vikings without Adam Thielen.   Also two of their opponents missed what would have been game winning field goals of less than 48 yards.   I have yet to hear anyone refer to the Seahawks as "lucky".

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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Comments (26)

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Leatherhead's picture

May 31, 2020 at 06:11 pm

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I don’t think it was luck that Rodgers rarely turns it over, I don’t think it’s luck that we were so good in the red zone, I don’t think Crosby made any lucky kicks.

Go to footballsfuture.com and read the Lions forum. An incredulous bunch of whiners talking about luck. Don’t be like them.

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hodge555's picture

June 01, 2020 at 09:04 am

I actually considered ourselves unlucky in the Eagles game when a goal to go throw, aimed low to our receiver bounced up and was intercepted. Without that we could well have won that game.

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dobber's picture

June 01, 2020 at 10:40 am

The only 1-score game the Packers lost in 2019...and they had a chance to tie/win with 20 seconds left.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 01, 2020 at 05:20 pm

If only we had a pile driver in the backfield.....we might have won that game.

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stockholder's picture

May 31, 2020 at 06:58 pm

Knowing how good the los Vegas Odds are. I'm going with Los Vegas.

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packerbackerjim's picture

June 01, 2020 at 05:45 am

How good was Vegas when they predicted 9 wins for GB in 2019?

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croatpackfan's picture

June 01, 2020 at 07:52 am

That is why he is going with "Los" Vegas. He just do opposite...

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gkarl's picture

May 31, 2020 at 07:16 pm

The media is always stirring the pot for one reason or another. If they think we were lucky LY that's OK by me I'll take the same TY. Good teams are good for a reason and the Packers are a good team and will be TY.

If we were fortunate in any area LY it was "key" injuries. If that holds for 2020 we'll have a chance at the SB.

Unlike some I'm OK with a chance, because winning the SB is where luck really comes into play. LOL

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splitpea1's picture

May 31, 2020 at 08:10 pm

Maybe the "lucky" narrative comes from the fact that some of our wins weren't as convincing as the national media would have liked, but the bottom line is we made the plays (whether it be on offense or defense) when it counted. There's no shame in winning close games. I would also add that Minnesota lost at home to the same Kansas City team without Mahomes.

However, we need to show that we can win, or at least be strongly competitive against some of the tough road teams we face this season. And hopefully we can dispel the "soft" image (which I always thought was stupid) that the national media likes to hang on us.

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dobber's picture

June 01, 2020 at 12:55 pm

It's that college football mentality sneaking into NFL football. High end CFB is all about winning big and posturing for the media/pollsters because the media/pollsters are the ones who determine who plays for the title. NFL football is all about winning.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 31, 2020 at 10:00 pm

The pundits are "lucky" that they do not report their opinions to my face.

I take the GBP pride seriously.

I have been a fan for far longer than anyone even associated with the current staff and team.

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BuckyBadger's picture

June 01, 2020 at 12:23 am

They never had a game where they looked great outside of the 2nd Vikings game. They won ugly and even said so most of the time. Winning ugly is fine until it isn't anymore. They struggled vs mediocre teams like the Lions and got hammered when they played a top contender. You can blame the media all you want about the perception but the offense would go 3 and out for full quarters and the run D was very average. Hopefully that improves in year 2 but I didn't see a lot of additions to make that happen.

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croatpackfan's picture

June 01, 2020 at 07:49 am

They got hammered only vs SF, only 1 team! the rest of 2 loses came from Philadelphia and LA Chargers, both not top contender. They won several top contender last seasons, e. g. Seattle, Kansas City, Raiders, Vikings (2×).

So, please take facts when you are pulling conclusions...

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BuckyBadger's picture

June 01, 2020 at 09:56 am

Raiders a top contender now? KC without their star QB? Seattle was was a mash unit when they faced them in the playoffs. As for the Chargers game the score was 26-11 and they didn't score anything until the a FG at the end of the 3rd quarter to make it 19-3 (only to have the Chargers score again to put the game away). They put up another TD in garbage time when they where playing prevent. That is vs a non-contender and they didn't even show up to play. I call that getting hammered. If you are going to bring up facts get them right.

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NickPerry's picture

June 01, 2020 at 04:45 am

Hello??? I have news for you at ESPN...ANY team who wins 14 football games in one season is ALWAYS going to have a little luck along the way. The Detroit game was just where it was the Packers who finally got a break.

For example, did the Packers catch a break in the 1998/99 playoff game in SF? If you recall Terrell Owens caught the game winning TD. BUT, 2 or 3 plays before Jerry Rice fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the Packers. It was obvious to all except the guys wearing the stripes.

In 2009 did the officials call the face mask penalty when Arizona was doing a pull up off Rodgers face mask as Rodgers was fumbling the ball and the Cardinals ran it in for the TD in OT?

Just 2 words...FAIL MARY.... That play was HUGE in Playoff seeding IIRC. These are just a few of MANY examples.

Hell, IMO the Packers have a few more coming like the Detroit game last year.

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Lare's picture

June 01, 2020 at 05:37 am

IMO, the only place where luck comes into play for a team is injuries.

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johnwick7057's picture

June 01, 2020 at 05:42 am

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croatpackfan's picture

June 01, 2020 at 06:46 am

I have to say only one thing on this subject to all those US National TV talking heads - "LUCK IS THE RESIDUE OF THE DESIGN!"

There is Andrew Luck, but not such thing like bad or good luck. When unpredictable happens we call them bad or good luck, but we have to be aware that those unpredictable events are result of our previous doing, just we did not pay attention to those things and it looks like that they happen by themselves. Nothing in the nature (or in life) happens just by itself. Everything is the reaction of some action.

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flackcatcher's picture

June 01, 2020 at 07:11 am

The main problem with this team is the lack of depth caught up them over the past couple of years. Last year they had enough(barely) to cover their injuries, and that made the difference. This has always been an elite team with their core players and starters when healthy. And last year, for the most part, this team was healthy...

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Handsback's picture

June 01, 2020 at 07:58 am

Bill Parsells, the Big Tuna, always said.."You are what your record says you are". I think that says it best.
Now losing like Green Bay did to the 49ers has left an impression that the Packers are a soft team. They get a chance to dispel that soon enough.

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BuckyBadger's picture

June 01, 2020 at 08:19 am

Can't discount the fact they looked so poor vs bad teams last year as well. Had they dominated teams like the Lions or Redskins when they played them and to only get embarrassed vs the 49ers it wouldn't have been so bad. The fact is they looked ugly beating poor teams and got blown out when they played a real contender. That will have the media talking you are soft and I don't see how else to report it.

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egbertsouse's picture

June 01, 2020 at 08:35 am

I stopped reading the article after the writer implied that Matt Moore is almost as good as Mahomes. Even for a homer this is ridiculous.

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13TimeChamps's picture

June 01, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Pretty sure he never said anything like that. Just that he's a capable, veteran back-up QB, which he is. Amazing how people read things and see what they want to see.

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dobber's picture

June 01, 2020 at 11:01 am

The 2019 Packers were a very different animal from the 2018 and 2017 Packers who played poorly for long stretches, looked dysfunctional at times, and seemed to give up on MM and Joe Philbin. The 2019 team may not have been dominant over more than a quarter or two at a time, but they were remarkably resilient and came up with key plays when they needed them...long drives, turnovers, sacks. The question is: how did they make that change in one year? They played with essentially the same offensive unit as the one they had in 2018 (enter Turner and Jenkins, exit Cobb and RG debacle). They brought in younger playmakers at OLB and S. Could be they caught lightning in a bottle in the schedule, who they played, and when they played them. I'm looking at a rookie coach and the right mix of personalities in the locker room. It might sound like psychobabble, but a big part of winning is believing you will win. If the coaching/locker room relationship is toxic, it's hard to believe you're ready to play. I'll give LaFleur some credit for being able to help cultivate cohesion and a healthy locker room...which helps to make your own luck.

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Since91's picture

June 01, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Rather be lucky than good!

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DrMixerGED's picture

June 03, 2020 at 09:09 pm

I mean, differentiating between results based on luck and effort is nearly impossible. Too many variables. All you can do is play the hand your dealt.

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