The Packers seemed each inch a Tremendous Bowl favourite in Week 16 as they blew out the Titans 40-14 at Lambeau Subject.
This week, they hit a major bump of their street to Tremendous Bowl 55 in Tampa with the information that All-Professional left deal with David Bakhtiari had suffered a torn ACL.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: Clinching scenarios for Week 17
The silver lining for Bakhtiari is that the damage occurred after he signed a four-year, $105.5 million extension to make him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL historical past.
However it nonetheless stands as a devastating blow to move coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, which has this season served as a weaponized model of the schemes run by Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, due to unimaginable seasons by Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.
The mind-meld Rodgers and Adams have demonstrated within the 2020 marketing campaign dangers being shattered if the Packers can’t defend their two-time MVP quarterback correctly.
Broadly seen as the perfect left deal with in soccer, Bakhtiari is pivotal to them doing that and his absence may show key within the regular-season finale and the postseason.
The Packers nonetheless have to win in Week 17 to ensure of the highest seed within the NFC and home-field benefit all through the playoffs. Not having Bakhtiari may make success in opposition to a gifted Bears protection considerably tougher.
How a lot will the Packers miss Bakhtiari in that sport and when the stakes are raised even increased within the playoffs? Right here, we look at whether or not his damage may very well be a possible demise knell to their Lombardi Trophy ambitions.
A 2015 drop-off
Bakhtiari has missed snaps in two earlier seasons for the Packers: 2015 and 2017.
The caveat for the 2017 marketing campaign is it was one wherein Rodgers was unavailable for all however 9 video games, making it powerful to make use of that season as a gauge for the way the Packers will carry out with their beginning quarterback however with out his high cross protector.
Inexperienced Bay’s efficiency minus Bakhtiari in 2015, nevertheless, suggests the Packers will discover life considerably harder with out his companies. He missed two video games that season and his absence was keenly felt.
Their yards-per-play common dropped from 5.29 to three.93 within the time he was off the sector, with the Packers’ web yards per cross play crumbling from 5.96 to 4.29.
Equally, Inexperienced Bay’s speeding manufacturing took a giant hit with out Bakhtiari, their yards-per-rush common dipping from 4.4 to three.21.
The problems Inexperienced Bay had throwing the ball minus Bakhtiari had been clearly a product of elevated stress.
With out him defending Rodgers’ blind facet, the proportion of sacks given up by the Packers greater than doubled. Rodgers was sacked on 6.3 p.c of passing performs within the 14 video games with Bakhtiari, however that determine ballooned to 12.9 within the video games wherein he was unavailable.
The Packers’ quarterback hit share additionally elevated from 15.5 to twenty.7, with Rodgers pressured on 43.1 p.c of dropbacks in comparison with 32.3 when Bakhtiari was on the sector.
It’s no shock, due to this fact, that the Packers’ effectivity on third down declined with out Bakhtiari, shifting the sticks on simply 25.6 p.c of third downs, falling from 35.5 p.c when he was on the sector.
The numbers on performs with out Bakhtiari since 2013 mirror the 2015 struggles, although the image from the Packers’ three video games with out him this season is much less clear.
A combined bag in 2020
There isn’t a doubt the Packers are worse offensively with out Bakhtiari.
With him within the lineup in 2020, Inexperienced Bay common 6.46 yards per play, 7.48 web yards per cross and 5.19 yards per rush. After they have been bereft of his companies, these numbers dip to five.56 yards per play, 7.19 web yards per cross and three.62 yards per rush.
The place issues are a bit murkier is within the metrics that measure stress.
The Packers have given up a better share of sacks when Bakhtiari has been out, that determine climbing from 3.7 to 4.1. Nevertheless, their quarterback hit share dropped from 8.7 to six.6.
It’s an identical story in quarterback stress share, although the advance with out Bakhtiari has been marginal; Rodgers has been pressured on 29.2 p.c of dropbacks when he has performed and 28.9 p.c when he hasn’t.
And the distinction could also be defined by Rodgers turning into ever extra snug in a scheme that depends closely on a facet of offensive soccer that’s key to neutralizing aggressive pass-rushing defenses.
Can play-action risk be sustained?
The play-action cross is a staple of the LaFleur offense, and the Packers have upped their utilization of it throughout his second season in cost.
Final season, the Packers ran 131 play-action passes, leading to 978 yards, a mean of seven.46 yards per play.
With one regular-season sport remaining this 12 months, that quantity has jumped to 140 performs. Solely seven groups have used it extra repeatedly in 2020.
They usually have loved elevated success on these throws, which have netted 1,108 yards — a mean of seven.91 yards per play.
Play-action is a wonderful software for placing defenses that look to assault downhill on their heels, and the numbers counsel that, so long as Packers achieve successfully operating such performs, they’ll mitigate the affect of Bakhtiari’s absence.
To subscribe to that idea is to oversimplify issues.
The place Aaron Rodgers excelled as a passer in tonight’s win over the Titans:
10+ Air Yards
5/7, 91 yards, 3 TD, INT (+26.0% CPOE)
10/12, 140 yards, 2 TD (+25.0% CPOE)
— Subsequent Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) December 28, 2020
The specter of a productive floor assault is a major assist to the play-action cross and the Packers definitely had that in opposition to the Titans, racking up 234 speeding yards of their emphatic triumph.
But the numbers point out they might wrestle to take care of that form of operating sport manufacturing with out Bakhtiari, probably influencing the respect extra gifted defenses will give to the speeding assault within the postseason.
Historical past says Bakhtiari’s absence will certainly be a major downside, although what the Packers have executed in 2020 hints that they can efficiently defend Rodgers with out him.
However it’s clear the Inexperienced Bay operating sport is a unique beast with Bakhtiari on the sector. If their manufacturing in that regard tails off and negatively influences the play-action sport, then the Packers’ offense may not be the potent risk it has been all season.
The lack of Bakhtiari isn’t essentially a deadly one for the Packers, however it’s a blow that would critically restrict their upside as they bid to emerge because the cream of the crop within the postseason.