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Analysis: Packers Defense Is The Best In The NFC

The Green Bay Packers defense has been playing great this season, and they got some good injury news. Mike McCarthy said that DE Cullen Jenkins had a good week of practice. He should play on Sunday so long as his injured calf muscle recovers over the weekend. Since the key to stopping the Eagles offense is putting pressure on QB Michael Vick, the return of their best pass rushing lineman is a major plus. Unfortunately LB Frank Zombo (seen above sacking Vick) will not be available, but the NFC Defensive Player of The Week (aka LB Erik Walden) will start in his place.

Only three teams allowed under 300 yards per game this season. The Packers have held their opponents to under 300 yards per game in four of their last five:

Opponent Total Yards QB Rating Against Yards Per Carry Against Points Allowed By Defense Turnovers Forced Per Game
2010 Average 309 67.2 3.8 15 2
49ers 269 64.4 4.4 16 1
Lions 286 39.4 4.6 7 2
Patriots 249 110.2 7.1 24 (31 total) 0
Giants 386 63.6 4.3 17 6
Bears 227 43.5 5.5 3 2

The Bears offense stinks, but the 49ers and Lions aren't too bad according to Football Outsiders. But they were all bad against the Packers defense. The Giants offense is good and they had the only recent game over 300 yards, but anything good from their big plays was offset and then some by their six turnovers. The game that stands out is the Patriots. 

The Patriots offense was ranked by Football Outsiders as the best offense since 1993. It might be even better than that because their data only goes back to 1993. Surrendering 24 points (QB Matt Flynn threw a pick-six), a 110.2 QB rating, and 7.1 yards per carry doesn't seem like a harbinger of doom against the Eagles when considering how good the Patriots are. They only had 249 yards of offense because they rarely had the ball (less than 20 minutes in the game), and they were very good when they had the ball. But they did get an assist on their first touchdown drive when CB Charles Woodson dropped an INT two plays before they scored their first touchdown. Their second touchdown came after one of the worst special teams plays in NFL history got the ball down to the Packers 4 yard line.

The Eagles offense is the best ranked NFC offense in the playoffs, but a distant No. 3 overall behind the Patriots. The Packers defense is the best defense in the NFC, they've played well down the stretch, and they've finished the season stronger than the Eagles offense. While the defensive collapse in Arizona last year still burns in my mind, the defense is showing a lot of reasons to believe that it won't happen again this year.