The Green Bay Packers can’t seem to get their season back on track. They’ve lost four of their last five games and are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the second year in a row, which would be a first under Coach Mike McCarthy ... and potentially a last. McCarthy is the favorite to be the next coach fired this season, per oddsmaker BetOnline.
This week’s opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, gives Aaron Rodgers and the Packers a great chance to break their losing skid.
Green Bay Packers, 81 percent win probability
As much as the Packers are struggling, they wouldn’t trade places with the Cardinals for anything: Arizona is scoring a league-low 1.1 points per drive this season which, after adjusting for strength of schedule, is historically low, per Football Outsiders. Part of the problem for the Cardinals is a lack of sustained drives — they are forced to go three-and-out a league-high 48 percent of the time; NFL average is 31 percent in 2018 — but they are also not converting on the opportunities they do have.
According to TruMedia, Arizona is scoring 13 points fewer per game than expected based on the down, distance and field position of each offensive play. Only the Buffalo Bills (15 fewer per game) are worse in 2018 and only six teams are worse since 2002, the first year the league played with 32 teams.
The Packers, on the other hand, are scoring two points per game more than expected. Rodgers hasn’t been as good as usual but he does sport a 20-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio while largely ignoring the middle of the field. According to Graham Barfield of NFL.com, Rodgers is throwing outside the numbers on over half of his pass attempts, by far higher than the league average (39 percent) and more than eight percentage points higher than Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who is the second-most frequent “outside" passer (48 percent).
Aaron Jones will be key for Green Bay. Since returning from his two-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, he has carried the ball 101 times for 606 yards and six touchdowns; almost half that yardage has come after contact. Stopping him will be difficult for Arizona’s run defense, which is ranked 29th by the game charters at Pro Football Focus and 21st by Football Outsiders.
The Cardinals' biggest weakness against opposing runners is during runs on third or fourth down with two yards or less to go. In those situations they have surrendered a first down or touchdown 80 percent of the time; only the porous run defense of the Kansas City Chiefs is having more trouble (82 percent) in these situations this season.
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