By JERRY TAPP
In football, whether it be Pop Warner games or all the way up to the NFL, the premise is quite simple: When the offense has the ball … SCORE. In the NFL, scoring a touchdown is the first objective, but if that fails, at least kick a field goal and get three points on the scoreboard.
For the 2020 regular season, the Green Bay Packers were the league’s best at scoring when they had the ball. We can go a step further and say that the Pack had the league’s “most effective offensive unit” this season.
Based on stats cultivated from Pro Football Reference.com, coach Matt LaFleur’s Packers led the league by scoring on 49.7 percent of their offensive drives. Green Bay had 161 offensive possessions in 2020, and scored 80 times on 64 TDs’ and 16 field goals.
(Note: Of those 161 offensive possessions, the Packers actually had 17 possessions that were either at the end of the half or the end of the game and the clock ran out on their possession. We can make a case that in many end-of-the-half and end-of-the-game possessions a team does not get a chance to finish their drive and a chance to score. If that was the case in the Packers 17 possessions at the end of the half or the end of the game, their offensive drive effectiveness was probably closer to 56 percent. That’s a debate for another time.)
What makes this weekend’s divisional matchup between the Packers and Rams so interesting is that it features the NFL’s most effective offense against the league’s most effective defense. The Rams defensive squad topped the NFL this season by allowing their opponents to score on only 27.9 percent of their possessions.
There were 5,567 offensive possessions in the NFL this year with teams scoring a touchdown or field goal 2,217 times; that’s scoring just under 40 percent of the time (39.8 percent to be exact). Of those 2,217 scores, 1,405 were touchdowns, 812 were field goals.
Of the eight teams still in the playoffs, six finished in the Top 10 of most effective offensive units. On the defensive side, five of the eight teams remaining in the playoffs finished in the Top 10.
Here’s a look at the eight teams remaining in the playoffs and on what percentage of offensive possessions they scored and on what percentage of possessions their opponents scored. (Each team’s rank in the regular season in these stats is noted.)
Offensive Possessions Effectiveness
Green Bay (#1) 49.7%
Buffalo (#2) 49.4%
Kansas City (#5) 47.9%
Tampa Bay (#6) 47.8%
New Orleans (#7) 45.5%
Baltimore (#8) 45.3%
Cleveland (#15) 40.6%
L.A. Rams (#25) 34.2%
Defensive Possessions Effectiveness
L.A. Rams (#1) 27.9%
Baltimore (#3) 30.0%
Tampa Bay (#6) 33.7%
New Orleans (#7) 34.7%
Kansas City (#9) 36.1%
Buffalo (#15) 39.4%
Green Bay (#16) 39.9%
Cleveland (#20) 43.0%