Since Super Bowl I decided the 1966 NFL championship, there have been 1,252 seasons played by official NFL franchises. There have been two undefeated regular seasons and one perfect season. Just in case you’ve been hanging out with the Geico caveman for the last four decades, the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots are the only two teams ever to roll through an NFL schedule unblemished. Obviously, the ’72 Fish were happy to pop champagne corks when the New York Giants toppled the Pats in Super Bowl XLII.
That gives any NFL franchise a 0.15% chance of going undefeated at the start of any season. This is the NFL, after all.
Just ask Drew Brees and the Saints what happened against winless St. Louis two weeks ago. Or how about the AFC West-leading Chiefs’ performance against the winless Miami Dolphins last Sunday? That said, the Packers are nine weeks deep into the NFL season and have yet to lose, so their odds have clearly increased.
But not by much.
Since 1966, only 17 teams have reached the 9-0 mark. During the 45-year Super Bowl history of the NFL, 11.8% of teams to reach the 9-0 plateau went on to finish the regular season undefeated. Three of those 17 didn’t even make it to the next week, as only 14 teams have made it to 10-0. Four more lost in Game 11 and three more lost in Game 12, leaving seven teams in the Super Bowl era to have ever breathed the rarified air of a 12-0 start.
Those are long odds considering the schedule (and defensive struggles) remaining for the Packers.
Green Bay faces only one team with a losing record in the second half; the 2-6 Vikings come to town next Monday night. The Packers then get Tampa Bay at home before back-to-back road trips to likely playoff teams Detroit (on Thanksgiving) and New York (Giants). The Oakland Raiders and a rejuvenated Carson Palmer visit Lambeau Field in Week 14 before the final road game of the year against the wildly unpredictable Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. Green Bay wraps up the 2011 season by hosting division rivals Chicago and Detroit.
No one would be shocked if Green Bay lost any of those games with the possible exception of Monday night’s home contest. In the modern world of professional football, all of those games are easily losable. And it won’t be Aaron Rodgers who costs the Packers an undefeated season; it will be the defense. The secondary is banged up, and the front seven is not getting enough pressure on the quarterback.
Green Bay finished 2010 as the No. 5-rated total defense in the league at 309.1 yards allowed per game. They are 30th at the halfway point of 2011 at 399.6 yards per game. The Packers also ranked fifth in the league last fall at defending the pass at 194.2 yards per game – more than 105 yards better than the 31st-ranked pass defense Green Bay features this season (299.6 ypg). Additionally, the Green and Gold defense recorded an NFL second-best 47.0 sacks a year ago, but is not getting after opposing passers nearly as well this go around. The Packers’ 19.0 sacks rank 17th in the league.
Moreover, scoring points is still the name of the game, not rolling up yards. While Green Bay is on pace to score the third-most points in NFL history (34.4 ppg) on offense, the defense – ranked No. 2 in the NFL at a paltry 15.0 points allowed per game last season – is holding the opposition to a mediocre 22.4 points per game in 2011 (17th in the NFL).
Without even mentioning Mike McCarthy’s looming, unenviable decision to rest key starters against two extremely physical defenses to finish the year, the bright and shiny league-wide bull's-eye on their back and continued defensive woes have the odds stacked heavily against the Green Bay Packers going unbeaten.
But never fear, Packer nation – don’t start canceling plane tickets and hotel reservations in Indianapolis. There are also some excellent odds stacked in your favor as well. Of the 17 teams to make it to the 9-0 mark, 11 of them played in the Super Bowl, with seven of those 11 claiming the ultimate prize as World Champions.
And frankly, hoisting Titletown’s fifth Lombardi Trophy is all Rodgers and company should care about.
Here are the 17 teams since 1966 that have gone 9-0 to start the season:
1969: Los Angeles Rams (11-3) lost to Minnesota in Game 12
1972: Miami Dolphins* (14-0) Undefeated
1973: Minnesota Vikings^ (12-2) lost to Atlanta in Game 10
1975: Minnesota Vikings (12-2) lost to Washington in Game 11
1984: Miami Dolphins^ (14-2) lost to San Diego in Game 12
1985: Chicago Bears* (15-1) lost to Miami in Game 13
1990: New York Giants* (13-3) lost to Philadelphia in Game 11
1990: San Francisco 49ers (14-2) lost to the LA Rams in Game 11
1991: Washington Redskins* (14-2) lost to Dallas in Game 12
1998: Denver Broncos* (14-2) lost to NY Giants in Game 14
2003: Kansas City Chiefs (13-3) lost to Cincinnati in Game 10
2005: Indianapolis Colts (14-2) lost to San Diego in Game 14
2006: Indianapolis Colts* (12-4) lost to Dallas in Game 10
2007: New England Patriots^ (16-0) lost to NY Giants in Super Bowl
2008: Tennessee Titans (13-3) lost to NY Jets in Game 11
2009: New Orleans Saints* (13-3) lost to Dallas in Game 14
2009: Indianapolis Colts^ (14-2) lost to NY Jets in Game 15
* - went on to win the Super Bowl
^ - went on to lose the Super Bowl