The Packers play the Texans Sunday night in Houston. The Packers come into the game against the 5-0 Texans with a record of 2-3. Of course we all know it should really be 3-2, but that’s no excuse for last week’s second half meltdown against the Colts. Come to think of it, there isn’t any excuse for that second half.
This week the Packers are beat up, their vociferous tight end has once again found his foot in his mouth, and the Packers faithful seem to have little faith in their ability to improve to 3-3 on Sunday night.
The Packers need to put their problems aside and focus on going into Houston and handing the Texans their first loss of the season. There are some obvious, and not so obvious, things they can and should do to help themselves.
Here are my predictions for the game:
• WR Randall Cobb will be more involved in the offensive game plan. It’s obvious with Greg Jennings out again this week that Cobb should get more playing time. Get him the ball in space and let him work.
• RBs Alex Green and James Starks will get their carries. They’ve both got fresh legs. The Packers will commit to running the ball. It won’t be easy, but the Texans have to at least respect the run in order for the Packers to spring their other offensive options.
• The Packers offensive line will rebound against the Texans. They’re ticked off about their last performance. They should be. They need to regain and maintain consistency in their play. Keeping Rodgers clean against an outstanding pass rush should help them get to where they need to be.
• Clean or not, Rodgers will improve his play. He’s the team leader. He’s got to understand by now that as he goes, so goes the offense. I think he does, and he’s due for a whole-game Rodgers-like performance.
• Special teams will produce big plays. Punter Tim Masthay and kicker Mason Crosby will each contribute in a big way in this game. Masthay will have an opportunity to kick indoors and swing field position in the Packers favor. Crosby will have at least three opportunities to contribute points off FGs, and he’ll deliver. He should also have at least three PATs on the books after this one.
• LBs Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will meet at the quarterback. Houston QB Matt Schaub is not known for mobility. That spells opportunity for the USC bookend LBs. Outside LBs coach Kevin Greene will have them motivated. They’ll deliver. As long as Nick keeps his head up when he rocks Schaub this week!
• The defensive secondary will finally deliver more than one turnover. The Packers have been missing the takeaways they’ve been forcing for the last few seasons. Charles Woodson is another leader. He will be as important on defense as Rodgers is on offense.
• The Packers defense will produce three takeaways that lead directly to 17 points.
• The Packers offense will score first. A touchdown in the first quarter.
• QB Aaron Rodgers will have his best game of the season thus far.
• A Packers running back, not Rodgers, will lead the team in rushing.
• The Texans offense will keep the score close, maybe even take the lead, but this will not be a blowout.
• The Texans will miss injured LB Brian Cushing more than the Packers will miss injured DL BJ Raji.
• The Packers offense and defense will both play consistent football for the entire game.
• Packers fans won’t take over Reliant Stadium, but they will be present and they will be heard.
• The Packers fans will get at least one opportunity to do the Kuhn call.
• NBC will mention LBs Clay Matthews and Brooks Reed and their similar appearance – multiple times.
Make no mistake about it. This might not be a “must win” game for the Packers, but it is an opportunity to take a gigantic step forward and propel the team back in the right direction – and the team must capitalize on the opportunity.
So there are challenges. Injuries happen. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV while missing many more players due to injury than appear on their “out” list for this game. These guys are professionals. Sure it’ll be harder without WR Jennings, DT Raji, and maybe TEs Finley and Williams if they can’t go – but the game will be played anyway and players will be there to fill in for them. They’ll need to step up and get the job done. Easy? Probably not. Necessary? Absolutely.
Dealing with some media-based sniping? Mild discord in the locker room? Star “freak” receiver displaying his lack of oral self-control? So what? Deal with it. Get over it. Again, these guys are pros. They need to, and they will, get past that … stuff.
Fans beginning to display displeasure about the season so far? That’s what fans do when their team falters. And falter the Packers have. In the case of the 2012 Packers, the fans shouldn’t be anywhere near as unhappy about the season so far as the players are.
The Texans game is rife with opportunities to heal much of what’s ailing the Packers. All it’ll take is a win.
Fearsome final score – Packers 34, Texans 27.
Go Pack GO!