While Hurricane Sandy tears up the East Coast, the Jaguars leave stormy Jacksonville and travel to Green Bay to weather a different kind of storm at Lambeau Field.
Even though on radar greens and yellows are usually associated with milder weather, what the Jags can expect in Wisconsin on Sunday will not be pleasant.
The Packers come into the game against the 1-5 Jaguars with a record of 4-3 and on a 2-game winning streak. The Packers need a W in this game to keep pace with Chicago and Minnesota. Hopefully the Packers won’t overlook the Jags like Minnesota overlooked the Bucs on Thursday night. If they need a reminder, all they need to do is mention Indianapolis.
Both teams are missing several players due to injury. On both offense and defense one could call this the “new look” Packers.
On defense, the loss of DB Charles Woodson for what could be as long as 6 weeks will probably be the biggest hurdle to overcome. Injuries suffered earlier in the year to LBs D.J. Smith and Nick Perry, DL B.J. Raji, and CB Sam Shields are still affecting the defense. The good news here is that Raji practiced Thursday and has a chance to play against the Jaguars. Quality depth across the defense makes it possible to fill the holes left by injuries without too much dropoff. At least so far.
On offense, WR Greg Jennings has missed most of the season to injury and has opted to have surgery to repair an abdominal muscle tear. He’ll probably be out another three weeks. WR Jordy Nelson has a tweaked hamstring that might rule him out against the Jags. Should he miss the game it will be time for Jones, Cobb, Driver, Boykin, and Finley to carry the load. To any other NFL team the loss of its top two receivers would be a crippling blow. Luckily the Packers have the best top-to-bottom group of receivers in the league, and the “next man up” philosophy will definitely apply for at least the next few weeks.
The Jaguars come into Green Bay without the considerable services of All-Pro RB Maurice Jones-Drew, their primary running back and offensive threat. Losing Jones-Drew makes it really tough for the Jags to be competitive against a team like the Packers, but not impossible. Jaguars QB Baine Gabbert will likely play but he’s nursing a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder, so a Chad Henne sighting could materialize. The Jaguars are missing some other players, but Jones-Drew and Gabbert are probably the most critical player issues for the Jaguars.
Here are some things to watch for during the game:
– In his Wednesday press conference this week, coach Mike McCarthy mentioned that the team needs and wants to run the ball better. That sounded like a challenge to his offensive line to me. I’m looking for more running attempts against the Jaguars than in any other game so far this season.
– I’ll be watching WRs Driver and Boykin closely in this game. Jones and Cobb will be important, but Driver and Boykin will need to be involved. With Jennings out and Nelson hurting, Nelson should be shut down for this game and the remaining WR group will need to deliver. Drops were way down last week against the Rams. Is it too much to hope for that they have none this week? We’ll see.
– On defense, the secondary will be working to minimize the loss of Charles Woodson. His loss will be felt, but the Packers have young talent and beginning this week it will have to produce. Not to minimize the importance of this game or the Jaguars, but the secondary might be able to try a few things they might need to have ready for teams like the Giants and the rest of the NFC North after the bye. They might not get a better opportunity to experiment.
– The offensive line needs to gain some consistency. They have talent and experience, but their performances against better-than-average defensive fronts has been too spotty – especially in pass protection. One thing every offensive lineman loves to do is run block, so should McCarthy and Clements opt for more runs to daylight than usual, the offensive line might benefit. Effective play-action starts with and depends on the threat of a run. Effective runs make every play-action pass easier to protect.
Green Bay Weather Forecast:
– A 70% chance of a special teams big play. A blocked kick or punt, long return, something. They’re due.
– A 90% chance the Packers run the ball for at least 150 yards, with Alex Green accounting for over 100 of them.
– A 60% chance the defensive secondary picks Jags QB Gabbert off at least twice. Look for Casey Hayward to get at least one of them.
– A 80% chance Clay Matthews racks up three sacks, and Gabbert is sacked six times in the game.
– A 100% chance of Aaron Rodgers producing a QB rating over 130, thereby raining all over the Jaguars.
– A 50% chance Randall Cobb scores fewer touchdowns than Donald Driver.
– A 70% chance the Packers defense will score one touchdown.
We’ll be attending the watch party at Tailgator’s in The Woodlands this week – making lots of noise with plenty of Packers fans. Stop on by!
Go Pack GO!