Green Bay Packers: Avoiding a NUK-clear meltdown vs. Texans
Following an uplifting win over Philadelphia Monday night, talk of the Green Bay Packers putting together a five-game winning streak has been picking up steam and though the accomplishment of that goal still seems rather dubious, their upcoming test versus Houston is one they should ace.
Entering Week 13, Bill O’Brien’s 6-5 Texans squad finds itself in first place in the AFC South despite dropping their last two games to Oakland and San Diego. The 14-year-old franchise is at its best when it can take a commanding lead and rely on its running attack led by Lamar Miller to finish things off.
Conversely, the Red, White and Blue rank 31st in passing and if they ever fall into the trap of needing to rely on mega free-agent bust Brock Osweiler to lead them back from behind, they will be severely doomed.
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The 6-foot-8 quarterback has quite frankly done a much better job of neutralizing his top receiving threat, DeAndre “Nuk” Hopkins, than most defenses could ever aspire to.
Fresh off a breakout 2015 season that saw Hopkins rank third in receptions (111) and receiving yards (1,521) despite catching passes from four different quarterbacks, the fourth-year wideout’s numbers are down across the board thanks in large part to Osweiler’s consistently abysmal level of play.
While many have witnessed how the former Bronco’s lack of general field vision and accuracy have caused him to repeatedly miss Hopkins on plays where he’s getting open, what may not be as evident to the naked eye is the lack of velocity behind many of Osweiler’s throws that are allowing opposing defensive backs to make plays on the ball.
To date, Hopkins has only once surpassed 75 receiving yards while his three touchdowns put him on pace for scoring half the amount of scores he produced last season.
But his statistical decline hasn’t been due to a lack of passes headed in his direction considering that the South Carolina native ranks eighth among his receiver peers in targets (108).
The Packers won’t treat Hopkins any differently than most other teams in that he’ll be double-teamed early and often especially since they don’t have anyone that could handle the acrobatic marvel one-on-one.
Green Bay’s secondary, moreover, seems like the perfect remedy for what ails No. 10 from a numbers standpoint.
No team is worse, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics, at covering receivers. Dom Capers’ group ranks last in DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) against WR1s and WR2s for that matter.
To add insult to injury, Packers News’s bedeviled D has surrendered a league-high 7.9 yards per attempt for the season and an even more harrowing 9.3 yards per pass over the past three weeks.
Green Bay, in essence, has been a get-well defense for a number of pass catchers they’ve faced in recent times, including Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Tajae Sharpe and others that have all scored against the Green and Gold.
Even Philadelphia’s struggling Dorial Green-Beckham had his best performance of the year last Monday by recording six receptions for 82 yards.
The question, therefore, remains: Will Osweiler be willing—and able—to trust himself to stick the ball into tight windows in an effort to get the ball in the massive hands of his No. 1 receiving threat?
The sobering reality is that the man who was once viewed as Peyton Manning’s successor may not have to squeeze the football into tight spots with the type of separation Packers’ defensive backs have been affording receivers on pass routes.
So unless Damarious Randall starts playing like a first-round pick or Clay Matthews and Nick Perry totally devour Houston’s offensive line with a fierce pass rush, Nuk will likely put up the types of numbers are more representative of the level of talent he possesses.
This isn’t to say that the Packers won’t pick up their second consecutive win versus a flawed Texans’ squad whose only road win came against the hapless Jaguars.
Next: Five Packers who must step up vs. Texans
A resurgent Green Bay should have the upper hand on their home turf and be able to secure a much-needed sixth win. They may just have to earn their “W” despite the exploits of Houston’s spring-loaded showstopper.