The Green Bay Packers are finally getting a chance to play for their home crowd on Sunday against the Houston Texans.
The Packers had a very long road trip that had them away from Lambeau Field for almost a month. The last game at home was November 6 against the Indianapolis Colts.
During that month the Packers had numerous ups and downs but mostly the latter. Injuries haven’t helped.
Starters like Clay Matthews, Eddie Lacy, Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Jared Cook, Quinten Rollins, T.J. Lang, David Bakhtiari, James Starks, Corey Linsley, Ty Montgomery and JC Tretter have all missed time.
OK. Every team deals with injuries, but that is crazy. Any team would have an issue with filling all of those holes. I was almost expecting a call from the team to play for the league minimum.
ANALYSIS: Five Packers who must step up vs. Texans
Now they are home. They are getting healthy bodies back. They have a winnable game this week against the Texans. They still have a chance to win the division and make the playoffs.
Houston will bring in an AFC South division leading 6-5 record to Green Bay. They bring in an offense that ranks 29th in points per game, 29th in yards per game, 31st in passing yards per game.
They also bring in the fifth-ranked rushing offense, defensive yards per game and defensive passing yards per game.
So, the Packers will know what the Texans will bring to the table. A strong run game and a stout defense. They will also see that there will be opportunities on offense and defense to exploit.
Lamar Miller has had a strong season with 881 rushing yards over 11 games. Look for the Texans to continue to pound the ball with Miller.
DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller are both excellent receivers, yet quarterback Brock Osweiler has not been on the same page with them up to this point. Osweiler has thrown more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12) this year. Despite that, he has utilized tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz quite well, hooking up 39 times for three touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball the Texans are loaded. Out is superstar J.J. Watt but there is no shortage of talent. Led by LB Brian Cushing, DT Vince Wilfork and LB Whitney Mercilus, Houston’s defense is one of the best in the league. They are tenacious and work well as a group. The Packers offensive line might have their biggest test of the year against that front four.
The Packers will need to resurface the fire that propelled them to a road victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night. The offense came out firing on all cylinders with a healthy dose of quick slants, screen passes and pop passes to get Aaron Rodgers in a rhythm that he never relinquished throughout the whole game. He was crisp. He was quick to get rid of the ball. All of this has been surprising vacant over the previous four weeks.
Over the four-game losing streak we saw Rodgers not in sync with his receivers. We saw him weaving throughout a makeshift pocket waiting for a receiver to get open. He was holding on to the ball way too long. He had sacks, picks and took too many hits. We saw an over-emphasis on a dormant running game by Mike McCarthy. Obstinance will not resurrect an empty running game. No matter how hard McCarthy tried to make it work.
The Packers need contributions like they got on Monday night. A sharp Rodgers. A quick and sure-handed Randall Cobb. A streaking and active Jordy Nelson. A good route running and athletic Davonte Adams. Fast paced play-calling selections to keep the Texans defense on their toes and plays that keep Rodgers in sync with the game.
Like last week, the Packers need to have the offense on the field more than the defense. Green Bay held the ball over 10 minutes longer than the Eagles. The Packers’ best defense is a time consuming and productive offense.
Defensively, it should make a difference to have inside linebackers Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez on the field.
Proof of all of this was Monday’s game in Philly. Will the Packers build on that performance? Sunday, we’ll find out.