An Awful Defense…Just What the Dr. Ordered?

It was a great start.  A 10-play 54-yard drive for a FG on the opening drive, followed up by a 3&out by the defense, then an 11-play 80-yard drive for a TD…a 10-0 lead.  The defense then held the Bucs’ again and got the ball back for the rolling offense at their own 22. 

What happened next was chaos, in the worst way.  Consecutive interceptions for touchdowns (well, the 2nd INT wasn’t a TD, but it essentially was).  The offense was never able to recover, and neither was the defense.  This was a prime example as why turnovers typically decide the outcome of games, especially the closer matched both teams are. 

The good news is the Packers are a far better team than the one that took a 38-10 drubbing, and hopefully they’re able to learn as much as possible from it…the bad news, they seemed to quit during the middle of a game that wasn’t out of grasp.  Not sure what to chalk it up to, but sometimes teams lay clunkers, just odd that they got out of the gates hot and had complete control.  On to the next.

What looked like a great match-up heading into the season has turned into a lop-sided one, at least it should be.  Houston, while having a difficult schedule, good/great teams don’t start the season 1-5.  The Texans feature one of the young star-QBs, in Deshaun Watson. 

GB396.6 (7th)32.4 (3rd)347.4 (13th)27.8 (20th)
Hou368.0 (17th)24.3 (21st)424.0 (30th)30.3 (26th)

Green Bay has a heavy advantage on offense vs. the Texans’ defense.  Ranking 3rd in points against Houston’s 26th ranking is where the Packers could potentially (and almost expectedly) could hang 40+ again.  While Green Bay’s defense seems to have taken a step back from last year, their strong suit is to play from ahead and get after the QB.  Without over-thinking it, that’s how I see this game progressing.  The 1st interception last week came after the Packers had 2 incomplete passes on 1st and 2nd downs, and that’s not LaFleur’s offense…with the absence of Aaron Jones, look for Jamaal Williams and rookie A.J. Dillon to get involved early and often, and (hopefully) setting up a lot more play action from under center sets.  It may be the help needed to get Rodgers back on track, since Williams is the preferred back for pass protection – which may be even more crucial depending on Bakhtiari’s status.

No reason to think this won’t be a high-scoring affair, but should be one the better team should come out on top.

Packers 38
Texans 30

Season: 4-1
Overall: 59-32

12 > 12?

Coming off the bye week a year ago the Packer laid their biggest dud of the regular season, a 37-8 ass-whooping from the San Francisco 49ers.  There’s a chance the same could happen, but Rodgers seems too in control and has too good of a rhythm going to be stale-mated for an entire game.  The other “bye” week the Packers had was the Wild Card round in last years’ playoffs and they came out hot vs. Seattle.  They held on late with the defense getting a stop after they showed to be leaking quite a bit of fuel in the 4th quarter and the offense held on to run out the remainder of the clock.  I believe that’ll be more of the Packers team we’ll be treated to come 3:25pm CST Sunday. 

Enter the Tommy Brady Buccaneers.  He’s a shell of his former self, evidenced by only putting up 13 points, at home, in the playoffs…following a week 17 loss to Miami when had he won would’ve secured the 2 seed and a bye.  That’s not the Brady we saw for the previous 18 seasons in New England.  The point to take here is, while TB12 isn’t near his GOAT form, he’s a vast improvement from Jameis Winston.  Couple that with Bruce Ariens and there’s some serious danger there, and if not careful, could hang 40 on a defense.  I don’t fully expect this to be a shootout, if it is…I like the younger QB’s chances, plus he’s playing his best football of his career (winning with ease). 

GB445.5 (2)38.0 (1)353.3 (12)25.3 (17)
TB365.0 (19)27.8 (12)298.2 (2)22.4 (8)

As you can see, Green Bay possesses the best offense in the league, and while they may not have had a true test, they’ve done what they’re supposed to against their opponents.  Tampa Bay holds the 8th best defense (in points), so this could be a solid matchup to watch.  Much has been made about the Bucs’ premier pass-rusher, Shaquil Barrett (#58), whom had a career year last year with 19.5 sacks.  While he’s something to keep an eye on, he shouldn’t pose much of a threat vs. Green Bay’s outstanding offensive line.  It helps to have Rodgers’ fleet-of-foot in the pocket along with his awareness, the OL has been nothing short of amazing in pass protection.  They’ve also done a bang-up job creating running lanes for Aaron Jones and even Jamaal Williams to work with.  The Chargers, led by (somewhat surprising to me) upstart rookie QB Justin Herbert, lit up the Bucs’ D for 31 the other week.  The target for LaFleur and Rodgers should be around or above that number.  The forecast calls for thunderstorms, so holding onto the ball could be the difference, but the Packers (knock on wood) have been solid with their turnover differential as well.

Packers 34
Buccaneers 24

Season: 4-0
Overall: 59-31

Coming Out Party?

22 years ago, also on a Monday night, the Packers hosted an undefeated Vikings squad that came in with an uber-talented wide receiver (rookie Randy Moss).  Sound familiar?  It shouldn’t, because the Packers got blasted that game and Moss put his name on the map as Arrived.  The Packers have done that quite a bit, making opponents look awesome in the spotlight.  Happens when you play on national TV fairly often.  While the Packers’ defense is libel to have an unknown kill them, this should be an opportunity for an unknown on Green Bay to make a name on national television. 

I’d normally recap the previous week, but since it went according to plan, almost identically, what’s the point?  The potential Previously Unknown candidates could range from any of the Tight Ends (Jace #87, Bobby #85, Deguara #81) to possibly Thighs (rookie HB AJ Dillon #28).  All could easily have a break out game vs. Atlanta’s garbage defense.  Then again it could be the, now, household names of Aaron Jones or….no wait, that’s about it.  Credit goes to the QB for running the offense about as efficiently can be expected, however the offensive line has been absolutely amazing, especially given the injuries and musical chairs they’ve been playing.  They’ve created running lanes, provided plenty of time with little-to-no-push into the pocket, and have been somewhat healthy in doing so.

As previously mentioned, the Falcons’ defense is straight trash.  Having blown the last 2 games with heavy 4th quarter leads.  Atlanta is giving up an avg. of 15.3 points in the 4th quarter.  That is, no doubt, in the back of their mind.  Especially when coming to face the #1 offense in the NFL, they’re going to press and try to play perfect football, which will likely come with trying to get as many turnovers as possible.  Look for the Packers to take advantage of their aggression with a bunch of misdirection and play action…aka, their normal offense.  While the Falcons do have some talented skill players (Julio Jones #11, Calvin Ridley #18, and Todd Gurley #21), their QB is the biggest choke artist in NFL history, and is further proving that this year losing to the Bears and Cowboys the last 2 games with double-digit 4th quarter leads. 

Expect Julio (should he play) to get his, keeping in mind they’re likely to be chasing all game and having to throw, but anticipate little resistance from their D…it’s crazy to think, but maybe expect Rodgers to captain another 40-point output.  Hopefully he just doesn’t have to in order to win.

Falcons 24
Packers 38

Season: 3-0
Overall: 58-31