Monty: Frankly, this is a tough one to call.
The Green Bay Packers are coming off a bye, so they’re rested and they’re getting several important players back from injury, namely linebackers Frank Zombo and Jamari Lattimore and cornerback Sam Shields. The only Packers who won’t play are tackle Chad Clifton and defensive end Mike Neal, but the team has done just fine without them.
As we all know, the Packers are the best team in the NFL and they have the best player in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers. Still, there are three things I don’t like about this week. First, the Packers are traveling to the West Coast, which is a long way from home. Second, they’re facing what should be a potent passing attack in the form of Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. Third, it’s highly unlikely the Packers are going to run the table. History says they have to lose sometime and they almost seem primed to do so this week.
There’s a lot to pick at with the Chargers. Rivers isn’t playing up to his usual level — he’s thrown seven TDs against 11 interceptions. Receiver Malcom Floyd and running back Ryan Matthews are unlikely to play and tight end Antonio Gates has been battling foot problems all season. The Chargers are only 4-3 and they bumbled away a game against Kansas City last week.
Here’s where I’d usually point out the Chargers are 3-0 at home, but Qualcomm Stadium is expected to host a heavily partisan Green Bay crowd on Sunday.
Even though this looks like it should be a Packers romp on paper, it just doesn’t feel that way to me. Something tells me Rivers will be out to make up for fumbling away last week’s game at Kansas City, silence everyone who’s asking what’s wrong with him and proceed to carve up the Packers mediocre-looking secondary.
The Chargers have the NFL’s sixth-ranked defense and while I don’t think there’s a defense that can stop Rodgers, they may be able to slow him a bit. That should be just enough to give Rivers the opening he needs in what looks like a shootout.
Chargers 34, Packers 31
Shawn: I watched the Chargers play their last two games and frankly, the Packers should beat them by at least 14.
Of course, I don’t expect to see the same Chargers team we saw the last two weeks. The Chargers have knocked off undefeated teams in the past and they’ll be pumped to do it again, and against the defending champs, no less.
The Chargers are 3-0 at home this year and as bad as Philip Rivers has been on the road, he’s been decent at home. Rivers is a guy who has built his career and reputation on dumping the ball to his running backs and throwing it up for grabs to his taller receivers or tight end. He’ll need to do both, successfully, a lot, on Sunday for the Chargers to pull the upset.
Rivers’ favorite target out of the backfield, Mike Tolbert, returns from an injury this week and that should give the Chargers’ offense a boost.
I expect Rivers and the Chargers to play well. I think this will ultimately be more of the same for the Packers, though, meaning a close first half with the Chargers possibly leading. However, the difference continues to be the Packers’ offense and the pressure it puts on the opposing offense. Eventually, the Chargers will kick one too many field goals or Rivers will make one too many mistakes, allowing the Packers to pull away by the end.
Aaron Rodgers has had a week to rest and he’s back in his home state of California in decent weather. This should be a big week for the Packers offense.
As an AFC road game, this is the game on the Packers’ schedule they can most afford to lose. However, a win not only makes the Packers 8-0, but makes them 5-0 on the road.
This team has shown no signs of needing a wake-up call. They could lose, but they shouldn’t because they’re the better team.
Packers 38, Chargers 23
Sarah: A few “experts” seem to think the San Diego Chargers have a shot at breaking Green Bay’s unbeaten streak this weekend.
Sure, they’re only 4-3 and lost to the pathetic Kansas City Chiefs last week, but the Chargers are back at home and dammit, they have some premier players! Philip Rivers! Antonio Gates! Vincent Jackson! Mike Tolbert!
Yeah, I didn’t know who Mike Tolbert was either until I looked it up. Apparently, he’s the Chargers’ starting running back in place of Ryan Mathews, who appears to be out this Sunday.
Guess who else is out? Malcom Floyd — San Diego’s most consistent receiver.
Things aren’t looking real good for the Chargers. Add to that to the fact that San Diego is playing against the NFL’s most potent offense, an offense that has rested for a week, and home field advantage is about the only thing the Charges have got. And that’s not much.
Aaron Rodgers should continue to light it up, and Green Bay’s defense will likely notch a few more picks as Rivers flings up a few desperation passes to keep San Diego in the game.
Packers 34, Chargers 20
Andrew: This is clearly an example of two teams going in opposite directions. The Packers are 7-0, coming off a bye, they practiced in pads twice this week, they’re about as healthy as they’ve been all year, and Aaron Rodgers is playing his first NFL game in his home state.
The San Diego Chargers are, quite simply, a mess. After getting out to a 4-1 start, the Bolts have squandered two games in a row and now find themselves amidst a logjam of 4-3 teams atop the AFC West. Their most recent debacle happened on Monday night, leaving them with a short week to take on the best team in football. It gets even worse for the Chargers when you look over the injury report. Shaun Phillips won’t play, and both Ryan Mathews and Malcolm Floyd are questionable.
The Chargers offense will struggle and there’s really no reason the Packers shouldn’t put up 40 points against a defense that will have difficulty getting any serious pressure. That being said, game-time temperature will be around 59 degrees and there’s a 70 percent chance of rain… so let’s hope it doesn’t get sloppy.
Packers 45, Chargers 20