Andrew: This might be the first time we see the Green Bay Packers face an opponent that actually makes a commitment to the running game and sticks with it. Not only will this give the Oakland Raiders the best chance to win and provide some big play-action opportunities down field, they really don’t seem to have much choice in the matter. Do they?
With injuries to pretty much every speedy skill position player they have, the Raiders offense is decimated. Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore are all out. This would be the equivalent of James Starks, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson being out for the Packers. Not good. If backup running back Michael Bush doesn’t touch the ball 25 times on Sunday I’d be very surprised.
Defensively, the Raiders front four could cause some headaches, but nothing the Packers can’t deal with. I think we might see a fairly conservative game called from Mike McCarthy focusing on max-protection, screen passes and dare I say it… the running game. The Raiders simply don’t have the firepower to put points on the board and unless their second-string wide receivers can beat man coverage all day, the Packers will smother the Raiders running game and turn this into a yawner midway through the third quarter.
Packers 31, Raiders 10
Monty: Like the good Oakland Raiders teams of the past, this Raiders teams is filled with a bunch of dumb thugs. They’re on pace to set an NFL record for penalties. Their middle linebacker pulled a gun and held it up to some fool’s head a couple weeks ago. Enough said.
Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers are one of the most disciplined teams in the NFL. Unless they just don’t care anymore, which I doubt is the case since they have a chance to clinch a first-round bye this week, the Packers should win this game going away.
I don’t think it’s going to be the blowout everyone expects though. The line was 12.5 when I checked it earlier this week and I didn’t want anything to do with that. It’s too late in the season and the pressure is on the Packers as they stare down history. The weather is going to be cold and frankly, I’d think even these dumb thugs have to show some pride after getting blown out by Miami last week.
There are a lot of intangible factors at work. This isn’t any reason to panic because the Packers, on paper, are just too good to lose this game. If some of these unpredictable factors start going the Raiders way the game could be close and, as we all know, anything can happen then.
It’s still a Packers win, but not a blowout like everyone expects.
Packers 35, Raiders 24
Shawn: For the second week in a row, the Green Bay Packers get a playoff caliber team that was badly embarrassed the previous week. This time, it’s the Oakland Raiders, but the Packers are at home.
Both teams are banged up. The Packers might get A.J. Hawk back and they might not. Regardless, the more important defender — Desmond Bishop — is definitely out for at least one more week.
It concerns me that the Packers will be playing against another big running back — Michael Bush — without their best tackler. The Packers were miserable against the New York Giants Brandon Jacobs last week. Bush isn’t as big as Jacobs, but he is comparable to Tampa Bay’s LeGarette Blount, and none of us need to be reminded of that guy.
All around, I see the Raiders as comparable to Tampa Bay, and they should play equally hard. They’ll attempt to control the ball and the clock with the running game and short passes. I also expect them to play physical man coverage underneath, while depending on their front four to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers won’t have James Starks, who was a key weapon in that victory against the Buccaneers. The Raiders have been terrible against the run this season, but that might not matter against a Packers team without its best runner and little interest in establishing the run.
It’s a good thing the Raiders are even more banged up on offense than the Packers are on defense. The Raiders are still without their best running back in Darren McFadden and their two best receivers in Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore. Those are the three most explosive players in their offense. If the Packers can just slow down the Raiders’ running game, then they’ll have a really good chance to stymie this offense altogether, much like the Dolphins did last week. The Raiders lack of explosiveness on the outside should allow the Packers to use Charles Woodson around the line of scrimmage.
In the Packers’ one good defensive performance at home — against Minnesota — Woodson made a lot of plays around the line of scrimmage. If he can do the same this week, then the Packers will win big again.
The game-time temperature shouldn’t be cold enough to affect the passing game, and with that being the case, it’s hard to imagine the Raiders consistently being able to stop the Packers’ passing offense. The Raiders have a good front four and could have some success rushing the passer if Marshall Newhouse and Evan Dietrich-Smith struggle like they did last week. The advantage the Packers have over last week is it’s easier to pass block at home on grass. It’s hard to imagine the Raiders having as much success getting to the quarterback as the Giants did last week, and that didn’t stop the Packers from scoring 38.
Another issue for the Raiders is that if they play the same defense as the Bucs, then they’re likely to fall into the same trap: penalties. Being overly physical with the Packers’ receivers has caused defenses to be hit hard with penalties this season. The Raiders are on pace to set the record for penalties in a season. You see the possible problem?
Like anyone else, the Raiders have to play about as good as they can and hope the Packers either drop the ball or go out of character by turning it over.
The Packers wrap up a bye with a win this week. Since the Raiders are in the AFC, a loss to them isn’t especially damaging. However, besides keeping the streak going, the Packers would prefer not to lose at home. The playoffs are coming, and if this team is going to accomplish its goals, it needs to play well at home in the cold.
I’m hoping for an improved defensive performance, especially against the run, and for the offense to show it isn’t going to be slowed down by the cold.
Packers 41, Raiders 16