Shawn: The Green Bay Packers enter this week with nine guys on their injury report, which only puts them around the middle of the pack as far as length of their injury report goes. However, what sets the Packers’ situation apart is that whereas most injury reports include players who are probable and likely to play, it is entirely possible that all nine guys for the Packers are out.
Five are already officially listed as out, most in the league, and of the other four guys — Mike Neal, James Jones, Casey Hayward and Jarrett Bush — all are more likely to sit than to play.
The situation is especially dire at linebacker, where the Packers are down to the fourth and fifth-string outside linebackers and a fourth-string middle linebacker. As long as A.J. Hawk and Jamari Lattimore stay on the field, the Packers should be fine in the middle, but the outside linebacker position is arguably the most important cog in a 3-4 defense. Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer will now be asked to not only pressure the quarterback, but to also hold down the edge in the running game, something that Neal and Nick Perry excelled at even when they weren’t getting pressure.
The Browns are hardly a juggernaut on offense, coming in ranked 24th in the league, being especially bad at running the football, all of which is a nice break for the Packers. However, they do have a decent offensive line, and so, Dom Capers will be challenged this week to find ways to pressure quarterback Brandon Weeden. Weeden has been among the worst in the league this season, having lost his position only to have it returned to him by injury, but nearly any NFL quarterback can do some damage if given plenty of time to do so. See Blaine Gabbert against the Packers last season…
Their defense is clearly the Browns’ better side of the ball, entering this week ranked seventh in yards allowed and 11th in points. Unlike the Packers, they are also getting healthier, with OLB Jabaal Sheard returning this week. They also face a less explosive Packers offense this week than the one that in past weeks has racked up the second most yards in the league and the fifth most points, ranking a well-balanced fourth in passing and fifth in rushing.
Despite the injuries, I believe the Packers’ best chance to win this game is by controlling it with their offense. Aaron Rodgers is down two playmakers, but he still has better weapons and a better running game than Tom Brady has had in directing his team to a 5-1 start. The Packers will likely feature their running game, which has chugged along against three solid defenses in a row. However, unlike the prior three, the Browns will have the advantage of not having to play an extra defensive back to cover Randall Cobb. We will see if this enables them to have better success against the Packers’ running game than Cincinnati, Detroit or Baltimore had.
A big play on special teams would go a long way to helping the Browns pull the upset. Injuries have depleted the Packers there as well, and they will need to contain Browns’ returner Travis Benjamin.
Vegas continues to be bully about the Packers, making them a 10-point favorite. Bettors are likely influenced by the Packers’ record at home and the significant difference at the quarterback position. I think the Packers will need both of those factors to weigh heavily in order to get this win. In other words, Rodgers needs to play well.
With mid-40s and rain likely for Sunday afternoon, football fans may see an old school, rainy, run the football and play defense game this week. I would put the line closer to six points.
Packers 23, Browns 17
Monty: This game comes down to two things for me. Brandon Weeden and Lambeau Field.
The Browns quarterback is pretty awful. Last year, 14 touchdowns, 17 picks. This year, four touchdowns, five picks. This guy will throw the opposing team the ball. He’ll probably throw it to the Packers a couple times on Sunday.
The home field advantage can’t be underestimated either. If this game were being played in Cleveland, I’d be tempted to pick the Browns because of all of the Packers’ injuries. Thankfully, that isn’t the case.
The Packers are going to have to get creative on defense since they have virtually no outside linebackers available. They’re going to have to be creative on offense too since they’re down to just three receivers.
I expect them to do both, with Dom Capers dialing up the blitz and Jermichael Finley having a huge day. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t lose to Brandon Fucking Weeden at home.
Packers 24, Browns 13