Gregorâ€™s Packer Analysis
Week 15 Preview
In this issue:
The Lions take their one game winning streak to Tampa
The Bears and Vikings play outdoors Monday Night
The Packers head to New England for a Sunday Night game
Detroit has been competitive this season at home. Why, just last week they beat the Packers at Ford Field. They are getting things done with a 3rd string quarterback. OK, maybe that was a case of the Packers looking past the Lions and losing their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers in the process. Detroitâ€™s offense is pretty good with Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill under center. Not so much with Drew Stanton, generating just 7 points last week. But the defense held the Packers to the lowest point total of the season: 3.
And while Tampa is finding a way to win, they arenâ€™t exactly dominant. They score about 20 points a game and give up about 20 points a game. Their weakness is against the run, giving up 4.7 yards per carry. But the Lions average just 3.8 yards a carry. The Lions have had problems stopping their opponents, giving up 24 points while scoring 22.
As Iâ€™ve said most of the season, the Lions are competitive, especially at home. The game will be played in Tampa, and Detroit struggles a bit on the road. One of the other quarterbacks would give the Lions a chance to win, but it wonâ€™t happen with Drew Stanton. The line is Tampa by 6. Tough call, the Lions need to show some offense. The Bucs win by at least 4, but maybe a lot more.
The Bears and the Vikings meet Monday Night in Minnesota, but with a few changes. Brett Favre wonâ€™t start at quarterback. Neither will Tarvaris Jackson. It could be Joe Webb or newly signed Patrick Ramsey. And it wonâ€™t be at the Metrodome, it will be at TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. A cold night, with plenty of hot chocolate for everyone. If the concession stands are ready. Because itâ€™s at a college field, beer canâ€™t be sold. Yikes.
The Vikings were crushed by the Giants last week. They havenâ€™t done anything on offense all season, and scored just 3 points against New York. Speaking of crushed, the Bears were down 33- 0 at the half as New England was on its way to a 36-7 rout. In theory, one of them should win.
The Bears luck is back again. Donâ€™t have to go to the dome and play in the noise. Brett Favre isnâ€™t playing. The Vikings are showing signs that theyâ€™ve mailed it in already. With a win and a Green Bay loss, Chicago clinches the NFC North. There is no line. The Vikings might play close for a half, but while the Bears arenâ€™t good, the Vikings are trending to awful. Chicago by 7 or more.
The Packers head to New England to play the Patriots. The Patriots are the hottest team in the NFL, blowing out the Jets and the Bears the last two weeks by a combined 81-10. The Packers lost a must win game to the Lions, 7-3.
Aaron Rodgers was knocked out of the game last week with a concussion. This week it wasnâ€™t that he wasnâ€™t allowed to practice. It was that he didnâ€™t watch film, didnâ€™t go over the game plan, didnâ€™t do anything. He was left in the dark, he has light sensitivity. The Packers say the decision as to whether or not heâ€™ll play will be made Saturday. Sure looks like itâ€™s already been made: he isnâ€™t playing.
The Patriots arenâ€™t leading the NFL in rushing or passing, but they are an excellent passing team with Tom Brady throwing to Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Ron Gronkowski and Danny Woodhead. The running game is effective with Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Woodhead. And while the defense looks pretty bad statistically against the pass, that has changed in recent weeks.
We could look at the stats, and one that looks like a great matchup is the Patriots lead the league in scoring at about 32 points a game, while the Packers lead the league in scoring defense, giving up 14 and a half points a game. But the Packers are at a pretty big disadvantage on defense if Cullen Jenkins canâ€™t play, Frank Zombo is out, and some of the linebackers who will be playing (on special teams, and maybe on defense) werenâ€™t in the NFL a few weeks ago.
The game capsule is this: Nobody has stopped the Patriots in recent weeks, and itâ€™s hard to see the Packers change that trend with all the injuries on defense. Not that they could stop the Pat if everyone was playing, but itâ€™s a lot less likely now. And then thereâ€™s â€œthe best defense is a good offenseâ€. Keep the ball out of Tom Bradyâ€™s hands and the Pats offense canâ€™t score. The problem is with Matt Flynn playing, the chances of keeping drives alive arenâ€™t very good. Three and outs and turnovers are more likely than time consuming scoring drives. Which puts more pressure on the Green Bay defense. The weather will be cold and windy, and the Pats have shown they can move the ball in those conditions.
With no consistency at running back (not sure why James Starks only had 8 carries last week), and a QB that hasnâ€™t played much, itâ€™s unlikely the Packers can win a shootout. Even if Rodgers plays, the Packers will need to be plus 3 or 4 in turnovers to have a chance. There is no line on the game, but itâ€™s hard to see the Packers staying within 10 if everything goes well. If not, losing by 21 or more looks very likely.