Gregor’s Packer Analysis
Week 10 Preview
In this issue:
The Lions visit the Vikings
The Bears host the Titans
The Packers take a week off, but Clay Matthews needs more
The Detroit Lions started slow, but are now 4-4 and will have a winning record if they can beat the 5-4 Vikings on Sunday in the Metrodome. The chances of that happening just improved with Percy Harvin limping and doubtful at best for the game Sunday. If he’s out, the passing game, which has already had two games under 100 yards, will struggle, putting even more pressure on Adrian Peterson to move the chains and give the Vikings a chance to score.
Meanwhile, Detroit is playing well, although beating the Jags isn’t exactly a quality win. Then again, it’s not like Minnesota is an elite team to get past. Calvin Johnson has missed some practice time this week, but should play. He was questionable last week and had a big game in Jacksonville. It was reported this week that he has nerve damage as a result of hits received in the first game with the Vikings which makes it hard for him to grip the ball.
The key to the game is can Detroit run the ball, and can Minnesota move the ball through the air. We know Detroit will get their yards passing and the Vikings will move the ball on the ground. The Vikings will need to be plus two in turnovers to have a chance if they can’t throw the ball. Even if Peterson rushes for 150 yards, which looks pretty likely, if they have to drive 80 yards every possession that won’t lead to many points. They need to gain field position on special teams, defensive stops, etc.
Who would have thought that having Tavaris Jackson throwing for a buck fifty would be a major upgrade over what Christian Ponder is doing in recent weeks?
The line is Detroit by two and a half. Without Harvin and no passing game, it’s hard to see Minnesota staying close. Then again, they are home, and have only lost one at home. It’s not like Detroit is consistent on the road. Two teams that have been mediocre so far, this could go either way. Normally I’d take Detroit. But after almost all the favorites won last week (and the sports books took a beating), it’s hard to see Vegas setting lines where the favorites will win most of the games two weeks in a row. In a Vegas is pushing Detroit so take Minnesota upset special, Vikings by 3.
The Bears are hosting the Texans on the Sunday Night Football matchup of one loss teams. On paper this looks close. Both teams have had dominating wins. Both teams lost to the Green Bay Packers. Both teams have a good defense. The Bears have scored 8 non-offensive touchdowns, 7 of them on defense. The Texans have a balanced offense, with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson and the tight ends in the passing game, and Arian Foster and Ben Tate running the ball. Both Foster and Tate missed practice time this week, but neither was ruled out as of Thursday night.
The big difference is the passing game. When Jay Cutler has time and open receivers, he looks like an elite quarterback. But when things break down he’s inept. Against the Packers he was sacked 7 times, intercepted 4 times and started yelling at his linemen. Against the Lions he was under pressure and the Bears scored just 13 points. If the Lions don’t turn it over 4 times in the red zone, the Bears lose that game. The Panthers got to Cutler, and had the lead in the 4th quarter until a late Tim Jennings pick six. Another loss the Bears managed to avoid.
But the blueprint is there. Get to Cutler and the Bears have no passing game. If the other team has an offense, they win. The Texans have an offense.
The line is Chicago by 1. If this game was in Houston it’s a double digit win for the Texans. But weather could be a factor. Tate and Foster, if available, are less than 100%. And it’s a prime time home game for the Bears. Still, Cutler is Cutler, and JJ Watt should bat down passes, sack Cutler two or three times, and generally make his life miserable. Sweet. Texans by 4.
The Packers have a bye week, which is a good thing. The win over Arizona came with a price, including a hamstring injury to Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson’s ankle injury, and Bryan Bulaga’s injured hip. The Packers said that Matthews would miss a few weeks. The news isn’t as good for outside linebacker Nick Perry, who joined inside linebacker Desmond Bishop on IR.
Looking at the first nine games, the Packers beat division leaders Chicago and Houston, lost to division leader San Francisco, and lost a game to Seattle that helped end the officials lockout after numerous blown calls. And the other loss was to an emotional Indianapolis Colts team that overcame a 21-3 deficit to win in regulation. They were able to beat the other 4 mediocre or worse teams on the schedule.
But the Packers have shown signs of improvement. The defense has been good even with BJ Raji missing a few games and Desmond Bishop unavailable all season. Charles Woodson was injured, Davon House, projected to be the starter at cornerback, has only played the last few weeks. Clay Matthews is out for at least one game.
On offense, Cedric Benson had been the featured back until he was hurt. He was replaced by Alex Green, with James Starks getting some time now. John Kuhn has missed time. The running game has been below average until Sunday against the Cardinals. Greg Jennings has missed a number of games and will be out at least a few more weeks.
But if the Packers can find a way to win the next few games, then get back players like Woodson, Matthews and Jennings, they could be getting healthy heading into the playoffs. And a hot team heading into the playoffs can win it all, like the Packers in 2010 and the Giants in 2011. The Packers can beat anyone, although would probably prefer not to play the Giants in the playoffs.