Gregor’s Packer Analysis
Week 16 Preview
In this edition:
The Lions host Atlanta Saturday Night
The Bears head to Arizona
The Vikings go to Houston
The Packers host Tennessee
The Detroit Lions (4-10) host the Atlanta Falcons (12-2) on Saturday Night Football (Monday Night Football is moved to Saturday because of Christmas Eve). The Lions are coming off a 38-10 drubbing in Arizona, while the Falcons shut out the Giants 34-0 in Atlanta. This game isn’t about talent or matchups, it’s about motivation. The Lions didn’t do anything offensively against an Arizona defense that usually wears down because their offense is so pathetic and the defense is on the field too much.
The Falcons, meanwhile, were up for their game against Big Blue, but is this a game where they think they can just show up and win? They might be able to, but Detroit shocked Houston on Thanksgiving. If this was a regular Sunday afternoon game, it would be a pretty easy win for Atlanta. Matt Ryan is almost unbeatable at home, but the Falcons haven’t dominated on the road. If the Lions want to play hard for 60 minutes, they can keep it within a field goal and maybe win the game. If not, the Falcons wrap up the top seed in the NFC. The line is Atlanta by 4. Hard to see Detroit staying motivated for 4 quarters, especially the defense. Atlanta by 7.
The Chicago Bears (8-6) head to Arizona (5-9) to play the Cardinals in a must win game for Chicago. The Bears will likely need to win out to make the playoffs. After starting 7-1 Chicago is 1-5 in their last 6 games and are currently not one of the 6 seeds. But even though wins have been hard to find, the schedule can’t get much easier with Arizona this week and Detroit next week. They will also need some help. Chicago fans might even be cheering for Green Bay next week to beat Minnesota. That has to make them sick. Nice.
Arizona has no offense (97 passing yards, 196 total yards against Arizona), so even without Brian Urlacher, the Bears have a chance to shut them down and maybe shut them out. A bigger absence last week against Green Bay was Tim Jennings. Michael Bush is out for the year which means Matt Forte will be getting a few more carries, but they’ll be using Armando Allen a little more. Of course, Allen only had 2 carries against the Packers, Forte had 20 so it’s all relative.
The line is Chicago by 5. This comes down to who’s motivated. If the Cardinals have to earn points (they had 2 pick sixes last week) they can’t keep up. If the Cardinals only got 196 yards against the Lions, it’s hard to see them getting more against the Bears. If Arizona wants to play, Chicago wins a close one by 3. If they’ve already called it a season, then it’s an easy win for the Bears by 10 or more. The guess is Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte have big games. Bears by 10.
The Minnesota Vikings (8-6) are a playoff team…as of now. But to hold on to the playoffs, they’ll have to beat the Houston Texans (12-2) in Houston. Motivation shouldn’t be an issue—Houston wants the top seed of the AFC, and Minnesota needs to win to stay in playoff contention. This season has been all about Adrian Peterson. Everyone knows he’s getting the ball, defenses are playing 8 in the box, and he still leads the NFL in rushing. That’s because Christian Ponder hasn’t been stretching defenses through the air. They scored 36 points against St. Louis and had 322 yards of offense, but just 109 net passing yards. Peterson is within 300 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record and the Vikings want to win and get Peterson the record.
Houston was able to beat Indy 29-17 and put up 417 net yards. Houston is 6-1 at home, their only loss was to Green Bay. Minnesota is 2-5 on the road. Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster move the ball for the Texans. JJ Watt has to be dealt with, especially in the passing game and the Vikings don’t throw the ball when they aren’t playing Houston. It won’t be easy for Peterson because he won’t be getting much help from the passing game.
The Line is Houston by 7. The Vikings have a chance to win this one but will probably come up short. Houston by 6.
The Green Bay Packers (10-4) host the Tennessee Titans (5-9) in a game where one team is motivated. The Packers have a chance to get the second seed in the NFC playoffs and a first round bye with a win and a loss by San Francisco. Ironically, the Seahawks, who beat Green Bay (well, not really, but officially) and is the reason the Packers are the third seed could move Green Bay to the second seed if the Packers and Seahawks both win Sunday. So now, in addition to cheering for Russell Wilson, fans in Wisconsin can cheer for the whole team. Chicago fans cheering for Green Bay next week, Packer fans cheering for Seattle after the debacle in the Northwest. Crazy.
Tennessee is coming off a win over the New York Jets, knocking Rex Ryan and the great quarterback debate out of the playoffs. But they had to be plus five in turnovers to win by 4. Other than Chris Johnson the offense is erratic. On the road, they score 21 points and give up 28 and that’s before they called it a season.
The Packers welcomed back Clay Matthews last week. Charles Woodson could be back this week, but the secondary has been fine without him. Jordy Nelson could be back, but they won’t need him. He might play anyway just to get ready for the playoffs. Or not.
The Packers are in a “trap” game situation, a rivalry game against Chicago last week, and Minnesota next week. Sometimes teams overlook opponents the week between the two big games, especially and opponent with a losing record on the road. But with a potential first round bye on the line, and a bad team going on the road, it’s hard to see the Titans springing the upset.
The line is Green Bay by 12. There was a major snowstorm on Thursday, and while the field will be cleared by Sunday, cold weather will be here. If it’s cold and windy, that could limit the passing game a little. And the Packers have been running more the last 6 games. That should continue. Still, it’s hard to see Tennessee hanging around even if Green Bay doesn’t score their home game average of 25. A few weeks ago maybe Tennessee keeps it within a touchdown. Now it’s looking like a two TD win or more, unless weather conditions are bad.