With the chance to enter their bye week at a perfect 6-0, the banged up Green Bay Packers host the floundering San Diego Chargers in Week 6 Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are one of six undefeated teams left in the NFL after largely coasting to a 24-10 victory over a tough St. Louis Rams defense in Week 5, and at 5-0 they’re off to the team’s best start in four years.
But Green Bay did endure three injuries to nose tackle B.J. Raji (groin), right guard T.J. Lang (knee), and linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder), with all three taken out against the Rams and never returning.
The status for all three prior to the Chargers’ visit is unclear, but Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, was able to plug in several key back-ups to spell the injury bug.
Second-year guard Josh Walker took Lang’s place and missed only one series as the offensive line kept Rodgers mostly clean, surrendering only two sacks to St. Louis’ No. 3-ranked pass rush.
Defensive tackles Letroy Guion and Mike Pennel filled in for Raji, and Green Bay used its considerable depth at linebacker in Julius Peppers and Mike Neal to make up for Perry’s absence.
However, despite pulling off the victory and now three games ahead in the NFC North, the Packers' subs couldn’t improve the porous rush protection. The Rams gained 191 rushing yards at a clip of 5.3 yards per attempt, pushing Green Bay to No. 29 in the league against the run.
But specifically on offense, Rodgers has managed to regroup on the fly without missing a beat. He went 19-for-30 for 241 yards and two scores, one of which went to rookie receiver Ty Montgomery, who was filling in for Davante Adams.
Rodgers did, however, toss his first picks of the season. He fired off two interceptions, snapping his streak of 587 pass attempts and 49 touchdowns without a pick at home and now he faces a Chargers secondary that was ranked as high as No. 3 in the NFL against the pass.
San Diego’s holding opposing passers to a respectable and ninth-ranked 219 passing yards a game, and safety Eric Weddle leads a unit that’s largely stunted opposing receivers after the catch. The Chargers are letting up 228 yards per contest to wide outs, and have contained some of the NFL’s best pass catchers like Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, and Antonio Brown through their first five games.
Yet San Diego sits at 2-3 after dropping its third game in the last four, a last-second 24-20 home loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night. The Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers welcomed tight end Antonio Gates back from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s controlled substance policy, and he totaled nine receptions for 92 yards and two scores.
Gate’s last touchdown came with 8:02 left in the fourth quarter and gave the Chargers a 17-10 advantage, but Pittsburgh roared back with touchdown drives on their last two possessions, capped by running back Le’Veon Bell’s dive into the end zone out of the wildcat with no time left on the clock.
Rivers went off for 365 yards passing and two touchdowns with one pick, while completing 35 of his 48 pass attempts, but his running backs continued to struggle and San Diego couldn’t keep Pittsburgh’s offense off the field.
The duo of rookie Melvin Gordon and veteran rusher Danny Woodhead combined for a mere 52 yards on the ground, and the Chargers have slipped to No. 23 in the league with only 92 rushing yards per game and two scores.
But their struggles stem from the offensive line’s injury woes. The Chargers missed left guard Orlando Franklin (ankle) and left tackle King Dunlap (concussion) for the second straight game, with both players going down in Week 3’s blowout road loss to Minnesota.
It’s unclear when either will return, with Franklin the team’s biggest offseason acquisition at a hefty $36 million over five years, but San Diego will need them back against a Packers pass rush that’s generated nine of its 20 sacks over the last two games.
Betting Odds: Green Bay -10
Over/Under: 50.5 points
Prediction: Green Bay over San Diego, 27-17