With just three weeks remaining until the end of the regular season, the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders find themselves in familiar positions ahead of their Week 15 matchup. Green Bay is on the verge of making the playoffs once again, and Oakland is close to officially missing the postseason for the 13th consecutive year.
The Packers improved to 9-4 by defeating the Dallas Cowboys last week, and they are one win away from clinching a playoff berth. The Raiders can’t win the AFC West and trail three potential wild-card teams by two games, but they are still fighting, having defeated the Denver Broncos in Week 14 to claim their sixth win of 2015.
Las Vegas oddsmakers give Green Bay the advantage on the road, making them three-point favorites. Sunday's over/under is 46.5, according to vegasinsider.com.
Rise Of Khalil Mack
In his second NFL season, the Raiders’ 2014 first-round pick has emerged as a candidate to be named this season's Defensive Player of the Year. Mack is putting up huge numbers that are helping Oakland’s much maligned defense play better of late.
Mack was the Raiders most important player last week, leading the team with five sacks. That gave the defensive end nine sacks in the last three games and 14 on the season, which pushed him past J.J. Watt for the league lead. With Mack playing like the NFL’s top defender, Oakland has allowed just 263.7 yards per game over the last three weeks. On the season, the Raiders rank 25th in total defense, surrendering 372.5 yards per game.
Opposing defenses have been able to get to Rodgers more so than usual in 2015. He’s been sacked 31 times this year after being sacked just 28 times in 16 games last year.
Changes To Green Bay's Offense
The Packers’ offense has sputtered in the second half of the season, and the team ranks in the bottom half of the league in total yards. A week after head coach Mike McCarthy took over as the team’s play caller, Green Bay is looking to pick up where they left off in Week 14.
The biggest difference in last week’s contest was Green Bay’s rushing attack. Eddie Lacy totaled a season-high 124 yards on the ground, and the entire team ran for 230 yards. Aaron Rodgers had his best passer rating in two months, and he led the Packers to their biggest margin of victory on the season.
But Green Bay’s offense still isn’t performing like many expected it to at the start of the year. Rodgers threw for 218 yards last week, failing to reach the 300-yard mark for the fourth consecutive game. The team has clearly missed wide receiver Jordy Nelson, and they might have to rely on their ground game, once again. Oakland is allowing 4.2 yards per carry, ranking 19th in the NFL.
Oakland’s Offense Hits A Wall
Oakland’s offense was terrific in the first half of the season when the Raiders appeared to be a playoff contender, but the unit has struggled as they’ve fallen out of the postseason race. The Raiders had trouble scoring even in a win last week, and their offense will have to be better if they want to upset the Packers.
The Raiders managed to win in Week 14, despite totaling just 126 yards. It marked the fourth time in five weeks that the team has scored 20 points or fewer, and Oakland hasn’t scored 30 points in a game since doing it four times between Week 2 and Week 7. Latavius Murray hasn’t rushed for 100 yards since the team defeated the New York Jets on Nov. 1, and Derek Carr has posted a passer rating of less than 80.0 in three of his last four games.
Green Bay’s defense struggled in losses against Denver and Carolina, but it’s been the team’s strength for most of the season. The Packers rank sixth in points allowed, and they’ve surrendered 18 points or fewer in four of their last five games.
Green Bay is a step below the NFL’s top teams because their offense has been too inconsistent, and they certainly won’t be unbeatable on Sunday. But the Packers’ defense should be able to limit Oakland on the offensive end, allowing them to win somewhat comfortably.
Green Bay over Oakland, 23-16