It’s hard to think of a way that the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) walk out of Wisconsin with a win. Upsets happen every week in the NFL but the Green Bay Packers (4-3) playing at home against a bruised and battered Jacksonville side do not look like being overthrown.
Jaguars half back, Maurice Jones-Drew is one of the best running backs in the game and the Jaguars’ only consistent offensive threat. However, he is out indefinitely with an injured foot, leaving backup Rashad Jennings as the presumptive starter. Jennings has been mediocre so far this year, gaining 90 yards on 34 carries. But he will be taking on a Packer front seven that is a poor 28th against the run. Watch how the Packers’ linebackers and safeties tackle at the second level. The defensive line has been fairly stout – although the potential absence or, at best, limitation of defensive tackle B J Raji will take its toll – but the linebackers and safeties have not been nearly as good in run defence as they have in defending the pass.
On the flipside, if the Packers get ahead as expected, or manage to put the Jaguars in third-and-long situations, watch for Clay Matthews and the rest of the NFL’s third-best pass rush to make quarterback, Chad Henne weep in fear.
Speaking of Henne, it is somewhat unfortunate that the Jaguar’s usual starting quarterback, Blaine Gabbert has injured his non-throwing shoulder, putting him out for the foreseeable future. However, Henne is a serviceable quarterback and there were already some calls to start him in place of Gabbert. With significantly more first-team reps during practice, he should hopefully improve on last week’s fairly dire performance in relief.
When the Packers have the ball, look to see what running back, Alex Green is really made of. Against Indianapolis three weeks ago, he had an impressive 63 yards on ten rushes. But since then his production has dropped, culminating in a mere 35 yards on 20 carries (and four catches for 29 yards) against the St Louis Rams. He is clearly the lead guy for head coach, Mike McCarthy at the moment, but he has to do more if the Packers want to be playing football deep into January. And a good place to start is against a Jaguar front seven that is the second worst in the league.
Finally look for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers receivers to carve up a Jaguar secondary that is porous at the best of times and banged up heading into this week. Starting cornerbacks, Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox are currently questionable and without their two best defensive backs, it is hard to see how Jacksonville will be able to slow down receivers like Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb, even if Greg Jennings is still injured or Rodgers has an off day.
The Packers are 12.5 – 15.5 point favourites for a reason. Although the spectre of complacency is still there, it is really only the most fanatical Jacksonville fan that could think the Jaguars will leave with the victory. For those interested interested, much of the middle north of the USA, northern Florida and –strangely – northern Texas will be able to watch the game on CBS at 1 PM EST.