I don’t like games that the Packers are "supposed" to win. In these games the higher that Vegas puts the spread, the more my stomach turns over. Right now the Packers are somewhere between 14-16 points over the Jags…..
Not that it’s hard to understand why so many have this perception of the game. The Jaguars have not played solid football this year. Statistically they have been near the bottom on offense and defense and their record reflects this accomplishment. Throw on top of that the injury to their starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the absence of star running back Maurice Jones-Drew and it’s puzzling to picture the Packers losing this game.
Which may be why they lose this game.
The Packers really should win this game. Despite the injuries the Packers have more talent than the Jaguars, and should still be able to put up some serious points. So let’s go over the keys to victory for the Packers and things they will need to remember to avoid the upset.
1. Stay focused. Most of the key to the game is not taking the Jaguars lightly. This is not a bye week. These players are still paid. Any team can beat another one in the NFL on "any given Sunday." The Jaguars would absolutely love to get an upset here and continue their winning streak at Lambeau. (Fun Fact, the only other time that the Jags have played at Lambeau they have won….and I was at that game it was a convincing win).
2. Run effectively. The Jaguars have a pretty talented defensive line. Last week they gave the Oakland Raiders fits in protecting Carson Palmer and nearly stole that game. Before you s tart making Raider jokes, realize that the Packers offensive line has probably not much better. Thus, the best way to handle this is going to be running the football….and running the ball effectively. More to the point, if the Packers do get up quick, and not want to risk further injury to their receivers, it’s going to come time for the Packers to run a ton and kill the clock.
3. Convert on third down. Okay, so if the Packers can't run then they have to convert on third down. I don't care if it is third and short or third and 20, they need to make that first down and keep drives going. This was a key stat that the offense was focusing on in the offseason, and a stat that the Packers struggled with during the start of the year. This is also an area of the game where Randall Cobb is going to be crucially important working out of the slot and out of the backfield.
4. Attack the quarterback. The Packers have been better at this particular point this year. They have been very good about getting quarterbacks to the ground. They haven’t been stellar at having a consistent rush though, and they haven’t been able to consistently get pressure with sending just four rushers. It would be a great start for the defense to be able to do this and lighten the load on the secondary who are recovering from the injury to Charles Woodson. It would be even better if someone other than Clay Matthews can step up and have a huge day. I don’t care if its Erik Walden, Mike Neal, Jerel Worthy, B.J. Raji, or whoever…but if someone can help take the pressure off Matthews while Perry is injured I would be very thankful.
5. Youth Movement. I pointed this out yesterday in my five Packers to watch, but there are going to be lots of young guys out there for the Packers….and now on both sides of the ball. Guys like Ryan Taylor, D.J. Williams, Randall Cobb, Alex Green, Casey Hayward, Davon House, and Jerron McMillian (or even M.D. Jennings) will all need to make significant contributions. Typically falling back on first and second year players like this can mean growing pains….but this week is not the time for that. It’s time for these players to grow up and fast. With the Vikings losing on Thursday the Packers have an opportunity to move up in the division and start to make their move for playoff positioning. Now is the time, young or not it’s time to deliver.