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Packers vs. Jaguars: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

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Packers vs. Jaguars: Things You Could Watch and a Prediction

NFL schedule makers gave the Green Bay Packers a gauntlet first seven weeks to start the 2012 season.

Record-wise, only the Denver Broncos (.632) and Jacksonville Jaguars (.615) have had to navigate a more difficult schedule than the Packers, whose first seven opponents are a combined 28-18 (.609) in 2012. Among those seven opponents are the 5-2 San Francisco 49ers (NFC Championship Game participant), the 5-1 Chicago Bears (completely healthy), the 4-3 Seattle Seahawks (still unbeaten at home), the 2-4 New Orleans Saints (13-game winner in 2011), the 6-1 Houston Texans (arguably the best team in the AFC) and the 3-4 St. Louis Rams (who were previously undefeated at home).

To top it all off, the Packers had to go on the road for three-straight games (Indianapolis, Houston and St. Louis) for the first time since 1998.

Finally, the schedule in Week 8 affords the Packers a break. Home for the first time in a month, Green Bay will welcome the 1-5 Jacksonville Jaguars, who may be the worst team the Packers have hosted at Lambeau Field since the 0-16 Detroit Lions in 2008. That isn't just hyperbole. Various betting websites have the Packers as anywhere from 12.5- to 15.5-point favorites.

The Packers have had many reasons for losses this season, including injuries, bad luck and a very difficult schedule. But in Week 8, the schedule will not play a factor. The Packers are big favorites for a reason.

Here are some other things you could watch Sunday:

 

Overcome injuries

These are two of the NFL's most beat-up football teams. For both Jacksonville and Green Bay, Wednesday's practice was a who's who of players missing.

The Jaguars listed 10 players on their injury report, many key contributors. Among those included running back Maurice Jones-Drew, quarterback Blaine Gabbert, linebacker Daryl Smith, receiver Laurent Robinson, cornerback Rashean Mathis and safety Dwight Lowery.

The Packers were even more limited numbers-wise. 12 names landed on Green Bay's injury report, including receiver Greg Jennings, cornerback Sam Shields, linebacker Nick Perry, receiver Donald Driver, cornerback Charles Woodson, nose tackle B.J. Raji, receiver Jordy Nelson, guard T.J. Lang and fullback John Kuhn. In fact, Mike McCarthy had to end practice early because of all the injuries.

Both teams have big names to replace this week. Effectively handling all the injury stress is just one factor in the winning equation Sunday.

Prepare for the blitz

Jaguars defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is starting to run out of ideas on how to get his pass rush started. Through seven weeks, Jacksonville is dead last in the NFL in sacks with five. While there is some talent up front—defensive end Jeremy Mincey and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton among them—things just haven't clicked in getting to the passer.

On the road as a big underdog, and with nothing else working, expect Tucker to throw the house at Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While blitzes haven't been the blueprint in stopping Rodgers, Tucker can't plan on rushing just four for most of Sunday and having his defense live to tell about it. He may be in trouble either way, but at least bringing some added heat on Rodgers is going down swinging.

Matthews and Monroe

If there's been one bright spot for the Jaguars on offense, left tackle Eugene Monroe would likely be it.

According to Pro Football Focus, Monroe has allowed just 10 pressure plays (two sacks, one quarterback hit and seven pressures) over 221 pass-blocking snaps. Eugene stone-walled both Jared Allen and Julius Peppers in their respective matchups in 2012.

Opposite Monroe Sunday will be Clay Matthews, who registered a sack and hurry last week but was expected to be more disruptive against a backup left tackle in St. Louis. The Packers may gameplan to move Matthews around the formation to avoid Monroe. There's plus-matchups at most spots up front, but Monroe on the left side probably isn't one of them.

Run to the finish line

The Packers run game has once again come under fire after a sub-par performance against the Rams in Week 7. The numbers, especially for Alex Green (20 rushes, 35 yards), were ugly. But like McCarthy has said on so many occasions, yardage totals aren't as relatively important to the Green Bay offense as the amount of times the Packers run in a given game.

Sunday against the Jaguars, both areas should click.

Not only should the Packers have a chance to run early and especially late, but production should follow. Jacksonville is 29th against the run this season (147.3 yards/game), while also allowing over 200 yards in two separate games in 2012.

The Packers won't get to 200 yards on the ground, but it's reasonable to think Green and the running backs get something more started Sunday. By the fourth quarter, there should be opportunities to finish out the football game via the run.

Expectations

For two weeks, the Packers used a wave of criticism as motivation to turn around their 2012 season. Now, after back-to-back convincing wins and with an inferior opponent on the schedule, that criticism has disappeared altogether. Will this team lose some of that edge Sunday?

By any statistical measure, the Packers should cruise past a bad Jacksonville team. Stick with me as we run down some of these horrendous numbers and rankings:

In 2012, the Jaguars are ranked 32nd in passing (144.8 yards/game), 25th in rushing (91.0), 32nd in total offense (235.8), 30th in red zone touchdown percentage (40.0), 24th in passing defense (264.5), 29th in rushing defense (147.5), 28th in total defense (411.8), 26th in scoring defense (27.3), 32nd in sacks (five), 32nd in first downs (83) 32nd in third down percentage (26.6), 32nd in yards per attempt (5.6) and 23rd in third down percentage allowed (41.8).

Anywhere you look, Jacksonville is ranked in the bottom third of the NFL. The Packers, playing at home, will be expected to blowout the Jaguars. How does this team look as expectations change?

Prediction

Big upsets happen in the NFL. Remember the Arizona Cardinals, wrote off as 13-point underdogs in New England, stunning the Patriots in Week 2? Or Green Bay falling on its face as double-digit favorites in Tampa Bay (2009) and Kansas City ('11)? These kind of ground-shaking losses can happen.

It just won't happen Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers should have time to film a couple more commercials in the pocket Sunday, and it's difficult to visualize the Jaguars scoring more than their season average (just 14.7 points/game) without their best offensive player. Tack on the comfy feeling of being back at home after a month away, and the Packers should roll.

38 points may be a conservative prediction with the way this offense is humming right now, but there could be a Graham Harrell sighting late in the fourth quarter.

Packers 38, Jaguars 13 (Season record: 2-5)

Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

Comments (23)

razor's picture

How about Randall Cobb at QB in the fourth quarter?

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Just the kind of game we need right now. 41-10 GBP.

GBP 4 LIFE

Jamie's picture

I had a dream last night that we won 70-1. I didn't actually watch the game (in my dream)...just saw the final score. And unfortunately, I woke up before I could figure out how the eff the Jags scored that point.

Pack Fan in ATL's picture

+1

Fish/Crane's picture

They scored one the way the Seahawks did against the Packers. No touchdown but an extra point.

MarkinMadison's picture

As soon as you figure out how the Jags scored 1 point, I'll buy you that new Mercedes you've been asking Santa for. :-)

packsmack25's picture

Defensive conversion safety. Look it up.

Mojo's picture

FWIW, possible in NCAA college football to score just one point but not in NFL since scoring one point can only occur during an extra point attempt(after scoring a TD). College rules are different, and it is possible to score just one, but very unlikely.

Still like the thought though.

Tommyboy's picture

That is absolutely hilarious.

woodson4president's picture

Whats wrong w Jordo n Kuhn?

WisconsInExile's picture

There is one way to score 1 point in an NFL game: the Jaguars offense would have to score a safety. To do that, the Packers defense would have to recover a turnover in the Packers end zone, and then a Jaguars player--now playing defense--tackles that Packer before they leave the Packers end zone. It could plausably happen, especially during a play like the one last year when Shields got concussed on a red zone pick. The Jaguars would not be awarded the customary two points, but instead just one.

Jack's picture

Is this true?????

Evan's picture

I'm pretty sure it's not.

WisconsInExile's picture

It has to happen on a two-point conversion. In my editing haste, I accidentally edited that out. But otherwise, it is absolutely true (and a great piece of sports trivia).

See http://www.nfl.com/rulebook/try, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_(American_and_Canadian_football_score)#cite_note-11

THEMichaelRose's picture

Sounds sort of like a touchback, unless I'm missing something.
I remember a few weeks back there was a discussion on this in a college game, and it turns out you can get 1 point (at least in college) if you record a safety on a 2-point conversion attempt (lose 97 yards), would be pretty tough to do.

packsmack25's picture

No, it's only on a conversion try. As in, a blocked kick that the defense runs back, then fumbles, then the offense picks back up and takes into their own end zone and is tackled. Or a two pointer that is run back and the same scenario unfolds. Nearly impossible, but will happen some day when they are playing flag football in 20 years.

Denver's picture

Ha, learn something new here everyday.

Mojo's picture

Only in college can you end up scoring one point for the entire game as Packsmack describes. Not so in NFL.

WisconsInExile's picture

And I'd like my Mercedes in green.

Tommyboy's picture

That wouldn't really qualify considering it would have to happen on a point-after try and the defense is unable to score. There is no way in the NFL to score just one point in a game (unless that is how a forfeit would be scored perhaps).

mark's picture

I know it's the Jaguars, I know MJD is out. But their defense isn't bad. I worry this could be the trap game, especially with Jordy/Jennings likely out.

I want to see 60 minutes of very focused football, and I want to see our defense raise hell. Hopefully the coming out party for Mike Neal and Jerel Worthy.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Statistically, their D ranks in the bottom third in most categories. The one that sticks out that I remember is they only have five sacks.

Rodgerdat's picture

This team is too well coached to let another trap game or meltdown to happen. Packers are the best team in the NFC. Yea I said it! Who is the only team to beat the Bears and Texans? And both were blowouts! Bears game would have been if JJ ran the right route! We have only one legit loss this season and that was week 1. When we didn't know our identity and were terrible at adjustments. Hope to see 9ers and Giants in the playoffs! Hope to play Atlanta in wildcard. Whoever usually does wins a SB!

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