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Key Battles, Week 14 Edition: Green Bay at Cleveland

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Key Battles, Week 14 Edition: Green Bay at Cleveland

The Green Bay Packers must win out and get help to have any hope of the postseason, and that mission continues Sunday at winless Cleveland. If the Packers prevail, and the scan on Aaron Rodgers shows a healed collarbone, the team will head into its final trio of one-game playoffs with some serious momentum.
It all starts with Sunday’s showdown with the Browns. Here are some of the key battles for that contest. 

Trench battle crucial for offense, defense

The point with these key battles isn’t always to be cunning. Sometimes the obvious point is the most important. To that end, the Packers must win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Defensively that means making life difficult for quarterback Deshone Kizer, who has—to put it mildly—struggled in his rookie season. Kizer leads the league with 15 interceptions and no starting quarterback has completed a lower percentage of his passes (52.5 percent). In order to make up for a rash of injuries at cornerback—and to help deal with the return of uber-talented wide receiver Josh Gordon—the Packers’ pass rush must be present. Kizer targeted Gordon 11 times last week, with Gordon hauling in four catches for 85 yards (and mostly against one of the league’s best corners, Casey Hayward). 
On the flip side, establishing the run will be paramount against a talented Cleveland front. On a per-rush basis, nobody’s been better than the Browns this season, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry. Given Brett Hundley’s inconsistency as a passer, the Pack will need to get backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones going. Exactly how that balance is struck remains to be seen, but both have made the case for touches: Williams for his vision and tough running, and Jones for his big-play propensity. 

Set Hundley up for success 

When the Packers under Hundley have been at their best, they’ve operated with flow. At their worst, like throughout the majority of the second half last week against Tampa Bay, they were totally without rhythm. The run-first approach they used on their final drive of the fourth quarter—then continued with the game-winning touchdown drive in overtime—saw a mix of inside, outside and read-option looks. Green Bay would be wise to again let Hundley get it done with his legs. It’s a tale of two quarterbacks with Hundley. When the offense is cold his tendency to bail on the play is noticeably worse. When they’re in a rhythm he’s seemingly more decisive. Everything about the matchup Sunday should be about building Hundley’s confidence, even if that means the run-to-pass balance leans heavy on the run. 

Big play opportunities—Let the Browns be the Browns

Last week the hero was Dean Lowry, who returned a Jameis Winston fumble 62 yards for a touchdown. Will the Packers get another game-changing play against the Browns? Cleveland is as turnover-happy as any team in the league, illustrative of a 0-12 record. The Packers need the big plays to keep coming. There’s been building hope that special teams could provide the spark. Last week Kyler Fackrell’s blocked punt provided a spark. Meanwhile, Trevor Davis’ long kick return was negated by a penalty.
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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (6) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Coldworld's picture

I think this topic could b summed up by one question: “which quarterback will be more atrocious?”

Slim11's picture

Sadly, I think you're absolutely right. Hopefully, Kizer will be the worst of the two.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Yes, or will it be Devante Adams or Josh Gordan who makes the big play?

The Packers needed overtime to beat the Buccaneers. So, that tells me that the Packers are not much better than the Browns.

dobber's picture

I used to buy into that, but each week is a different week and so much has to do with matchups and who's available. Look at it this way: the Packers took Pittsburgh to the wire on the road. They should've lit up Tampa.

My greatest concern is that the gods of luck have to eventually turn because it's hard for a team to go 0-16. The Packers are planted firmly in the way of that.

Duneslick's picture

Packer Greg says if Cleveland can stop Greenbay from running (likely) and Cleveland does not have a lot of turnovers Cleveland can win this game.

rdent's picture

If GB and Cleveland's defense can stop the running game this could be a pick fest.

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