Maggie's Pre-Game Six Pack - 2020 Week 7

Here are six things to look for when the Packers take on the Texans Sunday at 12 p.m. CT.

The 4-1 Packers travel to Houston to face off against the 1-5 Texans in what will be Green Bay’s only two-game road stretch of the season. Here are six things to keep an eye on heading into Sunday’s matchup:

1. Expect a Big Week from Jones, Williams, and Dillon

Through the first six games of the season, the Houston Texans defense is giving up an average of 177.5 yards on the ground per game. The Packers have a talented trio of running backs that can exploit that vulnerable Texans run defense further.

Against the Buccaneers, all three Packers running backs had a 20-plus yard explosive play. Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon also achieved the two longest runs allowed by the Buccaneers defense all season. 

In small sample sizes, Green Bay’s running backs put up some impressive averages. Williams carried the ball four times for 34 yards and an 8.5 yard average. Dillon had five carries for 31 yards and a 6.2 yard average. And of course, we know that Jones is fully capable of blowing the top off a defense, achieving his career-long 75-yard touchdown against the Lions in Week 2. 

The Texans are coming off a loss to the Titans in which they gave up 263 yards on the ground, the second time this season they’ve surrendered over 200 yards. Jones, Williams, and Dillon should get ample opportunities to make it a third.

2. Watt Has 99 Sacks and Aaron Rodgers Ain’t 1 (He’s 2)

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, who wears the jersey number 99, also has 99 career sacks. It’s possible he enters triple digits on Sunday if he can get a sack on Aaron Rodgers, something he’s done twice previously. 

Those 100 sacks would inch Watt closer to some elite company, and 122 career sacks would put him in the top-20 all-time list. There are plenty of familiar names on that list, including: Reggie White (198, second all-time), Kevin Greene (160, third all-time), and Julius Peppers (159.5, fourth all-time). Bruce Smith leads the list with 200 career sacks. 

Watt traditionally lines up as the left defensive end, meaning he’ll see a lot of Lucas Patrick and Billy Turner on Sunday. The offensive line had done well protecting Rodgers, allowing only three sacks through the first four games. Last Sunday though against the Buccaneers, Rodgers was sacked four times. The Texans defense has 16 sacks through six games, so that’ll be something to watch. 

3. "You just can’t allow one loss to become two”

While it’s still early in Head Coach Matt LaFleur’s career with the Packers, what we do know in the short sample size we’ve gotten is that LaFleur has yet to lose two straight games. In fact, he’s gone on to bounce back from losses winning the next game by an average of 12 points. 

After the loss to the Eagles, the Packers won 34-24 against the Cowboys. After the loss to the Chargers, the Packers beat Carolina 24-16. And finally, after the blowout loss to the 49ers, the Packers put up a score of 31-13 against the Giants. It’s worth noting that the Cowboys and Panthers both had winning records coming into their matchups against Green Bay, too. 

In LaFleur’s post-game presser, he reiterated the importance of hitting the reset button to make sure these types of losses don’t roll into the next week, and so far, he’s been able to do just that. 

4. Packers Shine in the Lone Star State

This is an impressive nugget from this week’s dope sheet (which you can read in full here). The Packers have played in the state of Texas six times since 2010, and Green Bay has won every single time. The Packers have beaten the Cowboys four times, the Texans once, and the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. Additionally, each game has been a high-scoring affair for the Packers, putting up point totals of 31, 42, 37, 34, 35, and 34. 

This 2020 Texans team has given up at least 28 points in each of its five losses, surrendering a season-high 42 points last week against the Titans. The Packers, despite only putting up 10 points against Tampa, still sit at third in the league with an average of 32.4 points scored per game. 

5. Big Bob, Bigger Impact

Tight end Robert Tonyan enjoyed a career game in Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons, catching all six of his targets for 98 yards and three touchdowns. Tonyan is currently second on the team in touchdowns behind only Aaron Jones (7) with five, and his passer rating when targeted is equally impressive at 152.1. 

Against the Buccaneers, Tonyan hauled in three receptions for 25 yards, though he did come out of the game briefly with an ankle injury. While he returned Sunday, he’s been unable to practice this week with that same ankle injury. It would be a significant loss for this Packers offense if Tonyan was unable to play against the Texans. 

Heading into 2020, Tonyan only had 14 career receptions between 2018 and 2019, and this season he’s already at 16. Perhaps most impressively, of those 16 receptions, 13 have been first downs for the Packers offense. That’s second on the team behind only Davante Adams (14 first downs on 23 receptions). Additionally, Tonyan’s 5.3 yards after catch per reception more than double his totals for 2019 (2.6) and 2018 (2.5). 

His ankle injury will be something to monitor heading into Sunday’s matchup, as the Packers are already without rookie tight end Josiah Deguara for the season, and veteran Marcedes Lewis is also limited with a knee injury. That leaves Jace Sternberger and John Lovett as the only healthy tight ends on the active roster, and Lovett has yet to register a catch in the NFL. It could be a big week for Jace Sternberger if Tonyan can’t go. 

6. Familiar Face in Randall Cobb on Sunday

I know, I know, you’ve heard about Randall Cobb all week. Normally, I don’t advocate for receivers being added mid-season to the roster, solely because we know it takes Rodgers time to build trust and get on the same page with his receivers. But that wouldn’t be an issue for Cobb, who’s a pro’s pro and has been in the league since 2011. 

Now, I’m not saying I think the Packers will trade for Randall Cobb, because I don’t. Let me make that clear, and his cap hit would be significant. But I did start to wonder how Cobb would be utilized in a Matt LaFleur offense, and I kinda like it. Cobb has the perfect frame to be LaFleur’s slot receiver, and he’d be great in a lot of the pre-snap motion we see LaFleur utilize. 

It’s also a fun little nugget that Cobb’s 277 yards would currently lead this Packers offense (and he has two touchdowns), but the caveat here of course is that Davante Adams and Allen Lazard both have only played three games this season, and Cobb has played in all six (starting only two).

So do I think the Packers will trade for Randall Cobb? Absolutely not. Is it kind of fun to think about though? I would say yeah. Am I excited to see Randall Cobb play on Sunday? Definitely.  

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV, podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said, and hosts a weekly live show called Happy Hour through Game On Wisconsin. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (11)

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dobber's picture

October 23, 2020 at 07:15 am

"1. Expect a big week from Jones, Williams, and Dillon"

With an OL in flux and playing a Houston team that's been reeling and has fired its coach/GM, it will be important to punch them in the mouth early and put them on their heels with the run game. Even if the Packers aren't generating chunk plays on the ground, they can't abandon the run game this week.

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Coldworld's picture

October 23, 2020 at 08:30 am

And up against a team with a dire record against the run. One would think that they will be focused on the run and that we should be able to run to set up the pass in this game. I’d like to see a mix including Dillon in two back sets.

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KarleeSimonis's picture

October 23, 2020 at 08:02 am

Wow, it is interesting to read this article..

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mrtundra's picture

October 23, 2020 at 08:04 am

Run the effing football!!!

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SterlingSharpe's picture

October 23, 2020 at 08:54 am

All of you, us, I, knew last year we were "soft". We get bullied by physical teams like San Francisco, San Diego (last year), Philly....and last week we saw the same with Tampa Bay.

Aaron Jones & Rodgers got bullied & taunted all game by Suh & Devon White & a few others, and I never saw our OL really stepping up. I miss the TJ Lang, Josh Sitton, Frank Winters types.

Also, we need 2 or 3 mean big bodies on the DL & ILB.
Maybe Kamal Martin will be one but like Christy Kirksey, seems to be the type who can't last.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 23, 2020 at 09:21 pm

Establish the No Hug Zone and enforce it.

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Since'61's picture

October 23, 2020 at 09:48 am

I noticed that we don’t have one word about our defense in our 6 pack. In fact the only defender mentioned is JJ Watt who plays for our opponent. What does this say about our defense?

While I agree with the premise that we should run the ball against the Texans and that Bob Tonyan should be a factor what do we expect our defense to do in this game. Hopefully our offense will sustain time consuming drives so our defense can watch most of the time.

We will need to contain Deshaun Watson, stop the run, get pressure on the QB and hopefully generate a turnover or two.

Our OL and our defense need to play physically this week and hopefully play with a sense of urgency for 60 minutes. They need to redeem themselves on both sides of the ball after their pathetic efforts last Sunday.
Watt is still good enough to wreck a game. Watson can frustrate a defense with his legs.

Put Tampa behind us and go beat Houston.
Thanks, Since ‘61

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 23, 2020 at 09:22 pm

Like to see the ball go to Sternberger.

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Since'61's picture

October 23, 2020 at 10:46 pm

Yes, and Tonyan. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Since'61's picture

October 23, 2020 at 10:48 pm

Sorry, double post.

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Bligh1's picture

November 04, 2020 at 02:18 pm

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