Sunday, December 11, 2011

Packers vs. Raiders preview

The Oakland Raiders -- or Raidahs, if you prefer an ESPN announcer-ish pronunciation -- visit the not-yet-fully-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field this afternoon to become the Green Bay Packers latest victims. The Raiders are in a dead heat with the Tebow-roncos for the lead in the AFC West at 7-5, although technically in second place because of tie-breakers, etc. They are 3-2 in their last five games. After beating Da Bearz 25-20 at home (thank you very much!), the Raiders had an embarrassing loss last Sunday in Miami, losing to the last-place AFC East Division Fish, 34-14. Today, Oakland is a 12-point underdog to the Pack. The over-under on this game is the highest of all games this week, at 51.5. The Packers are averaging 35 points per game and the Raiders just under 23. Some points are going to be scored today. As usual for the last 12 games of this regular season, and 18 games straight back to last season, the Packers will put up more points than their opponent and come away with their 13th win of the 2011 schedule.

That's not to say this will be a gimme game. Oakland is fighting for its playoff life against streaking Denver and they were embarrassed by the Dolphins. So they will come to Lambeau with a chip on their shoulder, no doubt. But it's not as if this will be the first time the Packers have seen that situation this season. It's pretty much a weekly occurrence now: teams with something to prove to either themselves or others.

Raiders quick take
So what are the Raiders strengths coming into this game? A good quarterback in Carson Palmer, although as an in-season pick up he is still learning about his receivers and vice versa. Third-year WR Darrius Heyward-Bey leads the team in receptions and yards, with rookie Denarius Moore not far behind; regrettably for Oakland, Moore is out for this game.

The Raiders have had a solid running game, which is fourth in the NFL, averaging just over 140 yards per game. For the most part, it consists of Michael Bush and Darren McFadden, but the latter is out for this game. Fellow running back Taiwan Jones is also out for this game, leaving Bush, Rock Cartwright (with all of two rushing attempts this season) and FB Marcel Reece to shoulder the carries. Packer fans know all-too-well that the defense sometimes has trouble tackling ball carriers. We can be thankful that McFadden is out today, as that would be a definite challenge.

The Raiders have a lot of injuries, at key positions. They are capable of putting up some points, but it won't be enough against the Packers today.

Packers notes
For the Packers, the team will once again be without RB James Starks. Look for Ryan Grant and rookie Brandon Saine to get the carries today, along with an occasional bone thrown to John Kuhn, of course. We might get to see a little more action from TEs Tom Crabtree and rookie D.J. Williams today, after Andrew Quarless was placed on IR for the season. With the loss of second-year player Quarless, the Packers lose arguably their best-blocking tight end. One of these other players will have to pick up the slack. It's also possible Williams could create some match up problems as well if he's factored into the passing game at all. But, as we all know, with the wide receiving corps the Packers have, along with TE Jermichael Finley, there are targets aplenty for QB Aaron Rodgers and match up problems galore for the Pack's opponents week in and week out.

The trick will be for the Packers O-line to protect Rodgers without, once again, starters Chad Clifton and Josh sitton. LT Marshall Newhouse had a great game against Detroit but struggled last week's against the Giants. Look for him to re-establish himself with a solid game.

Defensively, the Packers will also be without starting LB Desmond Bishop once again. A.J. Hawk is listed as questionable. D.J. Smith and Robert Francois will no doubt both see plenty of action again today. They have held up well so far. Charles Woodson is listed as probable coming off his slight concussion sustained in last week's game; in fact, he's one of the captains for today's game...not surprising since he spent the first part of his illustrious career playing for the Raiders, of course. Gotta figure he's looking for a big game against his old team.

Bottom line...
Temperatures for today's game will start in the mid-30's -- balmy for mid-December in Green Bay -- and will dip a bit as the sun goes down for the second half of the game. Conditions will be clear with low winds. In other words, it is great weather for a late afternoon/early evening winter game in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

After throwing all the variables into the Packervac 5000 Computer (Copyright/Trademark!), our prediction has the Pack beating the Raiders by a score of 41-27.

Go Pack Go!!!