Sunday, October 28, 2012

Packers vs. Jaguars preview and prediction

Despite perhaps having more players injured than at any time since 2010, a beat-up Green Bay Packers team has a few things going in its favor today: they are playing at home for the first time in nearly a month, and the 1-5 Jacksonville Jaguars are the opponent.

Now, in any given game...blah blah blah. If this is that kind of game, Packer fans, we should all fill our pockets with rocks and walk into the nearest body of water available. The Packers are favored by 15 points at the time of this writing. Yowza! Oddsmakers don't just lay out that kind of spread for no reason.

Jags' offensive woes
So what might at least one of those reasons be? How about second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert? Since trading a second round pick in the 2011 draft to Washington for the right to move up from the No. 16 to No. 10 slot to pick the Missouri QB, and giving him the starting role in game 3 last season, Gabbert and the Jags have gone 5-15. He isn't very likely to run although can when flushed from the pocket, but he is more of a pocket passer. There are questions as to whether he sees the pass rush well. He was also struggling this week with a shoulder problem sustained in last weekend's game. All in all, this should set the Packers up for a sack marathon today.

Now, LT Eugene Monroe is regarded as the Jags' best O-lineman. Generally, we can expect LB Clay Matthews to be lined up against him most of the day. It will be a good match up on athleticism but Matthews strength and speed give him the definite advantage in this match up. As for the rest of the Jacksonville offensive line...well, if the Packers don't pick up more than a handful of sacks today something is very wrong.

As for the Jags' offensive weapons, there aren't many. Rookie WR Justin Blackmon hasn't shown much yet depsite being a No. 5 overall draft pick. But the biggest blow to the Jaguars' offense was the loss last Sunday of RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who suffered a major foot injury. He will be replaced by Rashad Jennings who is just an average running back at best.

The Jags have scored 88 points in the six games they've played so far. Their one win on the season came in Week 3 when they beat the Colts in Indianapolis, 22-17 (there's that "In any given game..." thing again!). The Jaguars' offense ranks dead last in points scored, passing yards, and total yards gained. Its defense ranks near the bottom in all related categories.

Without the threat of a legitimate running game, a so-so offensive line, an average set of receivers, and a second-year QB who is still trying to figure out the pro game and will be under pressure all day, the Jags are justifiably two-touchdown-plus underdogs coming into Lambeau Field.

Packers problems today
The biggest problems the Packers will have today are themselves, namely in the way of injuries. WR Greg Jennings is out for an undetermined length of time as he has opted to have surgery for his lingering groin problem. FB John Kuhn is out today with a hamstring problem. LB Nick Perry is out with a knee injury sustained in last week's game, as are CB Sam Shields (ankle) and CB/S Charles Woodson with a broken collarbone. WR Jordy Nelson is listed as questionable with a hamstring problem that developed during the course of this week; my guess is he will not play today. On the positive front, the Packers will see NT B.J. Raji return to the D-line...that's a great thing for the Pack and not so great for whoever is across the line from him.

The injuries to the linebacking corps, defensive backfield, and receivers open up opportunities for other players to step in. I think that will be very much the case today for the Pack. This squad is nothing if not deep. The depth of the Packers backups, combined with the skill of the starters, will be more than enough to handle the Jaguars. And, of course, there is also Aaron Rodgers. 'Nuff said.

I'm calling this one Packers 41 - Jaguars 13.

Say it with me: Go Pack Go!!!