Saturday, October 19, 2013

Week 7: Packers vs. Browns Preview

This week has been a pretty uneventful one for the Green Bay Packers. No...wait...other way around, sorry: it's been a very eventful week for the Pack. It could cause more than a few Packer fans to get...nervous.
After all, the Packers lost two of their starting receivers in the win against the Ravens, James Jones and Randall Cobb, for varying amounts of time. It was hoped that Jones might be able to play this weekend but he did not practice during the week and is listed as questionable for the game. Randall Cobb, well, he's out longer. A lot longer. He was placed on the injured reserve list with a "designated to return" classification. He won't be back till mid-December at the earliest. (Be positive: it will be for the stretch run!)

So the receiving corps -- one of the best in the league at the start of the season -- was down to basically Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin. As a result, the Packers promoted practice squad WR Myles White to the active roster earlier in the week. They also claimed 49ers wide receiver Chris Harper off of waivers a day ago, so don't expect to see him this week. But GM Ted Thompson wasn't done yet. He also promoted TE Jake Stoneburner from the practice squad. With TE Ryan Taylor out, Brandon Bostick will also be getting some playing time. QB Aaron Rodgers will have plenty of targets to throw to. The key will be how many of them are able to make catches and make plays.

Thankfully, the Packers have a running game this season. With Eddie Lacy as the main man, and Johnathan Franklin available (James Starks is out), and the with offensive line playing like they actually like to run the ball, a balanced offensive attack is just what the doctor ordered for this game against the Browns.

Let's not forget the Packers defense, which has been equally hit by injuries. With four of the team's top linebackers now out for varying periods of time -- Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Nick Perry and Mike Neal -- and veteran backup Robert Francois done for the season, young players are going to have to step up. Rookies Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer will be called upon to fill the gap -- literally. We can only hope that A.J. Hawk continues his outstanding play because he is going to be needed more than ever.

What else? Well, with Randall Cobb now out of the picture rookie CB Micah Hyde will take over the punt return duties.

If you seem to be picking up a youth theme among these changes you are correct. As the article by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, the Packers' "53-man roster now has 14 rookies, including six who were not drafted. At a minimum, the Packers will have seven rookies on their 46-man game-day roster against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Lambeau Field."

Game Prediction
The Packers are 3-2 and the Browns are 3-3. The Packers are favored by 10 points at the time of this post. The Packers pass production could be down because of the loss of Jones and Cobb...those are guys that are difficult to replace in production. Expect coach Mike McCarthy to use Jermichael Finley as a third wideout in some sets. But if Lacy can have a 100-yard day -- and there is no reason to think he won't -- that will take pressure off the passing game.

Note that we haven't said much here about the Browns. It's not that they don't pose a threat because, given the Pack's beat-up status, they do. It's just that if they do what they need to do -- especially on the defensive side of things -- the Pack will come out on top. If memory serves, the Browns haven't yet surpassed 17 points in any of their three losses. If the Pack can hold them to 17, the Pack will win.

So, let's make the call: Packers 27 - Browns 17.

Go Pack Go!!!