Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014 NFL Week 2: Packers vs. Jets Preview

First, let's toss out the records from Week 1 of the 2014 NFL Season as we consider today's game at Lambeau Field between the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets. The Packers lost at Seattle to the defending Super Bowl Champions and the Jets won at home against a bad Oakland team. We can also throw out the fact that in head-to head competition, the Jets lead the series 8 to 3. Yes, really.

The Packers need a balanced offensive attack today, something that really wasn't clicking in the opener against the Seahawks. That means the offensive line needs to protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers so that he can work his magic. Rodgers needs to get time to get to all of his receivers, over the middle and downfield.

It also means, hopefully, that Bryan Bulaga is able to start and play the entire game at right tackle. If he's unable to go with his reportedly torn MCL knee in a brace, that means third-stringer Derrick Sherrod will be tasked with performing far better than he did last game. His lack of foot speed, inability to get low and sustain blocks was a continual problem against Seattle's defense, leading in one glaring instance to a strip of the ball on Rodgers resulting in a safety. Given the very good three-man line the Jets will be bringing today, along with their linebackers, having to rely on Sherrod would not be a good thing. Let's hope Bulaga can play and play at a high level. The alternatives on an already-thin offensive line for the Packers are not many or great.

The offensive line will also need to create some openings for running backs Eddie Lacy, James Starks and DuJuan Harris. Lacy was held to less than 40 yards in the Seattle game on 12 carries before leaving with a concussion. Starks was actually the leading rusher for the Packers.

Balance. Balance.

As to the defense, as any Packer fan who watched the Seattle game is aware, it was a major disappointment considering all the preparation and changes that supposedly went into preparing for this season and that game. It looked like the same defense we've seen the last few seasons: missed tackles, lack of pressure, etc. It's time for this defense to show up and actually be a more physical unit just as they said they would be. Head Coach Mike McCarthy indicated that there was a real emphasis this week on fundamentals, especially tackling. What a concept!

There will also have to be better performance by the middle linebackers this week. Granted, going against Russell Wilson and his weapons is not the same as having to face Geno Smith and his crew. But if the Packers defense doesn't step up its performance, anything can happen.

One thing that won't happen this game is an appearance by middle linebacker Brad Jones. He was ruled out by injury. In his place, Jamari Lattimore will get the start. Lattimore has shown promise, but was hindered by a mystery illness last season. Now he gets the chance to show what he can bring as a healthy starter, and to hear McCarthy talk this week it sounds as if he and others on the coaching staff are hoping Lattimore seizes the opportunity. They need better performance over the middle and Lattimore has the potential to up the ante. Let's see what happens.

The Prediction
We could go on and on about this and that. But isn't that what pre-game TV is for?

Depending upon who you are looking at, the Packers are either 7-1/2 or 8-point favorites for this game. I think the Packers offense, at home, should get things rolling, at least eventually, against a very good Jets defense. I also think the Packers defense is a work in progress...still. That means an upgraded Jets offense will score points. But Rodgers and the offense will win the day...and the game.

We're calling this 34-24 in favor of the Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!