Sunday, December 04, 2016

2016 NFL Week 13: Packers vs. Texans Preview and Prediction

The 6-5 Houston Texans make their way to what will likely be a snowy Lambeau Field today to take on the 5-6 Green Bay Packers. What to expect...other than the questionable weather, that is? Let's keep this short and sweet, shall we? Or, at least, short. Maybe.

For the first time perhaps in a season-and-a-half, the Packers put together a complete game in all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- in their win this past week at Philadelphia. That was the good news. The bad news, or concerning news anyway, is that QB Aaron Rodgers aggravated a hamstring which will likely limit his mobility and LB Clay Matthews sustained a shoulder injury on a wicked blindside block by former Packer Allen Barbre. Both have been listed as questionable for today...but do we really believe they aren't going to play? Not a chance.

With their season on the line now in literally every game, the Packers can't afford to regress to the style of play that they exhibited during their four-game losing streak. Instead, each game must be a viewed as a one-game season. Win. And win. And win. Etc. That's the Pack's only chance of making it into the playoffs: to win the NFC North, probably in a play-for-it-all game on New Year's Day at Detroit, the current division leader.

Packers undrafted rookie cornerback Makinton Dorleant
was activated off injured reserve Saturday and may see action today.

Photo by Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

While the weather conditions today, along with Rodgers' limited mobility, may affect the passing game, it's possible we might see a bit more of recently-signed running back Christine Michael. Head coach Mike McCarthy has been saying that they've been exposing him to more and more of the packages and the weather might just present an opportunity for this "explosive" back (Jordy Nelson's words, when asked to describe what Michael looks like during practice) to help the Packers grind out a victory.

One plus note for the Pack's offense comes courtesy of Houston today: DE Jadeveon Clowney was ruled out by the team because of elbow/wrist injuries. That will make David Bakhtiari's and Brian Buluga's lives so much better; Clowney, when he is not injured and is motivated, can cause havoc for an offense. But...not today. And, of course, Wisconsin's own J.J. Watt is nowhere to be found because of his early season injury. The presence of those two would have really helped the Texans in this game today.

That's not to say Houston's defense can't hold it's own. As Pete Dougherty notes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's preview of the game, "Houston has the NFL's fifth-rated defense...". They have a good pass rush, although not as great without Clowney. The have good linebackers. But given time, Rodgers should be able to exploit enough gaps in the defense to keep moving the ball and put points on the board.

The Pack's own defense, after disastrous outings during the losing streak, will need to stop Lamar Miller, the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher. They will also need to put pressure on the struggling QB Brock Osweiler. If they do so, the possibility for multiple turnovers is there.

The Prediction
The Packers are currently favored by 6-1/2 points at the time of this writing. That seems like a lot given that the Texans currently have a slightly better record than the Pack. While the weather factor should skew to the Packers favor, it will be the first time this team has had to face wintery weather conditions, too. If it impacts the Packers' passing game, the game could become a bit of a toss-up as Houston's running game is better than the Packers.

Still, we have to believe that an Aaron Rodgers-led team is better than a Brock Osweiler-led team.

We're calling it 27-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!