Monday, December 21, 2015

Packers Clinch Playoff Berth, and Then Defeat The Raiders in Oakland, 30-20

Shortly after the Packers' game started in Oakland, the Giants came up short of an amazing comeback against the Panthers and their loss clinched a playoff spot for the Packers. With their win in Oakland, the Packers still have a one game advantage for the NFC North title over the Vikings, and a chance to earn themselves a bye in the playoffs if they win out (at Arizona, home for the Vikings).

I'd expect Arizona will be playing all their starters next week, though they've clinched their division. Cards HC Bruce Arians never seems to take his foot off of his team's gas pedal for any reason. I know we're getting close to the end of the season, but things can still change drastically from week-to-week. The Packers have made the playoffs, and I'm sure they'll be playing to win next week in Arizona, but it won't be a tragedy if they fall short. Arizona's been great all season long and playing them in Arizona during the playoffs won't be any easier than playing them in Lambeau.

But I can't see how the Packers would win the NFC North without beating the Vikings in Week 17. The Vikings play the Giants next Sunday, and the Giants might have nothing left to play for if Washington wins next Saturday. Meanwhile, the Vikings are still looking to win the division. They'll have to beat the Vikings if they want either the bye or a home playoff game.

Not that having home field is a necessity. They didn't need it when they last won the Super Bowl.

As for the game, I'm probably in the minority but it was a good win. QB Derek Carr was ranked ahead of QB Aaron Rodgers by Football Outsiders before the game, and the Packers pressured him into two terrible first quarter interceptions. Though the defense has often struggled this season, they were very good at almost everything in this game except covering WR Amari Cooper, who caught a late first half touchdown on a blown coverage (I think CB Casey Hayward was supposed to run with him but it was hard to tell since neither him nor Demetrius Randall made a move towards Cooper) and he had a third quarter touchdown when he just beat Randall down the sideline. But then shortly after Cooper's second TD reception, the Raiders matched the Packers' earlier blown coverage with their own blown coverage and the Packers never trailed again.
The Raiders had no offense in the fourth quarter, the Packers' defense did a really good job of applying pressure and in coverage, and it didn't matter that the Packers' offense stalled too (other than a 92 yard drive that stretched from the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter). It was a very inconsistent game (again) for the offense but winning by 10 points on the road to an improving Raiders team is not a gimme, and a necessity if they still have hopes of moving up in the playoff standings.

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