Thursday, December 17, 2015

Packers Win Over Cowboys; Tough Road Game Ahead In Oakland

I've been off from blogging for a little while because I've been traveling, but I did stop at Lambeau Field during that trip to watch the Green Bay Packers defeat the Cowboys. Here's a picture from my seat:

I imagine watching the game from home would have been a lot like it was at the stadium. It was frustrating because the Packers were clearly the better team (having the right side of the offensive line back made a huge difference) but they couldn't put the Cowboys away until the middle of the 4th quarter. The Cowboys's offense never showed any signs of life, other than three big runs that set up their two scoring opportunities, but most of the game was tighter than it should have been.

And that's a problem, that the Packers aren't capable at the moment of putting away teams early. At least it was an improvement over falling behind against the Bears and Lions at home before mounting a not-quite-enough comeback at the end. But the Raiders are much better (currently No. 12 overall according to Football Outsiders) than the Cowboys and QB David Carr is currently ranked ahead of QB Aaron Rodgers per FO's website.

While Cooper and Crabtree are their big name receivers, they aren't tearing it up according to FO's advance stats. It's sneaky good production from guys like WR Seth Roberts and RB Marcel Reece (as a receiver) that's been their big advantage. The Packers's secondary should match up well (even if CB Sam Shields misses it because of his concussion) because six other members of the Packers's secondary have positive grades in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus, plus LB Joe Thomas (who's become their pass coverage LB in rotation with LB Jake Ryan) makes it seven. The Raiders don't have much of a rushing attack so the Packers's suspect run defense probably won't face much of a test.

The Packers's offense has to focus on protecting Aaron Rodgers. LB Khalil Mack has been a monster this season, and is coming off a 5 sack game at Denver. His success is forcing teams to pay less attention to this teammates, and seven of them currently have positive pass rushing grades according to Pro Football Focus. If they can protect Rodgers, the offense be able to put some points on the board.

If the Packers really want to grab the two seed from the Cardinals, then they're going to have to win this tough road game against a pretty good team that still has dim playoff hopes. And then win again next week on the road against that same Cardinals team that's battling for a playoff bye. With their win against the Cowboys behind them, the last three games look like a tough road before the playoffs.

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