2012 NFL Regular Season Week 8: Packers vs Jaguars Preview
The Green Bay Packers seem to be on a roll.
One week after their statement victory over the Houston Texans, the Packers followed it up with a 30-20 win over the improved St. Louis Rams. Aaron Rodgers continued his recent hot streak, going 30 of 37 for 342 yards and three touchdowns. The offense seemingly has emerged from doldrums it was in early in the season.
This week, the Packers go into a game that by all signs appears to be a cakewalk against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars very likely will go into the game without their star running back Maurice Jones-Drew and their improving but still struggling starting quarterback Blaine Gabbert. In their places will be Rashad Jennings at running back and Chad Henne at quarterback.
The Packers come into the game without Greg Jennings and perhaps without Jordy Nelson, who is nursing a hamstring injury. This would leave a receiver group of James Jones, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver and Jarrett Boykin. The Packers will also not have Charles Woodson on defense who will be out for six weeks with a broken collarbone.
Scouting the Jaguars
On paper, it looks like the Jaguars don’t have a fighting chance against the Packers but it’s still the NFL. They still have to play the games and anything can happen.
With Henne likely at quarterback, it bears revisiting that Henne beat the Packers at Lambeau Field in 2010 when he was with the Miami Dolphins. Yes, he had Brandon Marshall at receiver but Henne also took care of the ball and didn’t cost the Dolphins a chance to win the game. Sometimes that’s the best an underdog can hope for from a mediocre quarterback.
Rashad Jennings has 34 carries for 90 yards and one touchdown. He’s definitely no MJD and the Jaguars will definitely miss him more than they will miss Gabbert.
At receiver, the Jaguars hoped Justin Blackmon would be the next superstar receiver in the AFC South when they selected him with the fifth pick in this spring’s NFL Draft. So far, not so good for Blackmon. 14 catches for 126 yards and zero touchdowns. Maybe he will have some better luck with a veteran like Henne throwing the ball, but so far it seems like Blackmon is in the running for poorest performance by a top five draft pick.
Defensively, the Jaguars are just as bad. They reached for defensive end Tyson Alualu in the 2010 draft and he only combined for six sacks in his first two seasons. He has one sack so far in 2012. The rest of the defensive line is just awful so if Alex Green is going to have a breakout game, this one is a prime candidate.
The rest of the defense isn’t much better. They’re a team that rarely blitzes and doesn’t disguise blitzes too well. This could be another huge day for Rodgers and company.
Keys to a Packers victory
-Don’t take the Jaguars for granted
Yes, they are terrible. But the Packers so far have had trouble putting bad teams away or even simply winning the game against them. They blow out the Texans yet lose to the likes of the Colts and Seahawks (controversial call aside)? They almost let the Rams back into the game last week as well.
Keep the foot on the gas and stick the knife in and then twist it. Please, no more prevent offense (yes, offense) or soft zone on defense. Decapitate a team for once.
-Spread the ball around, even to Driver
No Greg Jennings and no Nelson? No problem. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
Jones so far has had a breakout season much like Nelson had last year, and Cobb is turning into quite the explosive weapon for the Packers. This isn’t to say Jennings and Nelson are replaceable, but the Packers have enough talent at receiver to not miss a beat on offense. Oh, and having that Rodgers guy throwing the ball sure helps too.
This could be the last big game we could see from Driver. He should see the most playing time he has seen all season should Nelson be out on Sunday. There’s no reason to believe he still doesn’t have a little something left in the tank and what better place than Lambeau Field to have Driver put the icing on one of the greatest careers in Packer history.
-Be aggressive on defense
The Packers need to blitz for a full sixty minutes. As I mentioned earlier, no more soft zone defense with a 14 point lead in the third quarter please.
Henne is not that good of a quarterback. The Packers defense can make him look silly. It’s just up to Capers to make sure the pressure stays on Henne throughout the game. They cannot let him look like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady back there.
Packers 31, Jaguars 21
I am not calling a runaway Packers victory for one reason: they are either unwilling or unable to put bad teams away.
Until I see the Packers mash the accelerator for a full game, I will have my doubts. Rodgers will be stellar as always and the wide receivers won’t miss Nelson too much, but the defense once again goes soft leaving this game a little in doubt until the early-to-mid fourth quarter.
Regardless, the Packers move to 5-3 and continue rolling as they play their final game before the bye next week against the Arizona Cardinals.——————
Kris Burke is a freelance sports writer currently residing in Wisconsin. His work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke