The Green Bay Packers return home after a rare three game road trip where they managed a 2-1 mark. They are dinged up and dealing with a plethora of injuries. This seems like the perfect time for the schedule to ease up a bit and give the Pack a break. Enter the Jacksonville Jaguars who are also limping into this game. They will be without starting RB Maurice Jones-Drew, aka MJ-D and QB Blaine Gabbert is dealing with a sore left (non throwing) shoulder. Let’s look at the key matchups in this week’s contest.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Jaguars defense
There’s not a whole lot to say here other than it’s MVP Aaron Rodgers against the 31st ranked defense in the league. . at Lambeau Field. Barring an injury or a hurricane rolling through town, I expect Rodgers to continue the tear that he is currently on: 9 TD’s, 0 INT’s and a QB rating of 140.8 in his last two games. Rodgers has found his swagger and he’s very likely to take it out on the Jags’ secondary on Sunday.
The Jaguars are giving up 264 passing yards/game. Green Bay averages 266 through the air. Don’t be surprised if Rodgers’ total is close to that mark or even a bit less. The Pack are dinged up at wide receiver and will surely be without Greg Jennings (groin) and likely won’t have Jordy Nelson (hamstring) available. I expect the Pack to try and establish the run early and work the clock. If that is the plan of attack, Rodgers likely won’t have to throw more than 25 times.
Either way, I expect to see some explosive throws come off the arm of Rodgers and it should be fun to watch.
Jaguars QB Blaine Gabbert vs. Packers defense
With Jones-Drew out, that leaves Gabbert as the key hope the Jags have on offense. The Packers have had their issues stopping the pass this season, but that was against Drew Brees and a very gifted Andrew Luck. Gabbert is neither of those two. By virtue of the number of pass attempts he has, Gabbert may put up some yards, but I hardly expect to see Jacksonville marching down the Lambeau Field turf at will.
Jags WR Laurent Robinson is dealing with a concussion and has been limited in practice this week. Gabbert has the shoulder issue. It won’t be an easy task for Jacksonville to have a ton of success against a Packer defense that is still very opportunistic. Gabbert’s accuracy will be one of the big storylines this week. Any lack thereof will surely mean the ball headed the other direction in the hands of the guys in Green & Gold.
If the Packers build an early lead, as expected, the Jags will be forced to throw and keep up. While the Packers will be without S Charles Woodson, they have benefited from very solid play from CB Casey Hayward. You can’t replace a Charles Woodson, but Hayward is an excellent alternative. The Pack will also likely utilize CB Jarrett Bush and a combination of M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian at safety. It should be a good opportunity for the young guys to gain some valuable experience. I’ll be surprised if the Packers come out of this game without a pick or two.
Packers RB Alex Green vs. Jaguars front seven
If this isn’t the week Green becomes the Packers’ first 100-yard rusher since James Starks did it vs. Philadelphia in the 2011 playoffs, then it may not happen for a 2nd season in a row. The last Packers RB to have 100 yards in a game in the regular season was Ryan Grant in December 2009. We all know the Packers are a pass-first team. The offensive success falls on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. But in a game like this with a favorable matchup in the run game, the Packers would be wise to feed Green and give Rodgers’ arm a break. Fat chance, I know, but someone had to suggest it!
There has been a lot of talk about the Packers needing more balance as a team. A successful outing on the ground in this week can be a springboard to carrying that success into ensuing games. The Jags are giving up 147 yards/game on the ground and Green has showed an ability to elude would-be tacklers and pick up some yards. Anything close to the century mark for Green on Sunday would be considered a huge accomplishment for this offense, Jacksonville or not.
Jaguars RB Rashad Jennings vs. Packers defense
When MJ-D went down last week at Oakland, Jennings came in and ran 21 times and had a rushing TD. He’s no Jones-Drew but he will be called on to try and control the clock and keep the Jags offense on the field as long as possible. It’s likely the best defense the Jaguars have against Aaron Rodgers. It is also a big key to Jacksonville having any sort of success against the Packers on Sunday. Easier said than done but much like how Green Bay has addressed their injuries this season, it’s the next man up in the Jacksonville offensive backfield.
Woodson is out and is one of the better Packer defenders against the run. M.D. Jennings and McMillian will have to fill that role in run support. McMillian is said to be strong in that area and this could be a week when he gets the chance to flash those skills.
Jaguars offensive line vs. Packers front seven
It would be ideal if the Packers secondary didn’t need to get too involved and the front seven could dominate at the point of attack. I give the guys up front a chance to have one of their better games this week. Even if nose tackle BJ Raji is inactive, the Packers should have success pushing the line back and disrupting both the running and passing lanes.
Rookie defensive end Jerel Worthy has been stout against the run thus far and he should be licking his chops at the chance to be dominant in front of the home crowd. Mike Daniels will see extended time with Raji likely out and to spell Ryan Pickett. CJ Wilson may start at right end and needs to have a solid outing to keep himself at the top of the D line rotation.
The Jags’ O line has surrendered 18 sacks this season. They will have the daunting task of going on the road and facing Packers OLB’s Clay Matthews, Erik Walden and the various blitz packages defensive coordinator Dom Capers will likely throw at them. With a sputtering offense, I don’t favor the Jags too much in this matchup. If the Packers DB’s can cover up and force Gabbert to have to extend plays, the front seven should get home a time or two and help get the defense off the field.
Jaguars OT Eugene Monroe vs. Packers OLB Clay Matthews
Just hear me out. Even I’m rolling my eyes at the fact that I am once again featuring Matthews against the opposition’s left tackle. And then Matthews moves around so much that he doesn’t go up against that player one-on-one very often. The reason it makes the list this week is because Monroe is Jacksonville’s best offensive lineman. He’s their best chance to neutralize the right side of the Packers’ pass rush. If he struggles, it may be a short day for the Jags’ offensive starters.
With that in mind, Capers is likely to keep Matthews on the move and stunt to avoid Monroe. If it proves successful, it could be a long day for Gabbert and the Jags’ O line. This is a game where Matthews and his enthusiasts are probably licking their chops and hoping for a big day. With any increase in protection to Matthews’ side, it should open up opportunities on the left side where OLB Erik Walden will be lurking.
Welcome home, boys!——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: