The Arizona Cardinals continued to find a way to win last night, despite playing a red hot St. Louis Rams team and losing their second quarterback of the season to a knee injury. Despite being beat up in a 2012 Packers type of way the Cardinals are grinding out wins in an effort to maintain their status as the #1 seed. As far as I’m concerned this is both a good thing and a bad thing. The focus of the Green Bay Packers must stay razor sharp.
If the Packers win on Sunday, and they should, and the Cowboys lose on Sunday, and they should the Packers will qualify for the playoffs. That’s not really what this is all about, though. This team has proven that with its current construction it is a brilliant home team. The goal for this team has to be the #1 seed. That goal as far as I’m concerned is still in front of them because as impressed as I am by the Cardinal’s resilience I really don’t believe they can run the Seattle/San Francisco table with Ryan Lindley.
The fact that Green Bay has to continue to win is a good thing. We all remember how the team coasted in to the playoffs in 2011 and how short that post season was. Selfishly as a man that predicted that this team would go 13-3 I appreciate the pressure to win every game that still exists.
Many people have pointed to this game as the Packers last opportunity to lose a game before the postseason. Tampa might be the worst team in football. When the Lions last won in Wisconsin the original George Bush was in office and I was 3 years old wearing a dish cloth around my neck pretending to be Batman. The Bills are a scrappy 7-6 and their defense is elite. They are the type of team that Green Bay could hand in a C- and lose to. Hopefully the Cardinals win on Thursday and the Lions easy remaining schedule (vs. Vikings, @Bears) will continue to press the Packers into being efficient.
Why the Packers Will Win: To state the obvious because at the end of the day this game pits Kyle Orton vs. Aaron Rodgers in a must-win game. Orton is a serviceable (but nothing more) starter and a top notch backup. With that said, Aaron Rodgers is playing the quarterback position unlike anyone has ever played it before. His TD/INT ratio this season is a mind blowing 35/3. THIRTY EFFING FIVE TO EFFING THREE! If the defense can’t get a rush (and most can’t against this pass pro unit) he sits and waits forever until someone’s open. If they blitz he rolls out and carves them up. If they play man and turn their backs to him he runs for an 18 yard gain and slides. Since his injury in New Orleans the man has been indefinsible. Besides Rodgers himeslf, the Packers greatest offensive strength (pass protection) should neutralize the strength of the Bills team, their pass rush with a league leading 48 sacks.
On defense the Packers will not have quite the test they had last week. Young Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods are very good young talents (and I’d take either of them on the Packers in a heartbeat, both were huge draft crushes of mine) but they are no Julio Jones. Kyle Orton is no Matt Ryan. The Buffalo Bills are 25th in offensive DVOA. The Packer will play a lot of 8 man boxes with Morgan Burnett playing the run and dare Orton to beat them. In a lot of ways it’s going to be up to the Packers outside corners to take care of Woods and Watkins in order to make this a successful day for the defense.
Why the Bills Will Win: I think you can throw the “let down” game out the window. The Packers are past their win against the Patriots and moreover had a subpar performance in their win against Atlanta. The Bills are going to get 100% of the Packers and that makes the upset unlikely. The Bills don’t have an offense that can keep up with Aaron Rodgers, and they are not a team that can play from behind. They don’t lose close games. The Bills’ average margin of loss this season is 9.5 points.
What they do have is the way to beat any elite passing offense. The Bills can get pressure with 4. Jerry Hughes, Marcel Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams are all very good players, and more importantly very good pass rushers. As I have stated, the Green Bay Packers probably have the very finest pass protection unit in all of football but if they break down in the way that they did against Seattle and Detroit early in the season the offense is going to have trouble. If the offense struggles, I’m not 100% sure that the team is in a place where the defense can win them a game.
Bottom Line: The Buffalo Bills are 7-6 but they only have 2 victories over teams with winning records. Green Bay only has 3 such victories but I would say that the Eagles, Patriots and Dolphins are a more impressive list than the Lions and Dolphins. Buffalo has two losses against the NFL’s cream of the crop, Denver and New England. They were able to hold Denver to 24 points in a losing effort last week, but Denver is beat up, their offensive line isn’t very good and at age 38, Peyton Manning is no Aaron Rodgers. As a team, Green Bay is much closer to the New England team (re: a little bit better than the New England team) that laid 37-22 waste to the Bills in Buffalo earlier this season. I’m not predicting a spread of 15 like that game was but this will not be a one score game. Buffalo has nothing to play for and Green Bay everything. Packers 30 Bills 20 (season predictions: 12-1)