At 5-0 and with the bye week just around the corner, the timing couldn’t be much better for the Packers. Injuries have hit in some key areas the past couple of weeks as BJ Raji and Nick Perry are both listed as “doubtful” for this week’s game against San Diego. But, as has been the trend during the past 7 or so years in Green Bay, the depth is up to the challenge.
Part of being a successful draft-and-develop team means that your bench can step in and contribute immediately if someone goes down. And this week it will be Letroy Guion and Mike Pennel on the defensive line and Jayrone Elliott and Mike Neal at outside linebacker. Those four guys have shown exemplary flashes during their time this season and they will all make an impact Sunday afternoon.
But as we approach kickoff, it’s time for this week’s edition of 3…2…1…
For those of you reading this for the first time, I will be counting down 3 key matchups, 2 bold predictions, and 1 key stat that the Packers need to control to win. Last week I was pretty successful in everything except who would get the interceptions. I called Nate Palmer but the secondary took charge. But that’s in the past. Let’s look at the Packers versus the Chargers in 3…2…1…
3 KEY MATCHUPS
- Eddie Lacy vs. Donald Butler
- It’s not a well-kept secret that Eddie Lacy still isn’t near 100% yet after his ankle injury, and that has closed up a lot of the options for the Packers offense. Lacy, when healthy, opens a lot of things up for Aaron Rodgers and the receivers, but lately defenses haven’t had to commit toward stopping the run. With one more week before the bye, I expect Tom Clements to lean on Lacy at times to drive this offense forward. The Chargers were respectable against the run, but Donald Butler and his guys struggled at times. Butler was the guy who fell just short of stopping Le’Veon Bell at the goal line Monday night and he is the leader of that linebacking core.
- Randall Cobb vs. Jason Verrett
- A lot people were calling the matchup Cobb vs. Flowers, but it’s likely Verrett who will draw the Packers swiss army knife. Flowers is a big, physical corner who is best suited to cover James Jones while Verrett is an undersized, feisty slot guy right now who should be very well versed in the moves of Randall. The second year guy out of TCU has looked dynamite so far his season and if he can neutralize Cobb than the defense is in great shape.
- Danny Woodhead vs Packers Linebackers
- Melvin Gordon is the story as he returns home to face the Packers but he is still learning. A running back like Danny Woodhead can cause headaches on a defense that is nursing its wounds and hoping to get healthy over the bye. A smart, instinctive runner, Woodhead shows better agility than expected and is a weapon as a runner and a receiver. It will be up to guys like Nate Palmer, Clay Matthews, and Jake Ryan to slow him down and make him a non-factor.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- Eddie Lacy runs for 120 yards
- To be successful, this offense needs a running game as I stated earlier. And this is the perfect week to get that going. San Diego’s defense isn’t as big or as sound tackling as a team like St. Louis or even San Francisco. They’re built on speed and swarming the ball. If Lacy can get through the initial guy, he can gash this team for big chunks of yards. I look for a repeat of what he did in his final game at Alabama against Manti Te’o and Notre Dame.
- The Defensive Line gets 3 sacks
- This one seems like a cop out as the Packers are currently second in sacks, but a lot of those come from linebackers. Matthews, Perry, and Julius Peppers are all at 3.5 or greater. With San Diego’s limping offensive line, I look for big days from Datone Jones, Mike Daniels, and Letroy Guion rushing the passers. I predict that Jones will get 2 and Daniels and Guion will either split one or get one each.
1 KEY STAT
- Penalties and Penalty Yardage
- The Packers have been pretty disciplined this season, but there have been stretches where the yellow hankerchiefs have really hurt the team, especially on offense. However, it has been balanced out by the uncanny knack of Rodgers and his receivers of drawing flags of their own. If the Packers can cut down on the penalties, especially the holding calls that have hurt them, they can win this game easily. Look for under 60 yard in penalties and a 6-0 record heading into the bye.
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.