Sunday afternoon’s game against the Raiders in Oakland is the little one before the two big ones. It doesn’t count any less in the standings, and Green Bay shouldn’t overlook the Raiders, but this one is a setup game. If the Packers win and the Cardinals lose, the week 16 game between Arizona and Green Bay becomes important all of a sudden. With that said, the Cardinals are unlikely to lose.
So maybe the next two games are largely meaningless. Even if the Packers drop the next two games and Minnesota wins twice (neither likely to happen) the Packers would be one game behind Minnesota with one game to play and the chance to sweep the Vikings. Unless Green Bay holds a two game lead going into week 17, the game against the Vikings will be for the NFC North title.
That’s a big deal, right? I mean, the Packers are four time defending NFC North champions. Winning the North is the ultimate sign of superiority over the Vikings, Bears and Lions, isn’t it? No. Super Bowl championships are. World Championships are, and the North stands at 13-10-0-0. The Packers have 9 NFL titles and 4 Super Bowls. Chicago with 9 NFL titles and one Bowl. That’s all that matters.
The Packers might actually put themselves in a better position to win the World Championship by losing the division. The weakest team in the NFC playoffs will undoubtedly be whoever wins the NFC East. It’s likely that the NFCE winner will have a losing record. The easiest way to the final eight is more than likely through that team. Chances are that Green Bay won’t host more than one playoff game as the three seed anyway.
These next two games probably don’t matter win/loss wise. Whether Green Bay goes 10-6 or 12-4 it’s unlikely to affect their seeding and where the playoff games that matter are played. The ONLY thing that matters is that the Packers use these next three weeks to get their team in better shape to win the Super Bowl.
Why the Packers Will Win:
The Raiders are really inconsistent and it’s likely that they don’t have anything more to play for. Oakland is a young, up-and-coming team put together by former Packers front office man Reggie McKenzie. With elite young talent like Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper and a solid young QB in Derek Carr, the Raiders are pretty good, which is certainly an upgrade from awful.
If the Packers can limit Mack’s productiveness on offense, the Raiders aren’t special on defense. In fact the Raiders are about as average on that side of the ball as you could possibly be. According to FootballOutsiders.com, Oakland is not only 16th in defensive DVOA, but 16th in run defense DVOA and 16th in pass D. The Raiders are just average.
The Packers just put 28 points on an average defense a week ago with Mike McCarthy now calling the offensive plays. The Packers had 5 scoring quality drives as one of their offensive efforts ended on 4th and 1 from the 1 yard line.
If Green bay can put together five scoring drives in Oakland, it should be pretty smooth sailing from a W/L perspective. The Packers defense is not in a place right now where it’s willing to give up 5 scores. The Raiders try to get the ball from Carr to Cooper quite a bit, but the Packers are pretty solid at #1 corner right now, whether it’s Damarious Randall or Sam Shields
Why the Raiders Will Win:
Because I don’t have any idea what’s going on in professional football right now.
In the Packers roundtable that I contribute to, which does not use the spread mind you, I think I’m barely above .500 picking the Packers games this year. I can’t get a feel for when this team is or is not going to show up.
As I’ve mentioned, the Raiders are a team with plenty of talent. I think that they’ve gotten the best two overall players from the last two drafts, despite not picking at #1 overall either time. Mack and Cooper are elite, elite talents. If Green Bay goes to Oakland and plays badly, they will lose. The Raiders are not a team that is going to give them the game.
While the Packers might not need this game from a win v. loss perspective, they need to continue to grow. McCarthy took back the play calling duties before the Dallas game because he felt it was necessary for the team’s chances at winning a title. The Packers are not the Super Bowl favorites that they were after week 6, but they are still capable of beating any team on any given Sunday.
Because I don’t believe that the Raiders will be alive for the playoffs going into Sunday’s contest I don’t think that they’re going to have anything to play for. The Packers might not need this one either, but they do need to get better. If I know Coach McCarthy, the Packers are going to play each game from here on out like a must-win. The hope has to be that the Packers, after an awful middle of the season, peak at the end. Packers 24 Raiders 20