With a playoff berth on the horizon, the Packers head to the West Coast to take on the Raiders in a Super Bowl II rematch. But 48 years later, the two teams are incredible different. The Packers are consistently one of the best teams in the NFL while the Raiders have been bottom feeders for the better part of a decade.
But outside of record, each team has been bucking their own expectations. For the Raiders, it has been a positive year as they have taken quickly to new coach Jack Del Rio. Beyond that, young players like Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Khalil Mack have taken big leaps as they adjust to the NFL.
For the Packers, it has been the opposite. They sit at 9-4, but something still seems off. The offense has struggled to gel due to a plethora of injuries sapping the skill positions as well as the line recently. But the defense has been a huge bright spot, carrying the team for the past couple of months. They sit at 6th in points per game, and against a dangerous but still rebuilding team like Oakland, that might be enough. Which brings us to this weeks edition of 3…2…1…
For those of you who are new, please feel free to go into my archives to read past countdowns, and keep up with reading this series as the season goes on. For those who are consistent readers, feel free to skip down to the next subheading. But 3…2…1… is a series in which I will countdown ways for the Packers to win their game each week. I will highlight 3 key matchups, make 2 bold predictions, and then focus on 1 key stat. So let’s dig into it.
3 KEY MATCHUPS
- Quinten Rollins vs Michael Crabtree
- Amari Cooper has been limited, and while he has been exceptional as a rookie it has been Crabtree who has been the most dangerous. The former 49er and Texas Tech standout has been phenomenal around the goal line and has shown to be a weapon for Derek Carr. The hands that were called the best in the draft when he came into the NFL have found their way in Oakland and he needs to be kept in check for the Packers to win. The chore will likely fall to Rollins, who will take over the other corner spot with Sam Shields out. Damarious Randall will take Cooper most likely, leaving Crabtree for Rollins and occasionally Casey Hayward.
- BJ Raji vs Troy Bergstrom
- Oakland’s starting center, Rodney Hudson, is currently doubtful with an ankle injury, leaving backup Bergstrom to take the job this week. He has already started 3 games, but the center is the linchpin of the offensive line as far as chemistry and leadership goes, which could be an issue for Derek Carr. BJ Raji has had a solid bounce-back season but needs to show up like he did late in 2010. He has an easier test than anticipated and he can collapse the pocket and cause some havoc in the backfield.
- Aaron Rodgers vs Charles Woodson
- Charles Woodson is the ageless vet who has done it all. Packer fans have so many fond memories of what he can do, but that also leads into a trap. We all know firsthand how dangerous he is, and so does Aaron Rodgers. Wood met one goal earlier this year when he picked off Peyton Manning, and you better believe he wants to take one from A-Rod as well. He is the best in the NFL at baiting quarterbacks and isn’t afraid to lay a hit either. Outside of Khalil Mack, he has to be the top priority that Aaron is looking to find before every play.
2 BOLD PREDICTIONS
- Both rookie corners record interceptions
- This is something that is a long time coming. Both have exceeded the expectations given to them after the draft and have been solid to very good the entire year. And this is the week where we see the future of the Packers secondary. With both likely in the lineup on the outside, both will get chance to get the ball. Derek Carr does take some risks, trusting his arm strength and his receivers too much at times. And with the ball skills of Randall and Rollins, that could be a momentous event in this game.
- Jared Abbrederis leads the team in receiving yards
- Notice I did not say anything about receptions. That will go to Randall Cobb. But with Davante Adams looking less and less likely to play this week due to a leg injury, Abbrederis will likely get more chances in the offense and he already has the trust of Rodgers. With a bigger commitment to the running game, there will likely be a couple more shots down the field against a weaker Raiders secondary, and Abbrederis will likely be the main guy. He has shown himself to be able to get behind safeties in his limited time and has a knack for getting deep.
1 KEY STAT
- Missed tackles
- Both teams will want to run the ball with Eddie Lacy and Latavius Murray. And if either team gets it going on the ground it will be a long day for the opposing defense. That is where the issue of making sound tackles will be key. Both teams have shown better ability as the year has gone on to wrap up and bring the ball carrier to the ground. Whoever can bring down the ball carrier on the first hit the most has the best chance of winning. Extra yards leads to extra scores and extra time on the field, and both teams know this. Look for more fundamentals and less of the bone-crunching hits.
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.