As a displaced Packers fan, I have to say that I was very sad when I saw the schedule come out and this game was the opener. I don’t fear the Florida heat. The forecast is in the low 90s. Green Bay practied plenty a day in training camp within a 5 or 6 degree threshold of that.
I was sad, because as some of you that follow me may know I have deep ties to North Dakota State University, and Jacksonville’s head coach Gus Bradley is an NDSU alum. Also, it is very cold here in the winter. A November or December getaway to sunny Florida would have been choice.
Alas, the game is on Sunday, and the Packers will open up the season against an up and coming Jaguars squad. No winter vacation to be had.
I wrote last week about the excitement level of not just any new season, but this new season specifically. I was excited because the Packers brought back all of the starters from the 2014 offense and featured a potentially improved version of the 2015 defense.
That’s no longer the case. Green Bay released Josh Sitton in the final group of cut-downs and it is now apparent that Corey Linsley isn’t quite going to make it back in time for the start of the season, either. Lane Taylor will start in Sitton’s spot and get at least a 6 week head start on solidifying himself as a starter on the offensive line. If he’s capable of doing that he becomes a heckuva bargain. Taylor comes with a cap hit of less than $3 million for each of the next two seasons.
Let’s dive in:
Why the Packers will win: They’re the better football team. Even with Josh Sitton gone, this is an offense that should be very impressive. The additions of Jordy Nelson and Jared Cook with the slimmer Eddie Lacy should allow that side of the ball to operate efficiently. Not only that, but the program has shifted back into having Mike McCarthy at the head of it. The synergy of the McCarthy-Rodgers offense cannot be understated.
The Packers offense will look to utilize matchups on offense to win on that side of the ball. Davon House and Prince Amukamara don’t have the Packers receivers shaking in their boots, so the manner in which Jacksonville utilizes rookie wunderkind Jalen Ramsey will be very important. Jacksonvilles “Middle 5” (all three LBs and the Safeties) are good run defenders, but not guys that scare me tremendously in the pass game. Look for the Packers to unveil Jared Cook in this one.
The other thing to remember is just how well Packers fans travel to games in Florida and Arizona. Yes, it’s September, but the Jaguars still aren’t a home team that’s going to shut out Packers fans. Don’t be surprised to hear a vocal minority of Packers fans, maybe in a 35/65 split.
Why the Jaguars will win: They have a lot of talent at the skill positions. Blake Bortles may not yet be polished, but he certainly is talented. Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson are as good of a trio of young wideouts as you’ll find and Julius Thomas is determined to rediscover his Denver success. This offense could potentially get in a shootout with Rodgers if Green Bay’s defense struggles to adjust.
Speaking of adjustments, there is no question that the Packers have some moving parts on defense. Casey Hayward is gone. The Packers, for the first time in a long time, are going to decide who plays inside cornerback based on matchups, instead of just having a slot cornerback play in the same spot all the time. Quentin Rollins and Casey Hayward provide that versatility.
There is certainly a world in which Jordy Nelson isn’t quite assimilated back into the offense and the Ryan/Martinez combo starts out slow and the Jaguars win in a shootout.
Bottom line: Before Teddy Bridgewater got hurt I saw a lot of intelligent Packers internet people/taking head etc. saying that this team could start out 0-2. A common theme was that they could go down to Jacksonville and lose because the Jaguars are now “no joke”. Since when do the Green Bay Packers lose to other teams because they’re “no joke”? It’s easy to underestimate this year’s team because of last year’s 4-6 finish. Everything that could go wrong last season with the exception of Rodgers getting hurt did go wrong. It’s not going to happen again this year. It’s time to remember that this is an elite program. Time to understand that there’s a reason the Packers are a popular national pick to win it all. Packers fans have seen too many playoff losses lately and are too close to it. This win might remind them. Packers 34 Jaguars 23