With two of the next three games and three of the final eight contests against the AFC South division, the Green Bay Packers will receive interesting tests from a few teams that they do not commonly face.
Having already played the hapless Houston Texans, their 35-20 win in Week 7 was not too tough of a battle, something that cannot be said for upcoming games against the Indianapolis Colts (Nov. 22) and the Tennessee Titans (Dec. 27). Their Week 10 affair against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Green Bay looks to be a bit one-sided in the favor of the Packers, but that outlook is exactly what caused this team to fall to the struggling Minnesota Vikings in Lambeau to open the month of November.
Starting with the Colts, this contest (which was recently flexed to the 3:25 slate on Fox) will pit one of the stingiest defenses against one of the more high-powered offensive attacks. Veteran gunslingers Aaron Rodgers and Phillip Rivers will matchup in different situations, as the Colts are very much trying to figure out if they are defensively-reliant or if their struggling offense can figure out what they need to do to help out.
On the flip side, Rodgers and the offense obviously have been running at full speed ahead, even with injuries and COVID positivity diagnoses stretching their depth chart thin at times. The rushing attacks will be the biggest areas to watch for both of these offenses though, as both rookie Jonathan Taylor for the Colts and Aaron Jones for Green Bay rely on their stout OL units to pave the way for big days.
For Taylor, his rookie campaign has been a bit up and down, as the former Badger has enjoyed a ton of success early on but has been replaced by both Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines in certain situations, and with Taylor being strip-six’d by the Baltimore Ravens last week, he may have lost a few chances to re-earn his spot at the top of the pecking order. But their RB stable is exactly what needs to surround Rivers, as he loves to target his running backs in the passing game, so the multitude of formidable options is a great tool for the IND offense to utilize.
Jones returned for Green Bay against the 49ers on Thursday Night Football and shared touches with Tyler Ervin, who reverted back to the RB group for some snaps with Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon being on the COVID list (Dillon tested positive, Williams was deemed a close contact but did not test positive). Looking like the stout back that had led the GB backfield since last year, Jones was a big part of the gameplan in a one-sided contest that thankfully favored Green Bay.
The Colts defense has been one of the stoutest units across the board this year, buoyed by Darius Leonard and DeForrest Buckner, and their secondary will look to mitigate any sort of impact that Adams could have, opening up the need for Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, and the tight ends, to step up to pick up some slack.
Facing the Colts may be a bit of an easier game than when they face the Titans in December at home, as Derrick Henry will surely be an absolute bowling ball and damn near impossible to stop in the Frozen Tundra, usually an element that only works in the favor of the Packers.
When Tennesee comes to town two days after Christmas, it will most likely be the rushing attacks that dominate the day, but Dillon could certainly be thrust into more action on a day that having a big bruising back could benefit Green Bay more than a guy like Jones who offers both elements of running the ball.
QB play between Rodgers and Ryan Tannehill would be an interesting battle, if they are even given much of a chance to throw the ball, as both are putting up impressive seasons so far, mitigating negative plays and turnovers and remaining efficient, helped out a ton by their successful rushing attacks.
Defensively, the Titans boast a susceptible secondary that can be beaten, but again, the weather will be the biggest determining factor in terms of if that is put on full display or not. Rodgers and Adams certainly would enjoy going up against this defense when throwing the ball, but the cold weather, as much as it may work in GB’s favor, would not necessarily be the best thing to happen to their gameplan.
Regardless of how the rest of their season progresses, Green Bay’s three remaining games against their AFC South opponents will be big-time signs of what kind of team they truly are and how they can react to needing to adjust to gameplans. If they are able to win both games, then this team certainly has earned the praise of being at or near the top of the NFC (dependant on how the rest of the conference fares).
But if they struggle, it could be another disappointing postseason performance that comes up short for head coach Matt LaFleur and company.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23