A lot of what I was planning to say this week is similar to what I said a few weeks ago when the Green Bay Packers lost to the Vikings. The Packers were going to need to score a lot and control the game because it was unlikely Dalvin Cook would be kept in check. As it turns out, the Packers could not keep Cook in check. It seems as though nobody can.
This weekend against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Packers are definitely the better team, but the Jaguars have Green Bay’s kryptonite: A good running back. But not quite good like Dalvin Cook. James Robinson is more in the mold of Alvin Kamara, who gets tough yards on the ground, and kills you with a thousand cuts as a receiver. The Jaguars have no business beating the Packers this weekend – but Robinson scares me.
The Jaguars defense is about as bad as the unit the Vikings brought a few weeks back. And the Packer offense looked good against it. The Packer offense will probably look good again this week too. That isn’t where the concern is though, and no matter how good the Packer offense is, the game can still be lost with how putrid the defense is against running backs.
The common theories I’ve seen a lot of lately revolve mostly around the idea that if the Packers can score a lot of points and take a lead other teams won’t be able to run the ball as often and therefore it won’t be as effective. The only problem with that is, in order to take a lead the defense needs to get at least one stop. And it couldn’t against Minnesota until it was too late. No matter how good your offense is you need to be able to rely on your defense at least some of the time. Just ask Seattle.
Now I’m not sure if Jacksonville is still trying to win games, which throws a whole wrench into this thing. The Jaguars were a field goal away from being tied with the Jets for the worst record in the league and would have been in control of the race for the first overall pick AKA Trevor Lawrence AKA the best QB prospect since Andrew Luck… Apparently. If the Jaguars come out lifeless, forget about it. But I won’t count on that. Especially when there is a recipe for them to keep this one close.
The spread for this game is currently Packers -13.5, which is quite a bit, but is on the good side of the football number (14) if you want to take the Packers. I have flip flopped on this game all week and have ultimately decided to side with the Packers laying the points here despite everything I said about the Jaguars being able to keep it close.
There are some key differences. First, Jake Luton is not Kirk Cousins. He is much worse. Luton got his first start against the Texans last week and played admirably. Is he likely to string together two consecutive strong starts? Probably not. If he does, props to him. The Jaguars might actually have something then. Like, just a backup though. They should still absolutely draft Lawrence if they can. Or anybody really.
Second, the Jaguars weapons on offense around Robinson are not nearly as good as what the Vikings have around Dalvin Cook. The Packers don’t need to respect the Jaguar receivers like they had to with Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. More focus can (and should) be given to stopping Robinson. Especially since he is a legitimate receiving threat in his own right.
Third, this game means nothing to the Jaguars, unlike the Vikings who were at least playing for pride against a division rival. Even if the Jaguars start well and keep it tight into the second half, the culture and talent on that team cannot sustain through four quarters. It simply doesn’t mean as much to them as it does to the Packers.
With that, I will officially take the Packers -13.5 this weekend in Lambeau. I am still concerned about Robinson and he is the sole reason the Packers would not cover this spread. But I still don’t see a way, through four entire quarters, the Packers don’t eventually pull away.——————
Tanner Nestle is born and raised in Wisconsin, and he takes nothing more seriously than his fandom of the Green Bay Packers! You can follow him on twitter at @NestleIsTheName.