The Green Bay Packers have been on the road for the past three weeks, including last Monday night's game at Philadelphia. After a loss to the Indianapolis Colts the last time the Packers were at Lambeau Field, the Packers lost badly to the Tennessee Titans and the Washington Redskins. As panic engulfed Packerland, Green Bay got back on the right path with a convincing Monday Night win over Philadelphia.
That's not great news to Texans fans at all. Did the Packers find fifth gear and now they're ready to roll through the remainder of the schedule and win the NFC North? Will Lambeau rock as its favorite sons return? Did the Packers gather any momentum from that win in Philly? Or…
Is the short week a tough thing to overcome this late in the season? Was the win a blip on the radar screen for Green Bay? Are the defensive injuries too much to overcome for Dom Capers and company?
There are a ton of questions with the opponent this week, but, unfortunately, there's one constant and his name is Aaron Rodgers. He's, uh, good. But, you knew that already. What else is there to know? Well, here's my Know Your Foe installment for the Green Bay Packers.
2016 Unit Profile (through 11 games)
Rush Offense - 98.2 ypg (22nd in the NFL)
Pass Offense - 266.7 ypg (7th)
Total Offense - 364.9 ypg (11th)
Scoring Offense - 24.9 ppg (11th)
Giveaways (INT + Fumbles) - 16 (Tied for 12th most)
3rd Down Conversion Percentage - 49.0% (2nd)
Here's what the Packers offense looked like on Monday Night Football v. Philadelphia a few days ago:
WR - Jordy Nelson
LT - David Bakhtiari
LG - Lane Taylor
C - Corey Linsley
RG - Jason Spriggs
RT - Bryan Bulaga
WR - Randall Cobb
WR - Davante Adams
QB - Aaron Rodgers
RB - James Starks
FB - Aaron Ripkowski
Additional Key Offensive Players:
RB/WR - Ty Montgomery
WR - Jeff Janis
TE - Jared Cook
TE - Richard Rodgers
G - Don Barclay
G - T.J. Lang
C/G - J.C Tretter
Key Losses during the season:
RB - Eddie Lacy
RB - Don Jackson
What's the biggest concern for the Texans defense? Rodgers. Period. He can make throws into spots where there aren't even spots. His touchdown throw to Davante Adams in the back of the end zone against Philadelphia was sublime. A lingering hamstring issue could be a factor, but it won't impact his ability to find receivers all over the field against the Texans. He threw six touchdowns the last time he faced this Texans squad and he has the potential to do it all over again, four years later
The rise of Davante Adams has been a true story. He struggled at times the past couple of years, especially with his consistency. He'd make a great catch one play, drop a routine one the next. But, he's improved mightily over the past couple of months of this season. He had 13 catches against Chicago and 12 in a loss to Atlanta. He had five for 113 yards and two touchdowns on Monday night and has the potential to be a complete nightmare for any secondary he faces. Oh, and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are pretty good too (tongue lodged firmly in cheek)
What's the biggest concern for the Packers offense? The offensive line was banged up last week and that could be a bit of an issue this week as well. Regardless of the combination up front, the Packers haven't been able to find any consistency running the football. The leading rusher on the team not on IR is Aaron Rodgers with only 285 yards. With his hamstring injury, though, running may not be at the top of his to-do list on Sunday.
As such, the Packers have tried different combinations in the backfield to limited success. The Texans must eliminate the run game and make the Packers one-dimensional. That dimension (the passing game) is pretty good, though, but it'll help if the defense can scheme to stop only that aspect of the Packers offense.
**2016 Unit Profile (through 11 games)
Rush Defense - 90.2 ypg (7th in the NFL)
Pass Defense - 260.6 ypg (21st)
Total Defense - 350.8 ypg (13th)
Scoring Defense - 26.3 ppg (25th)
Takeaways (INT + Fumbles) - 11 (Tied for 23rd most)
3rd Down Conversion Percentage allowed - 41.6% (22nd)
Here's what the Packers defense looked like on Monday Night Football v. the Eagles:
OLB - Julius Peppers
NT - Letroy Guion
DT - Mike Daniels
OLB - Nick Perry
ILB - Joe Thomas
ILB - Clay Matthews
LCB - Damarious Randall
Nickel - Micah Hyde
S - Morgan Burnett
S - HaHa Clinton-Dix
CB - Ladarius Gunter
Additional Key Defensive Players:
ILB - Blake Martinez (Injured last week)
CB - Quinten Rollins
DE - Kenny Clark
ILB - Jake Ryan (Injured last week)
OLB - Kyler Fackrell
OLB - Datone Jones
Key Losses during the season:
CB - Sam Shields
What's the biggest concern for the Texans offense? Last week against the Chargers, the Texans struggled with Joey Bosa, a strong powerful edge player, a lot like Julius Peppers. The only difference is that Peppers is a wee bit longer in the tooth than Bosa. But, he can still impact the game from the edge. Clay Matthews can do so as well, but more on him in a moment.
Furthermore, defensive tackle Mike Daniels is a major reason why the Packers have the 7th ranked run defense in the league. He'll talk a million miles an hour for a full 60 minutes, but the Texans interior must find a way to occupy him throughout the game and silence him as much as possible.
What's the biggest concern for the Packers defense? Clay Matthews' injured shoulder could be one of the biggest injury concerns this Packers defense has entering the weekend. Gut tells me he'll find a way to get on the field and play against his former college teammate's team (Brian Cushing). He essentially played Monday Night with one arm but some rest this week could get him ready to play on Sunday afternoon. Beyond Matthews, the secondary has taken its share of criticism due in large part to the injuries that group has suffered. The Packers don't have Sam Shields and are relying on untested (for the most part) corners.
Can the Texans take advantage of the inexperience and youth at the corner positions? The Texans will face one of the better run defenses in the league, but Tennessee gashed them a few weeks ago with its exotic smashmouth running attack. But, it was Tennessee's balance that gave Green Bay all kinds of issues. Can the Texans passing game find its footing, its rhythm and its groove to take advantage of that void in the secondary for the Packers? It better or it'll be a long flight home with another L.
Check out some of the best shots from Wednesday's practice as the Texans prepare for the Packers on Sunday.