GREEN BAY, Wis. — This should be an easy victory for the Packers. They have plenty of injuries to overcome, but there is very little that the 1-5 Jacksonville Jaguars do well.
Last season, when Green Bay hosted an inferior opponent at Lambeau Field, it mostly resulted in blowouts, including a 26-point rout over the Kyle Orton-led Broncos, a 21-point win over the Rams and a 38-point shellacking of the Vikings.
This should be one of those games if the Packers play the way they’re capable of.
Here are five things to watch for in this game:
1. Packers offense should dominate.
Tight end Jermichael Finley commented this week that he thinks Green Bay can “really do some damage” and “blow that scoreboard up” against the Jaguars. Everything about Jacksonville’s defense suggests that it should be very possible. The Jaguars are ranked 24th in passing yards allowed, 29th in rushing yards allowed and are giving up 27.3 points per game. Two weeks ago, they gave up 41 points to the Chicago Bears, a team that the Packers held to just 10 points.
After a slow start to the season offensively, Green Bay has been rolling the past two games, scoring 42 points in Houston and 30 points in St. Louis. Now back at home for the first time in nearly a month, the Packers really should blow up the scoreboard against Jacksonville’s lowly defense.
2. Someone needs to step up at wide receiver.
Greg Jennings is definitely out, opting for surgery on his rectus abdominis tear. But Green Bay has gotten by fairly well without Jennings this season in the previous four games that he missed. But this will likely be the first time that the Packers’ offense is also without Jordy Nelson. In Wednesday’s practice, Nelson injured his hamstring, and he did not practice Thursday or Friday. He’s listed as questionable for the game and will have to pass a series of tests Sunday in order to be cleared to play.
If Nelson isn’t able to go, and that’s the most likely scenario, Randall Cobb and James Jones will start at receiver and likely play every snap. But with Green Bay’s four wide receiver sets, there will be plenty of opportunities for veteran Donald Driver and undrafted rookie Jarrett Boykin. Earlier this week, Driver, who’s only played 73 snaps this season, said he hoped he wasn’t completely out of the team’s playbook. But Driver will be needed if Jennings and Nelson are both on the sideline.
It’s also a great chance for Boykin to show if he’s ready for game action. He was released by the Jaguars after a very short stint there earlier this year and can prove to them that it was a bad decision to let him go. Boykin beat out both Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley for a roster spot in training camp due to his dependability catching the ball. A solid game for Boykin could go a long way in determining his long-term future with the Packers.
3. Rodgers should have plenty of time to throw.
Through six games this season, Jacksonville only has five sacks. That is the lowest amount in the NFL and is 19 sacks fewer than what the league-leading Packers have. It’s also four fewer sacks than what Clay Matthews has all by himself.
The only game this season in which Green Bay’s offensive line didn’t allow a single sack was Week 4 at home against the New Orleans Saints’ poor defense. But with the exception of that game, the Packers have gotten Rodgers hit a lot, giving up the second-most sacks in the league.
Green Bay shouldn’t allow much quarterback pressure in this game. The Jaguars’ team leader in sacks (with two) is 330-pound defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who is far from a pass-rush threat. This will be a good chance for the Packers’ offensive line to have a feel-good day.
4. Stopping Jaguars’ running game should not be a problem.
Jacksonville has been the NFL’s worst offense this year by a significant margin, averaging 235.8 yards per game. The league’s 31st-ranked offense, the Arizona Cardinals, are at 293.4 yards per game. That’s how bad the Jaguars’ offense was in its first six games.
Now they’re without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who is the team’s only legitimate threat. His replacement is 27-year-old Rashad Jennings, a back who has 90 yards on 34 carries this season (2.6 average).
Green Bay’s rushing defense this season has been inconsistent. In Week 5, the Packers allowed Colts serviceable-at-best running back Donald Brown to gain 84 yards on 17 carries (4.9 average), but then followed it up with a tremendous performance holding Texans superstar Arian Foster to 29 yards on 17 carries (1.7 average).
Stopping the Jaguars’ run game — and offense in general — should not be a difficult task for Green Bay, especially with Jones-Drew unavailable due to injury.
5. Replacing Charles Woodson.
Woodson’s broken collarbone will sideline him for approximately six weeks, and this will be the first game to see how the Packers do without him. There are many questions that need to be answered in Woodson’s absence: Who takes over more of a leadership role on the field? Do M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian split snaps at safety now in the 3-4 base defense? If McMillian is in Woodson’s role playing the slot in dime packages, can he perform well there? How much does Woodson being out actually hurt Green Bay’s defensive production?
Fortunately for the Packers, they drafted defensive players this year with a post-Woodson future in mind. McMillian has been good, cornerback Casey Hayward has been fantastic and second-year players Davon House and Jennings have both played well.
Green Bay’s defense just got a lot younger and faster but also lost its most experienced player. It will likely take a few games for the Packers to get adjusted to playing without Woodson, but against Jacksonville’s struggling offense, it’s a relatively easy first step in figuring it out.