Raiders-Packers Preview

Before entertaining the thought of going 16-0, the Green Bay

Packers have a short list of other goals to attain.

The Packers achieved their first goal last week, clinching the

NFC North title, and they’ll look to secure their next – a

first-round playoff bye – Sunday when they host the Oakland

Raiders.

Green Bay became the first defending Super Bowl champion to

start the following season 12-0 since the 1998 Denver Broncos with

last Sunday’s 38-35 road win over the New York Giants. It was the

Packers’ 18th straight victory – tied for the second-longest streak

in NFL history behind New England’s 21-game run in 2003-04.

On the flight home, Green Bay found out that it won the division

with Detroit’s loss in New Orleans, but the Packers weren’t in the

mood to celebrate.

“It’s just the first goal,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s the

first mile marker that we set out to hit on this journey, and now

we’re on to the next one.”

The next goal is a first-round bye, which can be attained with a

win or a Saints loss in Tennessee, and the following is home-field

advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. After those two goals are

met, McCarthy said his team will be ready to talk about the perfect

season.

“I’m not going to talk about 16-0 or anything,” said Aaron

Rodgers, who is one of three quarterbacks – Johnny Unitas (1959)

and Peyton Manning (2004) – to throw multiple touchdown passes in

each of a team’s first 12 games. “We got the playoff spot,

division, hopefully getting the first-round bye and then fortunate

enough to be undefeated and I want to talk about something

else.”

First, however, Rodgers and the Packers are focused on beating

the Raiders for the sixth straight time since a 20-0 loss in

1987.

Rodgers is enjoying an MVP-caliber season with a remarkable 37

touchdown passes to only five interceptions. He is third in the

league with 3,844 passing yards and owns an NFL-best 70.6

completion percentage.

With Rodgers leading the way, the Packers are averaging a

league-best 35.0 points and are 42 shy of breaking the

single-season franchise record of 461 in 2009.

That doesn’t bode well for Oakland, which is 27th in scoring

defense allowing 25.7 points per game.

The Raiders (7-5) had trouble slowing down Miami’s offense in

last Sunday’s 34-14 loss, snapping a three-game winning streak.

Oakland, tied with Denver atop the AFC West, doesn’t have time to

dwell on the loss with a game at Lambeau Field, where the Packers

have won 10 in a row.

“They’re the team to beat,” coach Hue Jackson said. “It’s going

to be a great challenge but that’s what the NFL is all about. I

mean these challenges don’t get any easier, they get harder and the

teams you play are better and that’s why we need to make sure we

become better and accept these challenges and go play well.”

The Packers were faced with quite a challenge last Sunday, and

they didn’t seem fazed.

Tied with the Giants and starting at their own 20-yard line with

58 seconds left, Rodgers engineered a five-play drive to set up

Mason Crosby’s 31-yard field goal as time expired. Rodgers

completed passes of 24, 27 and 18 yards on the drive and extended

his NFL record to 12 straight games of a QB rating of 100 or

better.

“We needed that as an offense,” McCarthy said. “We needed that

opportunity. It was great for us to do that, especially in that

environment. That’s something we can definitely draw from.”

While Green Bay displayed poise down the stretch last week, the

Raiders’ offense struggled from the start.

Oakland punted on eight of its first nine possessions and had

133 yards through three quarters before showing some signs of life

in the final period when trailing 34-0. Playing their fifth

straight game without Darren McFadden (right foot), the Raiders

were limited to a season-low 46 rushing yards.

“We’re going to let it go but we ain’t going to forget,” Jackson

said.

Carson Palmer threw for 153 of his 273 yards in the fourth

quarter but could fare a bit better against Green Bay, which is

31st in pass defense allowing 292.8 yards per game.

The Packers could have even bigger problems defending the pass

if cornerback Charles Woodson has to sit out after suffering a

concussion last week, but they’re hopeful the former Raider will

play.

Leading rusher James Starks was ruled out of this game after he

sustained another ankle injury last Sunday, making backup Ryan

Grant the featured back for Green Bay.

Grant rushed for a career-high 156 yards with a touchdown in the

last meeting with the Raiders, a 38-7 victory in 2007.