Packers Seeking a Signature Win
Sunday night’s victory against the Vikings was a big win on a few levels. Packer fans got their revenge against Brett Favre and the team seemingly got back on track after a two game slide. But, this week’s game against the New York Jets is the biggest of the year. By a long shot.
The Jets came into the year with as much, if not more Super Bowl hype than the Packers did. Much of it brought on by themselves (true for the Packers as well). They were featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” for training camp, and made a big free agent acquisition in LaDanian Tomlinson. All this after a surprisingly successful 2009 campaign that ended in the AFC championship game.
2010 is going very well for the Jets as well, after dropping their first game of the year to the Ravens, they’ve reeled off five wins including division rivals Patriots and Dolphins. In addition, the Jets are coming off a bye, making this Sunday’s game an even greater challenge for the Packers.
This will be a different kind of game than the Packers played thus far this year. The Jets have an aggressive, attacking defense that gives up just 16.8 points per game (good for 4th in the league). The only better ranked defense the Packers have faced was against the Bears. The Jets have not forced many interceptions, just five this year, but have the potential to do so with Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis (now healthy after the bye) on the outside.
On offense, the Packers can take advantage of the Jets relative lack of depth at cornerback by deploying their 3-5 wide receiver sets. The Packers receiving depth is a definite advantage over the Jets secondary. Rushing the ball may again prove difficult as the Jets boast a stout run defense giving up just 3.5 yards per carry and only 90 yards per game. Brandon Jackson has shown that he is a capable running back, given ample opportunity. Mike McCarthy needs to rely on Jackson, not John Kuhn to move the ball on the ground. McCarthy also needs to stick to the running game. Getting away from the running game after just a couple unsuccessful series is a hallmark of the McCarthy era. The Packers cannot make themselves one dimensional on offense. Aaron Rodgers needs to take care of himself and the football. That means throwing the ball away when the pocket collapses. Too often this year, Rodgers has reverted to his hold-the-ball-too-long style of quarterbacking that led to way too many sacks and fumbles last year. If he progresses through his reads and makes quick decisions, he can have success against this defense.
Defensively, the Packers have a challenge ahead of them in stopping the two-headed running attack of Tomlinson and Shonn Green. With the resurgence of Tominson, Green has played a smaller role this year than originally thought. But coming out of the bye, expect the Jets to have found new ways to get him the ball. Mark Sanchez is a good game manager who has shown very good awareness and decision making skills this year. Sanchez alone will not win or lose a game for the Jets, but he can keep the offense on the field and will not make the big mistake and turn the ball over.
If the Packers want to prove that they have righted the ship, moved past the injuries and are a legitimate playoff team and still a Super Bowl contender, they have to win this game. It’s not time to hang it up if they lose, but a win on the road against the Jets would be a signature win in a season that has not begun the way the Packers had hoped it would.