Packers-Raiders: Pass Rush and the First Round Bye
This weekend, the Green Bay Packers became the first defending Super Bowl Champion since the 1998 Denver Broncos to go 12-0.
The Packers can clinch a first round bye in playoffs this weekend with a win or a Saints loss in Tennessee. Next on the list? Home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
First obstacle is Oakland. Defense, are you listening? I need to make this clear. It’s time to step it up, especially when you are ranked 31st in pass defense. Oakland is hungry to win, coming off a 34-14 loss to Miami and tied in first in the AFC West with Denver and a little thing called Tebow Time.
Key to this game: Stop Carson Palmer. Seems easy enough, right? Miami rolled over Oakland with ease. Raiders are 27th in scoring defense, allowing 25.7 points per game. The Packers offense averages 35 points per game and are 42 away from breaking the single-season franchise record of 461, which was set in 2009.
Aaron Rodgers is nothing if not surgical and precise, with only 5 INTs in the 12 games and insane QB ratings each week. Rodgers has 37 touchdown passes, third in the league with 3,844 passing yards and has the NFL-best 70.6 completion percentage.
Rodgers is one of three QBs (the others Unitas and Peyton Manning) to throw multiple touchdown passes in each of the first 12 games.
The problem for the Pack lies on the other side of the ball and on how Carson Palmer performs. The Pack defense allows 298.2 yards per game in passing. If Woodson is out because of the concussion he suffered last week, we will be hard pressed to defend the pass. If Darren McFadden is out for his sixth game, the Raiders have little to no running game and will depend heavily on the passing game. Another factor (and why I think Oakland will rely heavily on passing) is their statistics of the first 10 weeks vs. the last two games.
For the first 10 games, Oakland’s rushing average was around 156.8 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. In the past two games, it’s dropped to 59.5 yards and 2.9 yards per carry. GB excels at run defense, and I can’t imagine Oakland would attempt many run plays with McFadden out. In addition to McFadden, Raiders have Ford and Moore out. With three key players on the sidelines, the offense has struggled, scoring only one touchdown in a win against Bears and starting the 4th quarter in Miami with a score of 34-0.
Against Miami, Palmer threw for 153 of his 273 yards in the fourth quarter. Oakland struggles with controlling the clock, so I expect the Pack to jump all over that. I can’t really see an Oakland win, but Carson Palmer might surprise me – especially if Wood is out and our defense completely collapses.
What do you think? And, if you mention the word “blueprint” in your comments, I’ll have Wally beat you up.