Dedicated readers of this blog know I’ve been a bit of a nervous Nellie the past few weeks, concerned about matchups, injuries, history, you name it. No more. I’m done. This week’s matchup looks, on paper, to be one of two easiest left on the slate.
Not that the Chargers aren’t a decent squad. In Philip Rivers, the Pack will face the best QB it’s faced all season. The problem for the lightning bolts’ shot putter is that he has a makeshift offensive line in front of him and he is practically immobile–not the ideal recipe against the Pack’s resurgent pass rush and resilient secondary.
Timing is working against him as well. His team is coming off a short week and will still be smarting after letting a home game get away on the final play against the Steelers. They’re in danger of falling to 2-4 and out of the AFC West race. Oh, and they’re 1-9 lifetime against the Pack.
Speaking of whom; since last Sunday at around 3:30, Aaron Rodgers has been answering questions about his suddenly pedestrian offense, one that turned the ball over three times against the Rams, couldn’t run, and has yet to be productive with the deep ball it is so known for. Rodgers is at home, with something to prove? Good luck, Chargers.
And let’s not forget, the Pack has won four straight when donning alternate uniforms since the last five years, outscoring teams 142-52. Hey, you want scientific info? Go somewhere else.
I’m writing this preview early this week, on Wednesday, because I’m heading to Chicago on Thursday with 10 year old son Dylan. So at this point in the week, it’s unclear what the status is for the Pack’s injured starters. Since BJ Raji and Nick Perry didn’t practice today, I’ll assume they miss the game (it sounds like Perry’s injury may be somewhat serious–what else is new).
Davante Adams, TJ Lang and Morgan Burnett returned, but it was not a padded practice so we have no idea what o expect. No matter what Mike McCarthy says, next week’s bye has to figure into the decision on some of these guys. The Packers are 10 point favorites and can no doubt take care of business if all of these guys rest up for the tough pending road games.
If the Chargers had a functioning offensive line, they’d be a bit scarier. As it is, they rank third overall in the league offensively, so they’ll provide the stiffest the Pack’s defense has faced (haven’t sniffed a top 15 offense yet this season). Rookie Melvin Gordon returns home and is excited to make his mark, but has yet to really take off. He did catch seven balls on Sunday and will likely be an attractive target again for Rivers if the pass rush is getting to him. Remember, the dude can’t move. He’s got like eight kids, I’m surprised he can get out of bed in the morning.
The offense was fortified by the return of the ageless Antonio Gates, back fresh from suspension and finding the end zone as usual–two scores on Monday night. Dom Capers will focus on him and Keenan Allen: they’re the two most dangerous weapons the Chargers present. Rivers has thrown three pick sixes already; don’t be surprised to see another. He’ll likely drop back more than 40 times on Sunday and the secondary will be ready for him.
There’s one other guy on San Diego who might hear cheers besides Gordon. The kicker. I mean, the guy’s name is Josh Lambo. Don’t you have to salute him for that? He did nail a 54 harder on Monday night, so he can play. We’ll see if he can perform in a place he was born to perform in.
Without Raji and Perry the defense is missing two resurgent players, but the depth of this unit has proven itself and the presence of Guion up front and unheralded guys like Elliott and Mulombo filling in as pass rushers should suffice in the short term.
Whoever is playing will be licking his chops, facing an offensive line that was down three starters on Monday night and figures to be no healthier on Sunday. Expect Capers to be creative, showing this inexperienced unit some exotic looks they’re not used to. And let the mayhem ensue.
On the other side, this feels like a game that Eddie Lacy takes over. The Chargers rank 30th in the league against the run and the Packers could get nothing going here last week. Look for them to run the ball early to set up the run and then allow Rodgers to take shots downfield. Young corner Jason Verrett has been strong, but aging Brandon Flowers is in decline and Rodgers will likely pick on him.
The Pack should have no problem heading into bye week at 6-0, looking to rest, heal up and get ready for two tough road tests to finish off the first half of the season. They’ll be wearing uniforms from the ’40s, but the guys on the field will bear little resemblance to those teams, threads notwithstanding.
Packers 34 Chargers 17