One thing we know about the NFL: everything can change from one week to the next. I think we all feel a lot more comfortable about the state of the Pack’s offense than we did last week at this time.
As we head into the Oakland game, we know that the Pack is in kind of a strange spot. They can lose these next two road games and still lock up the #3 seed if they beat the Vikings in week 17. They also know that they are a Sunday night win by Philly away from potentially playing for the #2 seed and a bye next weekend in Arizona.
So there is still something significant to play for this week, not to mention trying to build on last week’s strong defensive effort and resurgent commitment to the running game. It looked like the Pack might get the Raiders at the perfect time: coming off a game in Denver, which looked like their eighth loss of the season and out of the playoff hunt. But Oakland’s surprising win kept them on the fringe of the AFC race and they’ll be playing as if their season depends on it.
Khalil Mack singlehandedly destroyed the Broncos with five sacks and had Bronco fans suddenly hoping for a healthy Peyton Manning to lead them in the playoffs. A banged up Bryan Bulaga will have his hands full with Mack, who’s quickly becoming one of the best edge rushers in the league. Once again the Pack will likely commit to the run to keep the pass rush honest–the Raiders 24th in yards given up and 22nd in points against. They still need several pieces on that side of the ball to reach the next level.
Their defense is led by the ageless Charles Woodson, who will earn his 10th Pro Bowl spot this season and continues to play at a Hall of Fame level, despite the fact that he’ll turn 40 in the next year. He has eight takeaways this season and will play with extra juice against the team that cut him three years ago. It was absolutely the right call at the time by Ted Thompson, but Woodson found a taker and he’s proven he still belongs on the field.
The Packers’ defense will face a young QB who is looking like the best arm in his draft, despite being a second round pick. Derek Carr has taken a big step in his second season–the Raiders finally have a franchise quarterback to build around. They started by drafting WR Amari Cooper with last year’s first pick. He’s lived up to the hype, but is dealing with a foot injury which caused him to be shut out in Denver. He won’t be 100% for this one–a good thing, since the Pack will be without Sam Shields (concussion). Michael Crabtree was a shrewd signing by Reggie McKenzie. He’s been as productive as he’s ever been, with Carr.
The Raiders also have a tough back in Latavius Murray, giving them a balanced, if unspectacular offense. They couldn’t find the end zone in Denver, but moved the ball enough against that stout defense to stay in the game and do just enough to get the win. That victory should get the Pack’s attention, in light of what happened to them when they played in Denver.
The Pack will be without Ty Montgomery once again. We’ll wait to hear the status on Josh Sitton, who didn’t practice all week as he deals with a back injury. The guess is he’ll be listed as questionable and will start. There is also uncertainty at center, but otherwise the offense is pretty much intact. We’ll keep an eye on Davante Adams, who showed up on Thursday’s injury report with a foot injury.
The offense definitely had a different look with Mike McCarthy calling the shots, with the number of run plays as well as screens and inventive ways to keep Randall Cobb involved. The Packers should be able to move the ball and score on the Raiders, provided that they find a way to keep Mack at bay. The Raiders rank 29th against the pass and Rodgers is playing across the Bay from his boyhood home, so he’ll be extra eager to put on a show.
This has been a solid road team late in the season, and though it’s only the team’s third ever visit to Oakland, the Packers have owned this series, winning the last six times. And the Pack is 10-2 in California since 1990, with McCarthy 3-1 in the Golden State.
The Pack found its mojo last week and they keep it rolling in Oakland.
Packers 24 Raiders 17