Through the first six weeks of the season, the Packers have faced four tough NFC opponents, going a perfect 3-0 within the division and splitting against the top two teams in the NFC East. They’ve dispatched with the bottom feeder in the AFC West and will now face the other three teams in that division over the next three weeks.
When the schedule came out, we figured the Pack would fatten up at home against the lowly Raiders and then be exceedingly happy to get a split at preseason AFC contenders Kansas City and Los Angeles. But now it appears the script has been flipped. The Chiefs will be without their MVP quarterback and the Chargers look like a shell of their former selves.
Meanwhile the Raiders, who looked awful in Minnesota a few weeks ago, suddenly look like division contenders and are doing it away from home. Their dominant win in Indy opened everyone’s eyes. Their follow up win in London over the Bears has earned them a lot of converts. And it’s the way the Raiders are winning that is most impressive. They outgained the Colts on the ground 188-81 and then followed up with a 169-42 advantage over the Bears. They led that game 17-0 at halftime.
John Gruden’s boys are riding a pair of rookies in the backfield, led by Bama first rounder Josh Jacobs, with help from former Badger and Green Bay native Alec Ingold. Gruden gushes about finding Ingold, who landed in an ideal spot: an offense that revolves around the running game, with assistance from a passing game that lacks talent on the outside, but has an emerging star at tight end in Darren Waller and former Clemson standout Hunter Renfrow in the slot. With WR Tyrell Williams injured, former Packer Trevor Davis will be counted on to try to stretch the field. Earlier in the week, the Raiders traded for former Bill WR Zay Jones. He’ll likely see plenty of action, after getting a crash course in the offense.
This will be a game decided by which team runs the ball better and protects the ball. After escaping with a win despite a -3 in turnover differential on Monday night, the Pack needs to replicate the job they did against Kerryon Johnson. Oakland is averaging six yards per carry when they face eight men in the box and the Packers give up five yards a pop when they have eight men up front.
We’ll watch the health of Kenny Clark, who’s been playing despite a calf injury and popped up on the injury report this week. He’s questionable, but I expect him to play. He’ll need to rely on a duplicate performance by Dean Lowry, who’s coming off his best game of the season. If Clark needs more rest than usual, I’d like to see Kingsley Keke get some run–he provides more upside than Tyler Lancaster. BJ Goodson has also made a difference in the run game of late. He’ll be counted on to continue that trend against the run-happy Raiders.
Oakland will be without right tackle Trent Brown (calf) and right guard Gabe Jackson (knee) is questionable. That should open up big plays for the Smiths in obvious passing situations. It makes it even more important to corral Jacobs on early downs to force Derek Carr to face the pass rush on third downs.
Meanwhile, we have no idea what to expect from the Pack’s passing game. We know Davante Adams will miss his third straight game. Both MVS and Geronimo Allison are listed as questionable. Allison was upgraded on Saturday afternoon, meaning he must have cleared the concussion protocol and is on track to return. Allen Lazard figures to command a lot of Aaron Rodgers’ attention after earning his confidence with a game-saving fourth quarter. Jake Kumerow and Darrius Shepherd will also be counted on. As for the Pack’s newest receiver, Ryan Grant, he’s familiar with the offense and may get some snaps. He was with the Raiders earlier in the season, so will likely provide as much intel as he can–just like Davis will for the Raiders.
I’m interested to see how Aaron Jones bounces back from a brutal game Monday night. Jamaal Williams has earned his snaps and both guys should figure heavily in the game plan. But it’s tough to run on the Raiders and they will need to be featured in the passing game as well. The Raiders will be without DE Arden Key, but the Pack will have their hands full up front with youngsters Maurice Hurst and Maxx Crosby. First round rookie Clelin Farell is also getting better each week.
Where you can beat the Raiders is through the air, so whoever is lined up at receiver needs to win their matchups and let Rodgers work his magic. This is a tough spot in a short week, against a rested Raiders team that has won two straight, has spent two weeks healing and game planning and sees a real chance to make a run in its suddenly wide open division. The Pack needs to contain Jacobs and take care of the football. I think it’s a tight one from start to finish, but the Packers escape. Knock on wood if you’re with me.
Packers 27 Raiders 24