The Packers will take the field on Halloween against a team many consider to be the best in the league. The Jets are well rested, coming off a bye week which allowed their best player, CB Darrelle Revis and their best pass rusher, LB Calvin Pace to heal up and get healthy. Meanwhile, the Pack has now lost 11 players to injured reserve--including a league high five starters.
So why do I believe the Packers will spring the upset and beat the Jets at the new Meadowlands on Sunday afternoon?
Looking at it objectively, the deck is stacked pretty high against the Pack. The Jets are the second best running team in the league, with a terrific one-two punch in young Shonn Greene and the reborn LaDanian Tomlinson. They run behind the league's best offensive line.
The passing game became more dynamic when the suspended Santonio Holmes joined the party a few weeks back. The bye week undoubtedly helped the timing between Sanchez and Holmes and adds a speedy downfield element to the Jets' offense.
Defensively, the Jets have a great pair of cover corners in Revis and Antonio Cromartie. This allows blitz-happy Rex Ryan to dial up a variety of blitzes and pressures designed to cause QBs to panic and make mistakes.
So how do the Packers handle all this? A team that has struggled on the road since halftime of the season opener in Philadelphia. A team that may be without two starting defensive linemen, along with two starting linebackers, etc etc.
Let's start with the Packers on defense. Success against the Jets is predicated on stopping, or slowing the run. They average better than five yards per carry on first down. This makes things much easier on Sanchez. If Jenkins returns, and it looks like he could, the Pack will be stouter in run defense. The makeshift defensive line did a nice job against the Vikings. Though Adrian Peterson ran for more than 100 yards, they did not give up the big play.
The Jets' passing game has been pedestrian the past few weeks. It ranks 27th in the league and in the last two games Sanchez is completing just 51% of his passes and has one TD and two picks, after starting the season with 8 TDs and no picks. And he struggled against a weak Broncos defense that was missing five starters. If the Pack can get the Jets into second and long, third and long, they will have a chance to pick off a couple of passes--and maybe tilt the game in their favor.
Offensively, the hunch here is that Rodgers has his best game of the year. If Ryan chooses to blitz heavily, he plays to A-Rodg's strength. Look for Jones, Nelson and Quarless to run quick slants and short routes to offset the pressure the Jets will bring. Without NT Kris Jenkins (Cullen's bro), the Jets run defense is weakened and there should be some holes for Brandon Jackson too.
From my angle, the intangibles favor the Packers here. The Jets have had two weeks to hear about how great they are. They've won five straight since a season opening home loss to the Ravens and there's talk of a subway Super Bowl between the Jets and Giants. They're buying into the hype--evident in the way they played in Denver, where they were lucky to win.
The whole world likes the Jets this week. It's Halloween and crazy, spooky, funky things tend to happen on Halloween, like Packers 23 Jets 21.
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