Last week’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a pretty crushing loss. It came down to the final seconds and unfortunately the Packers came out on the wrong side of a 28-31 final score. Although not an ideal end to the game this one kept fans of both teams on the edges of their seats throughout the entire game and it ended up being one of the most exciting prime time games of the season. The team obviously still had some shortcomings and some things to improve but there was also a lot of good stuff that happened and a lot that they can build on moving forward. Speaking of moving forward let’s get to this week’s game; we’re on to Tampa Bay!
Three Burning Questions
How will Jameis Winston play?
Jameis Winston has missed the past three weeks with a shoulder injury put is reportedly on track to play this weekend against the Packers. So far this season Jameis has rather uninspiring stats: he is completing about 61 percent of his passes, has thrown ten touchdowns and has 6 interceptions. Not awful numbers. But nothing spectacular about them either. He had a three touchdown game against the Bills but also threw zero touchdowns and two picks against the Carolina Panthers so it is difficult to tell exactly what you’re going to get with Jameis. Things become especially murky when you throw in the fact that he is coming off of an injury that was nagging him for several weeks before he was shut down for three weeks. If he comes out a little rusty look for the Packers D to take advantage by attempting to force some early turnovers.
Will the Hundley hype train stay on the tracks?
After the Packer’s game against the Baltimore Ravens people were screaming and ranting about wanting Hundley’s performance. People were right to be disappointed in how he performed against the Ravens but he wasn’t about to stay down. Against the Steelers Hundley turned out the best performance of his career. He had almost 250 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 picks. Which game him a passer rating of 135.3! He obviously did not play perfectly and could still use some work on dealing with pressure and his ability to step up into the pocket, but he has improved massively. If he can keep working and improving, even in small ways, Hundely has some real potential. If the Hundley hype train can keep going the way it was last weekend it could be a big part of a win for the Pack!
Can the defense create turnovers?
Last week against the Steelers the defense had a lot of ups and downs. They made some important stops but during critical times couldn’t contain the superstars of the Pittsburgh offense. The one thing they did do well was take the ball away from the Steelers; forcing two Big Ben interceptions and stripping the ball from running back Le’Veon Bell AND coming up with the ball when they did so. This defense has proven itself to not be effective at consistently stopping offenses but if they can continue to take the ball away they have a real chance of swinging the game in the Packers favor by setting up the offense with good field position.
2 Key Matchups
The pass rush vs Jameis Winston
The single most important matchup of this game could be Nick Perry and Ahamad Brooks against Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston. The rushing offense for the Bucs has been pretty disappointing so far this season, Doug Martin the leading rusher has only been averaging 3.2 yards per carry this season, which is not great. This leads to their offense being reliant almost entirely on the passing offense to generate yardage and points. The Packers best bet to throwing off Winston, and forcing turnovers is to get to him and pressure him early and often. Winston has shown a disposition to poor decision making, and forcing throws when feeling pressured which could end up causing a couple of timely turnovers for the Packers defense. Pressuring and sacking Winston could be the key to leaving the field with a critical win on Sunday.
Brett Hundley vs the Buc’s pass rush
Ironically the most important thing for both offenses this week is going to be the same thing. For the Packers offense to be successful Brett Hundley is going to have to deal with pressure from the pass rush better than he has in the past. Since first taking the reins of the offense Hundley has done a better job at stepping up in the pocket and dealing with pressure but there is still plenty of room for improvement. When stepping up in the pocket, and when avoiding pass rushers Hundley often has trouble keeping his eyes downfield and sometimes panics which leads to him taking sacks that he shouldn’t have to. The other major problem with his ability to deal with the rush is that he sometimes doesn’t seem to trust his blocking. When this happens he doesn’t step up into the pocket but instead ends up dropping further back. This makes it much harder for his blockers, and put him even farther behind the line of scrimmage.
‘Taking these deep sacks ends up putting the offense in nearly impossible situations. In order for the Packers to consistently move the ball Hundley will need to improve all of these areas. Although Tampa Bay’s pass rush isn’t the most well known unit in the league they do have a number of players capable of generating pressure, the most notable being interior pass rusher Gerald McCoy. If Hundley can improve his ability to deal with being pressured he can really build on his success from last week and put up some serious points against a below average Buccaneers’ defense.
ONE BOLD PREDICTION
This week I think the Packers’s defense puts on a show against Tampa Bay en route to a commanding victory. The Packers will force three turnovers in back to back weeks and end up holding the Buccaneers to 13 or less points for the afternoon. Two of these turnovers will come from Jameis Winston interceptions and the third will be a strip sack caused by Mr. Nick Perry. The Packers defense is probably still going to give up some decent yardage to the Buc’s playmakers but will take the bend don’t break philosophy to heart and come up with some big red zone stops. Keeping the Bucs out of rhythm and stopping them from establishing momentum is going to be the goal and the pass rush along with some big plays from the secondary they will accomplish that goal!