The Green Bay Packers take on the Oakland Raiders in Week 14 at Lambeau Field as they look to remain undefeated and improve to 13-0 on the season. Having clinched the NFC North title and a home playoff game, the Packers look to take the next step and clinch a first-round bye.
The atmosphere should be great as the game features a playoff-confirmed team and a playoff-hopeful team. At 7-5, the Raiders are currently tied record-wise with Denver Broncos, but would finish second based on tie-breakers.
As heavy favorites, the Packers are expected to come out and roll over the Raiders on their way towards perfection. With a talented and speedy Raiders team needing a win to remain in playoff contention, this game could be fairly difficult for the Packers.
Obviously, one of the biggest factors in the Packers' current 18-game win streak has been the phenomenal play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. During his current attack on the record books, Rodgers has turned his ''off days" into what most quarterbacks in the league would settle for as an above-average performance.
If there is a way to slow down the Packers passing attack, it is to rough Rodgers up without having to bring extra blitzers. Teams that have success getting pressure with their front four have a big advantage over teams that don't
Against the Raiders, the Packers offensive line, starting two backups, must perform up to standard and give its quarterback enough time to find his receivers down the field. The Raiders aren't deep enough to match up well enough with the numerous weapons the Packers possess.
The Packers could benefit from the re-addition of Josh Sitton, who suffered a knee injury against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, while Chad Clifton remains further away after suffering a setback during his rehab.
While the Packers receivers have been good this year, there have been times where drops have been a significant issue. A tight spiral from Aaron Rodgers hits his receiver right in the hands, just to see the ball end up on the turf.
Over the last few weeks, the biggest offender has been tight end Jermichael Finley. Against the Detroit Lions and New York Giants specifically, there were perfectly placed passes that Finley just couldn't haul in.
Although Finley was able to atone for his drops with a solid performance capped by his 24-yard reception to spark the Packers' game-winning drive, the drops kept the Giants in the game and gave them a shot to force overtime.
As the weather worsens in Green Bay, the passing game may suffer some and the Packers receivers need to catch passes when they have opportunities. The Packers can't afford to keep letting teams hang around with unforced errors.
The Packers started off their visit to New York in the worst way possible as Eli Manning found Travis Beckum on the third play from scrimmage for a 67-yard touchdown. The tendency to give up a big play continued throughout the game as Manning often hit receivers for lengthy completions.
Struggling to force pressure up front, the Packers have given opposing quarterbacks plenty of time to sit back, assess the defense and fire a deep ball. With that amount of time, quarterbacks who are able to stay patient have shredded the Packers this season.
Against the Raiders, the Packers need to get pressure with their front four in order to force quick throws. With the speed that the Raiders have at wide receiver, the Packers cannot afford to let receivers get behind them. The more time that Carson Palmer has to throw, the more successful the Raiders passing game will be.
Another way to hang with the Packers is to have success running the football, therefore keeping Rodgers and Co. on the sideline. Sustaining long drives—ending in touchdowns, not field goals—would go a long way towards keeping any time in the game.
The Packers have been decent against the run, giving up an average of 105.1 yards per game, good for 13th in the league. However, what's more troubling is that the Packers have given up 4.9 yards per carry, tied for third worst in the league. Playing with a lead most of the time, the Packers have forced opponents to abandon the run with early scores.
Against a good rushing attack like the Raiders have, the Packers need to do whatever they can to stop the run and force the game into Carson Palmer's hands. Whether this is limiting the yards per carry or getting off to a quick start and forcing the Raiders to play catch-up.
It would help dramatically if the Packers were able to get Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk back from calf injuries suffered against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.
With Palmer having played widely inconsistent in his first few games as a Raider, the Packers would be very comfortable and take their chances with Palmer.
If the Packers can limit the run and force Palmer to throw the ball a lot, the next step is making the Raiders pay by forcing turnovers. The saving grace of the Packers defense this season, interceptions should be the deciding factor in how this game plays out.
Since his debut with the Raiders, Palmer has left plenty of balls up for the taking. Understandably, teams that have taken advantage have had success against the Raiders. Throughout the season, the Packers have been extremely opportunistic and let very few chances at interceptions slip away.
If the Packers can intercept Palmer a few times and come away with a defensive touchdown or two, things could get very ugly at Lambeau.