Green Bay Packers: 5 Big Questions for Sunday's Game vs. Oakland
While the Packers are coming off a big win against the Giants, the Raiders are coming off being upset by the 4-8 Miami Dolphins. However, despite the loss, the Raiders have proven to be an improving team this year and head coach Hue Jackson has helped change the culture of this team, who has been struggling ever since losing the Super Bowl in 2003 against Tampa Bay.
Unlike the Raiders, the Packers have not been struggling: They are coming off a Super Bowl win and are looking primed to repeat history. But of course, there are going to be bumps in the road, and the Raiders could prove to be a formidable opponent for Green Bay.
Here are five big questions that will be answered on the field as the Packers face off against the Raiders in Lambeau Field.
5. Will the Lambeau Advantage Continue to Be a Factor?
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So far, the Packers are 5-0 at home, which shouldn't be a surprise, considering the historic advantage Green Bay has had at Lambeau Field and also considering the fact that the usually dedicated Packer fans are even more excited for their team as they sit as defending Super Bowl champs at 12-0.
The Packers haven't lost a game at home since October 17th of last year, and while I think this trend will continue, the Raiders could certainly give them a run—They are a team on the rise that has pulled off a few upsets on the road. And remember that the last time the Packers were defeated at Lambeau, it wasn't to a big-time contender—it was to the Miami Dolphins, who finished the season at 7-9.
That being said, I expect the Packers fans to be in full attendance and to be loud and proud for their team. And just like it has been all season, it will likely help fuel this team.
4. Can Carson Palmer Repeat His Success Against the Packers?
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Last time Carson Palmer was at Lambeau Field he was with the Bengals, and he helped pull off an upset as he led Cincinnati to a 31-24 win over Green Bay.
This year, Palmer will be in a different uniform, but could come to Lambeau armed with knowledge on how to pick apart the defense that he played very well against in 2009. While Palmer has had his struggles this year, he is starting to find his groove as he learns this new offense.
The only problem for Palmer is that he doesn't have nearly the same offensive weapons that he had in Cincinnati, where he had a talented receiver in Chad Ochocinco and a solid running game led by Cedric Benson. This year, Palmer has to play with a young and inexperienced receiving corps, and a running game that is dealing with the injury of their talented starter Darren McFadden.
Palmer is going to have a tough task ahead of him, but he has done it in the past. Can he do it again?
3. Can the Raiders Offense Keep Pace with the Packers?
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The Raiders offense may be led by veteran Carson Palmer, but they do not have the same offensive weapons that the Packers do, making it hard to believe that they can match this Packers offense in point production.
Earlier in the season, the Raiders may have adopted the strategy to control the clock by running the ball on the Packers, tiring out the defense and giving less time for the Packers offense to be on the field. However, now that their starting running back Darren McFadden is out, they will have to rely on Michael Bush to employ this strategy, which will clearly be a tall order for him.
The Raiders will likely not beat the Packers on offense, especially with McFadden out, but they may be able to beat the Packers on the other side of the ball...
2. Can the Defense Get to Aaron Rodgers?
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If the Raiders are going to win, they are going to have to put pressure on Aaron Rodgers. Luckily for the Raiders, that might be one of their strengths.
The Raiders' defense has improved this year, and with a strong, physical defense that is solid at linebacker and defensive end, they can get to the quarterback. The Raiders' best shot at winning this game is if players like Kamerion Wimbley and Richard Seymour can put pressure on Aaron Rodgers and possibly even throw him to the turf.
The Raiders may be visiting the Packers at the right time in this respect, as the Packers have lost two of their strongest offensive linemen in Josh Sitton and Chad Clifton. Backup offensive linemen Marshall Newhouse and Evan Dietrich-Smith will have to seriously step up and contain some of these strong, physical defensive players if they want to protect their quarterback and give him the chance to win the game.
1. Will Charles Woodson Help Bring This Defense Back to Championship Form?
Charles Woodson will likely play this week, which is a sigh of relief for Packers fans. While this Packers defense has had its struggles this year, Woodson has had a solid season, recording six interceptions on the year, close to the best in the league.
On Sunday, Charles Woodson will be facing his former team, the Oakland Raiders, a team that he knows a lot about and a team that he will, without a doubt, want to beat.
The Packers defense responds well to Woodson's leadership, and if he is fired up, they will likely be fired up as well. As long as the defense can fix whatever communication issues they've been having and can continue to make key turnovers, I think that Woodson can help put this Packers defense back on track right in time for the playoffs.