Oakland Raiders Keys to Success: Green Bay Packers
Andrew Flores – Dec 15, 2015
In what I can only describe as the miracle in Mile High, the Raiders beat the Broncos. Khalil Mack was a monster dominating Denver’s offensive line and sacking Osweiler 5 times. Mack was so dominant I’d imagine he has quickly become the source of Quarterbacks’ nightmares. This win was critical for the Raiders and could not have come at a better time. Hopefully the win has the Raiders confident heading into a must win game against Green Bay. This week’s game will be an all-out war as both teams fight for playoff positioning. The Raiders are fighting to keep playoff hopes alive; while the Packers are fighting to win their division. Green Bay will be confident coming off of a win, but their 9-4 record is a bit deceptive. The Packers have struggled all season and it is my belief that the loss of Jordy Nelson has been the biggest factor in the Packers’ offensive woes.
The Packers’ offense has struggled to overcome the loss of their best receiver and Rodgers numbers reflect this. Rodgers completion percentage is down to 61.2%, this is his lowest since he assumed the starting job for the Packers in 2008. While the Packers have some talented receivers in Randall Cobb, James Jones, and Davante Adams; none of them have been able to fill Nelson’s shoes. Nelson was Mr. Reliable for Green Bay’s offense. Without him the Packers have struggled to convert on third down and this struggle continued even with Head Coach Mike McCarthy calling the shots. Last week McCarthy took over play calling duties and was able to spark a sputtering Packers offense.
Under McCarthy last week the Packers were able to reestablish the run rushing for 230 yards as they conquered the Cowboys. This change is fascinating as under McCarthy the Packers offense could add some new looks, or even return to some of the things McCarthy found effective in previous years. This move raises questions as the timing for this move really gets me thinking as this move comes as the Packers are preparing for a playoff run. This move makes me wonder if by making this move now the Packers are hoping to add new looks to their offense and work on them for the final 3 weeks, so that when the Packers get into the playoffs it is harder for an opponent to really scheme for them. Yet even with the change the Packers’ struggles on 3rd down continued under McCarthy.
The Packers’ offense is led by Aaron Rodgers and I am not sure there is a better quarterback in the NFL right now. Rodgers’ accuracy across the field is unrivaled. While Rodgers has struggled this season, his struggles are without a doubt reflections of the rest of the offenses’ struggles and not the key to them. Rodgers is excellent at extending plays and his wide receivers do an excellent job of adapting on the fly and making things happen when plays breakdown. When a defense make mistakes, Rodgers take shots and makes the pay for it. I am not sure that there is another quarterback that presents the same threat as Rodgers does.
The Packers’ offense is packed with playmakers Randall Cobb, James Jones, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers, and running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks can all challenge a defense. Randall Cobb is the Packers best playmaker and he will challenge the Raiders as he is primarily a smaller shiftier slot receiver. The Raiders have struggled with similar receivers this season, so it will be interesting to see how the Raiders approach Cobb. The Packers deploy Cobb in a variety of ways and the Raiders should look to do the same with Cooper going forward. James Jones will be eager to prove himself as the Raiders cut him in the offseason opting to go with younger options. Finally wide receiver Davante Adams returns to face his former quarterback Derek Carr.
Tight-end Richard Rodgers could be the biggest factor on Sunday. Richard Rodgers has been Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target in the end zone and he currently leads the Packers with 7 touchdowns. The Packers deploy Rodgers in a variety of ways as he is an excellent receiving option and a solid blocker. Last week after running the ball consistently the Packer’s offense lined up looking like they were going to run the ball again and fooled the defense with the pass to Rodgers. This is just an example of how the Packers really try and utilize Rodgers in a variety of ways. Lacy returned to form as he bullied the Cowboys bulldozing and breaking tackles. Lacy is a powerful runner so the Raiders will need to be sure tacklers on Sunday. Starks is a lot more balanced than Lacy and is a bigger threat catching passes out of the backfield. These runners give the Packers an excellent one two punch in the backfield, so it will be interesting to see if the Packers commit to the run on Sunday. This Raiders’ defense has been stout against the run.
Speaking of stout this Packers defense has been surprisingly stout this season. They have done a great job of pressuring opposing quarterbacks as they boast a solid 35 sacks. Julius Peppers has taken a page out of Woodson’s book and is playing lights out in defiance of father time. He currently leads the Packers with 7 sacks. Peppers isn’t the only Packer playing well. Mike Daniels has been a big factor for this Packers defense and has 4 sacks. Clay Matthews is the face of this defense and really does it all for this defense. Matthews is excellent at pressuring the quarterback and is also an effective run stopper. On tape you see a player with elite athleticism and instincts. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix is quickly developing into one of the best safeties in the NFL. Dix can really do it all he currently leads the Packers with 90 combined tackles showing he is a sure tackler and always has his nose in the play. But Dix isn’t just a sure tackler; he is also excellent in coverage. The Packers know they have something special with Dix and last week they used Dix to help shut down Dez Bryant after they lost their top corner Sam Shields to a concussion. Bryant had the worst game of his career.
This week the Raiders’ offense will look to get back on track Murray had another disappointing outing as the Raiders abandoned the run. Tight-end Clive Walford made some impressive catches. Seth Roberts really should get that Disney movie now his touchdown helped spark the Miracle in Mile High. Derek Carr played lights out. The stats weren’t flashy, but Carr played perfectly taking what Denver’s stingy defense gave him and not forcing any plays. While it wasn’t flashy Carr got the job done. As a young quarterback Carr is starting to learn that there are some games where he will have to be the guy for this team, and in others he just has to do enough to give us a chance and let the defense do its job. Cooper will be eager to prove himself as Denver was able to shut him down last week. I expect he’ll have a strong comeback game.
The Raiders defensive effort was central to the comeback last week. And I cannot highlight Mack’s performance enough. When the Raiders moved Mack to defensive end this offseason I quizzical, as Mack had been so dominant at linebacker. It did take Mack time to adjust to his new position, but on Sunday we witnessed the birth of a legend. Mack’s 5 sacks tied Howie Long’s franchise record, and earned him the crown as he now leads the NFL with 14 sacks. This week the Raiders defense will be challenged as they will have to pressure Aaron Rodgers, while also preventing him from escaping containment. Mack and Edwards will have to be very alert as Aaron Rodgers is an effective runner. Defensively the Raiders match up well with this Packers team. The Raiders have been excellent at stuffing the run and Justin “Jelly” Ellis and Dan Williams will look to continue imposing their will on Sunday. The Raiders’ corners have played their best when they are in man or press coverage and all of the Packers’ receivers have struggled to separate against man and press coverage. Last week the Packer’s struggled when the Cowboys matched Hardy with the Packers’ guards. The Raiders could really take advantage of this and let Mario Edwards Jr. line up against the Packers’ guards.
The Raiders will need to play playoff caliber football on Sunday, but if they can beat this Packers team they will have kept their playoff hopes alive. I for one can’t help but feel that with as good as Carr and Mack have been there is no counting this Raiders team out.
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Who should the Raiders take with the 24th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft
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|Kevin King - CB - Washington|
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