The Green Bay Packers were one play and 61 yards away from falling to 7-5, but a miraculous Rodgers-to-Rodgers Hail Mary salvaged a Packer win in Detroit. While that was an important win for Green Bay’s confidence, their season is not “saved” just yet. Next week, they begin a difficult final stretch with a trip out west to visit the young, feisty Oakland Raiders.
For Oakland, this season has gone about as well as one could’ve realistically expected. The team is still on the periphery of the playoff discussion in December and, most importantly, their young core has taken big strides forward. It all starts with QB Derek Carr, whose numbers have shot up in his second season.
Carr has been doing a much better job of protecting the football, at least he had been until the fourth quarter of last week’s game against Kansas City. The second-year QB had three interceptions in the final frame in a loss that seemingly shattered the Raiders’ playoff chances.
But this young, talented group still has a lot to play for down the stretch, meaning they’ll give the Pack all they can handle on their trip out west. Green Bay has already made one trip to the Bay Area this year, a 17-3 win over the 49ers in Week 4. It was a game in which the offense looked sluggish, but thankfully for the Packers, Colin Kaepernick was quarterbacking the other team. They won’t be able to turn in another “C- game” on offense next week against a pretty potent Oakland offense that averages 23.7 points per game.
If the Packers offense is going to have a strong showing, they’ll need a resurgence in the run game, regardless of who is toting the rock. Last week, Eddie Lacy was essentially benched for breaking curfew. That meant rookie John Crockett, playing in his first NFL game, led all Packer backs with a measly 22 yards rushing. Hopefully whoever they roll with this weekend finds success: Green Bay is just 2-3 when they fail to rush for 100 yards.
While this Raiders defense hasn’t made great strides this year, ranking 25th in yards allowed and 27th in points, Aaron Rodgers may still be hesitant to take to the air too much. His former teammate and ageless wonder Charles Woodson is having a Pro Bowl season at age 39. Leading the young Oakland secondary, Woodson has five interceptions this year and you know he’d love to get one off the QB he won a Super Bowl with.
The Packers are not playing inspiring football right now, and next week’s game looks like another opportunity for a setback. The east-to-west trip is never easy on teams, and the Packers have gone just 1-2 ATS against AFC West opponents this year. Oakland will be worth a look next week, regardless of what type of Packers team we see this weekend against the Cowboys.
Straight-up pick: Raiders.
(Photo Credit: Brook Ward (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/].)