This week we have two teams, both hoping to keep their playoff hopes alive whilst facing an out-of-division foe. The game in question could potentially be one of the last games in O.co Coliseum for the Raiders for the foreseeable future, and we’re lucky enough to see a pair of fantastic Quarterbacks, playing for storied franchises, facing off in the hope of making it to the dance. The Packers started their season by sending everyone they possibly could to season ending Injured Reserve. From losing star Wide Receiver Jordy Nelson, to Safety Sean Richardson for the season; their players were getting hurt left, right and center. Picking up Free-Agent James Jones; who played for the Packers from 2007 to 2013, has been a safety blanket for Quarterback Aaron Rogers; who’s said that Jones hasn’t lost a step in an interview with NFL.com Alongside this the Defense has been playing at a respectable level, only allowing 18.8 points per game, and the offense has consistently moved the ball on opponents, scoring a respectable 24.4 points per game. The Raiders picked up some key players in the draft, most notably Wide Receiver Amari Cooper out of Alabama (Roll Tide!) with the 3rd Pick overall. They also signed free agent Michael Crabtree from the 49ers to provide 2nd year Quarterback Derek Carr with viable #1 and #2 Receivers. Alongside this, first year Head Coach Jack Del Rio has provided the Raiders with a strong figure to lead the team, recruited from the Broncos at the end of last season, his focus on blitzing early and often on Defense has led to confusion on opposing offensive lines, and Sophomore Defensive End. Khalil Mack, becoming a terror off the edge. They currently sit at 3rd place in the AFC West, however provided they are able to win key matchups such as this, they may be able to snag a Wildcard spot.
Three keys to the game
1. It’s going to be a shootout
Over the season, the Raiders have been scoring with the best of them, scoring on average 23 points per game, compared to the 24.8 of the Packers, that’s pretty impressive.
2. Khalil Sack
Khalil Mack is having a career year, leading the NFL in Sacks with 14 so far, 5 of which took place last week against the Broncos. Will the Packers Offensive Line be able to cope with this?
3. The Packers Offense
Mike McCarthy relieved Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements of his play-calling duties during the match-up against the Dallas Cowboys in week 14; this led to a steamrolling of the ‘boys. The question is; will the Pack’ stay on track?
Match-up To Watch: Khalil Mack vs the Packers Offensive Line
As mentioned above, Sophomore Defensive End Khalil Mack has been a force awoken (I had to include a Star Wars reference somewhere) With 14.0 Sacks on the season, 2 forced fumbles, 46 tackles, 23 QB Hurries/pressures, he has become a nightmare for opposing lines. Alongside this he lines up on both sides, meaning that Quarterback Aaron Rogers will need to be aware of where he is to make the correct protection calls, and get the ball out early and often to avoid being hit like Brock Osweiller last week.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
If a shootout is what the game is going to come to, I have more faith in an Aaron Rodgers led offense than a Derek Carr one. Although Carr has shown growth in his second year, Rodgers is the best quarterback in the game for a reason. Expect him to get a win today.