The Packers had to put Bulaga on the shelf, but Jason Spriggs showed some signs of life last week. They’re gonna have their hands full with Gerald McCoy (leading the team with 5 sacks), but Defensive Tackle Clinton McDonald (second on the team with 3 sacks) and Defensive End Robert Ayers (third on the team with 2 sacks) have been ruled out. This should net out to an advantage for the Packers. The line should be able to double team McCoy regularly without sacrificing other key line matchups, since no one else on their team has more than 1 sack on the season (if you think the Packers pass rush is bad, remember it can always be worse). Keeping the pass rush at bay should do wonders for Hundley.
Things are real interesting on the other side, too. The team placed starting Center Ali Marpet and starting Right Tackle Demar Dotson both on IR this week. Evan Smith (no longer Dietrich) could fill in, but this is his first week back from a concussion. That could make for a nice lack of continuity up front, especially if they are switching QBs this week and have to adjust for different tendencies.
With Mike Daniels being himself and Kenny Clark and CM3 hopefully returning, the Packers front 7 could come up with a really big game.
This will be a story as long as he plays this year. He had great stats against a top defense in Pittsburgh, but his touchdown passes came off great play calls that got guys wide open and on his two long balls, he still underthrew his targets. However, big plays, even if they’re gimmies, can build confidence in young players. It showed in the 4th quarter, when it looked like he found a nice rhythm on the game-tying drive.
We’ve seen this before, though. Hundley finds a little groove towards the end of the game and we hope that means he’ll carry it over into the next week, but we end up not seeing the light ’em up 1st quarter we hope for. This is part of developing a young QB. Right now, he’s a box of chocolates.
This late in the season, you expect a lot of injuries. Kenny Clark, Matthews, Nick Perry, Ahmad Brooks, Damarious Randall and Aaron Jones were all limited in practice this week. Perry and Randall will play, but TyMo went to IR and Kevin King has been ruled out. That’s a lot of starters that may or may not play (or may not be full strenght).
On Tampa’s side, Jameis Winston is probably coming back from his shoulder injury, but Doug Martin and TJ Ward are expected to miss the game. Those matter. With injuries taken into account, the Packers should be the more talented team (they are also the better-coached team).
The Packers are still scrapping at the edge of the playoff picture and Rodgers throwing a ball around is enough to inspire his team. Beat the Bucs and Browns and “maybe” he comes back…? Tampa is already out of it. They’re going on the road and the don’t even get to play the spoiler crowd because the Packers are under .500. Motivation could be an issue here.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Michael Clark was promoted form the practice squad to take Ty Montgomery’s roster spot and everyone is excited. He’s 6’6″ 220 with a 40 time in the high 4.4’s to low 5.5’s. Those are exciting numbers, but last year was his first year of football since his freshman year of high school. Sure he had basketball to keep him in shape, but it takes time to get your technique and timing down. He had a good camp and his work on the practice squad was impressive enough to get him promoted of DeAngelo Yancey and Max McCaffrey, but let’s not expect too much. His primary action will probably be on special teams and his best shot at contributing this week would probably be a blocked kick. If he gets a few snaps at receiver, it would be helpful in his growth, but in his first game even as an RFA, it’s probably even a stretch to think about a goalline sub package for him.
The Packers had a strong all-around showing on the road in prime time last week and McCarthy had his team jacked up to play. I’m not sure we’ll get the same product on a noon game, even with a boost from the home crowd. Don’t forget that winning the turnover battle 3-0 last week wasn’t enough.
I think Jameis Winston coming back is a good things because the Packers would probably fare worse against a steady vet like Ryan Fitzpatrick. I hope Winston gives another rousing pregame speech. I think the Packers sack Winston 4 times. I think he’s overrated and a big edge for the Packers.
I think motivation wanes on the visitors. I don’t expect this to be a cakewalk, but I think if Hundley can lead on the run game, better tune his pocket clock (against a decimated Bucs front line), and hit open guys, he can muster enough offense to beat a Tampa team that could either explode with receivers that physically overmatch GB corners or implode under a rash of injuries (probably somewhere in between).
I think the Packers front seven makes it hard on the Bucs passing game, making it hard for their big receivers to do a lot of damage.
I expect an ugly win.
Packers 20, Buccaneers 17