For the second week in a row, Matt LaFleur and the Packers welcome a team coming off a bye week into Lambeau Field. The Packers are extremely banged up on the offensive side of the ball and will need contributions from several role players to move the ball and score points on Sunday.
Here’s a look at what to expect from both sides of the ball and my sure-to-be-incorrect call on who wins the game.
When The Raiders Have The Ball
One could be forgiven for not buying into the Packers run defense after the game down in Dallas, since the score did more to slow down the Cowboys on the ground than Green Bay’s defense did. However, the defense that took the field Monday night looked to be a much improved unit when it came to limiting the run on early downs. While it’s too early to say Mike Pettine and company have solved the issue, it is certainly trending in the right direction.
The most notable change was in the play of Dean Lowry, who had been up and down in the early part of the season. Monday, however, he played one of his best games in a Packers uniform and that improved play translated to shutting down the Lions on the ground. He’ll face a tougher test when the Raiders come to town. Oakland is averaging 4.9 yards per carry on the year and 134.4 rushing yards per game. Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson will undoubtedly pound the football early and often as long as the score isn’t out of hand.
Rookie running back Josh Jacobs will be the focal point of Oakland’s attack, and for good reason. The youngster is producing, most recently running for 126 yards and two touchdowns against an excellent Bears defense over in London. Lowry and company will have to replicate their disciplined play from Monday night because getting just one guy out of his gap will result in Jacobs making them pay.
When it comes to the passing game, Olson does a great job getting quarterback Derek Carr quick, rhythm throws that get the ball out of his hands quickly. Carr doesn’t have a bevy of talented pass catchers available to him this week, but the one true threat is tight end Darren Waller, who the team recently locked up long term. Waller is legit and Carr has targeted him nearly twice as much as his next most frequent target, Tyrell Williams. (Williams will most likely not play as he is dealing with a plantar fascia injury.)
One wrinkle to expect from the Raiders is misdirection that ends with the ball in the hands of former Packer Trevor Davis. Whether on a reverse or a WR screen, Olson will probably try to get the ball in his hands a variety of ways.
Pettine will roll things toward Waller as much as possible, probably utilizing Adrian Amos in man situations and bracket coverage when possible on obvious passing downs.
Pettine hasn’t been particularly blitz happy this season and that figures to continue against the Raiders, who will most likely be without starting tackle Trent Brown. (The offseason acquisition is dealing with issues both on and off the field.) Look for Preston Smith to take advantage of another backup if the Packers are able to get the Raiders into obvious passing situations.
Sack celebrations: Back on pic.twitter.com/DWxDafod1c
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) October 18, 2019
When The Packers Have The Ball
Davante Adams will miss his third straight game with a turf toe injury. MVS and Geronimo will be hard pressed to play. (If I had to guess which one is more likely to be active, I’d go with MVS)
The Packers will most likely roll with Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow, Darius Shepherd and recently signed Ryan Grant at wide receiver. Giddy up.
No Adams. No MVS. No Geronimo. pic.twitter.com/LvQ7cIQaIo
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) October 17, 2019
While I am (kind of) joking with the Tweet above, this will be a daunting task for Matt LaFleur, to say the least. However, as he explained earlier today, part of part of the NFL life is making the necessary adjustments from week to week not only for your opponent but what you have available personnel-wise. This week is no different.LaFleur and Rodgers went down to Dallas and put together an offensive game plan that led to 34 points with only a four reception contribution from the wide receiver position. Obviously that shouldn’t be THE PLAN, but it speaks to the idea that you can produce yards and points, yes even in the passing game, by utilizing your backs and tight ends a bit more.
To that end, I would expect a bevy of screens from LaFleur this week that come off run action. Hopefully they sneak Vitale into the flat a few times and then get him vertical both on wheel and option routes. He hasn’t been utilized much in the passing game this season and if ever there was a game to unleash the beast, this is the one.
When it comes to the ground game, both backs actually ran the ball well last week, Jamaal Williams was just given more opportunities. Some of this was the proverbial “riding the hot hand” and some of it was due to early mistake from Aaron Jones with the lost fumble and dropped touchdown pass. I expect to see another game where both are utilized, even out of the same backfield. This is something LaFleur has sprinkled in a few times each game both have been available and it makes a lot of sense this week, especially when trying to get both backs involved in the passing game.
Enough Already Who Wins
The Packers can’t afford to sleepwalk through the first quarter again, and I don’t think they will. I expect LaFleur to have this team ready to face a significant challenge on the offensive side of the ball and to limit the Raiders effectives on offense by committing to stopping the run and daring Carr to beat them. I don’t think he does.