NFL Week 13: Previewing the Texans/Packers Match-up

December 4, 2016 • Jon Lowe • AFC South, Front Page, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, NFC North, Predictions, Preview

The drama can hold off for at least a little while. The mass population does not seem to realize that the Packers are still very much alive in the NFC North race, being 2-1 in the division already and having a game at home against Minnesota the second to last week and a road game in Detroit which may be for the division title.

The Packers are only one game behind Minnesota, and a win over the Vikings in Week 16 would give the Packers the edge over the Vikings. A win over Detroit and one more loss by the Vikings would give the Packers the edge over the Lions, as they would be 2-0. Detroit has games left at New Orleans, at New York Giants, and at Dallas, so they are more than likely to lose once in that threesome. Also, the Packers have the Wild Card edge over the New York Giants.

So, it’s not over, and it’s not close anymore.

Had the Packers lost and become three games behind Detroit and two behind Minnesota, it would be, but they didn’t, and now they have a home game against the offensively-challenged Houston Texans. Luckily for the Packers, the rest of the schedule, outside of Detroit and Seattle, is somewhat offensively challenged. The Packers lose games because of poor defensive play, not because of the offense.

According to the numbers, Aaron Rodgers’ stats the last seven games put him on pace (over 16 games) for a 68% completion percentage, a 103.5 QBR, 5,000 yards, 41 TD and only eight or nine interceptions. The Packers lost five of those games, therefore the defense needs a lot of work and needs to play with a lead to have a better chance.

Against Philadelphia, the Packers looked like their old selves again, playing with an early lead, getting pressure on the opposing quarterback, and having a lead throughout the game. Against Houston’s anemic offense, and with the benefit of Lambeau Field, the defense should be able to repeat that performance. However, Houston’s defense is their strength, and the game will be decided when the Packers have the ball.

There are a lot of banged up players on Houston’s defense, plus star J.J. Watt is out for the year, but Houston’s defense is filled with talent. Houston’s defensive injuries include, but are not limited to, defensive end Jadaveon Clowney, cornerback Jonathan Joseph, inside linebacker Brian Cushing and nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus is the only healthy stud on this defense, so the Packers should have some help there. The offense is no better, since every running back on the roster is dealing with something, Receiver Jaelen Strong is out and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is questionable. Not that it matters, as this is one of the many teams in the NFL with a terrible passing game.

The Packers are also banged up, and center J.C. Tretter will be out again. Guard T.J. Lang is questionable, but knowing how the Packers operate, he will be out too.  So will cornerback Demetri Goodson, and probably both starting inside linebackers. Aaron Rodgers also has shown up on the injury list, but unless he is declared out already, he will be in there. So will outside linebacker Clay Matthews, and cornerback Damarious Randall played last week and should play this week. Cornerback LaDarius Gunter is also probably going to play.

I think this is the second most winnable game left on the schedule for the Packers, since Houston has been struggling lately and has shown no offensive life in the past three or so weeks. The offensive line for the Packers looked solid, the receiving corp now has a star in Davante Adams and a return of tight end Jared Cook, and a newcomer in Christine Michael who should be ready to play more. I like the Packers over Houston in a similar score from Monday. Final score: Green Bay 28, Houston 14.

Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

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