Why the Raiders Will Beat the Packers Sunday

Green Bay Packers, Greg Smith, Oakland Raiders, Ramblings and Rants

Pop the champagne Miami, the undefeated Packers will lose this weekend.

Over the past three seasons, Green Bay has lost just three games at Lambeau Field.  One was Brett Favre’s triumphant Viking return in 2009.  Another was to the Dolphins in 2010.

The third came at the hands of Carson Palmer.

In Week 2 of 2009, Palmer outplayed Aaron Rodgers to lead the Bengals past the Packers 31-24.  Palmer threw for three TDs and ran for one against Dom Capers’ Green Bay defense.  That day Cincinnati rushed for 150 yards, converted 9 of 14 third downs, and won time of possession 33:48 – 26:12.  Aaron Rodgers had one of the worst games of his career, throwing only 1 TD and taking 6 sacks.  Green Bay couldn’t run the ball.  Ryan Grant lost a fumble.

The ‘11 Raiders are similar to those ‘09 Bengals, and should have similar success in Green Bay.  Oakland has a great offensive line that can control the clock with the running game, a defense that can rush the passer, and a veteran roster that won’t get rattled on the road, as evidenced by Raider wins this year in Houston and San Diego.

Carson Palmer (AP)

But the biggest similarity is Palmer, who has faced Capers’ defensive scheme many times.   As a Bengal, he played Dick LeBeau’s Steelers twice a year.  LeBeau and Capers run the same system.

Three times Palmer defeated the Steelers in Pittsburgh, throwing 7 TDs to just 2 INTs, with a passer rating of 96.  Considering it’s been equally as difficult to win in Pittsburgh as it’s been to win in Green Bay the past few years, Palmer’s four road wins speaks to his leadership and confidence against the LeBeau/Capers scheme.

This Sunday, the Raiders will likely control the line of scrimmage, rush for 150+ yards, and play keep-away from Aaron Rodgers.  Palmer will look to find mismatches against an injury-riddled Packers defense, by utilizing his speedy wide receivers and versatile athletes like Marcel Reece.

Oakland’s defense will, of course, have its work cut out facing Rodgers.  But where the Raiders have particularly struggled this season is against the run – something the Packers don’t do well.  The key in slowing down Green Bay will be creating pressure without blitzing, converging to the ball, and hitting hard once they arrive.  The Raiders must force the Packers into fumbles and dropped passes.

A few reasons I like Oakland this week:

Aaron Rodgers (AP)

  • It’s a must-win for the Raiders and far from a must-win for the Packers.
  • The Law of Averages says the Packers passing game is due for a clunker.  In baseball, there’s usually someone hitting .400 in June, who inevitably falls well short of that mark by season’s end.  Green Bay has been completing low percentage passes at high percentages all season and it can’t possibly continue without a misstep.  A defense will get to the explosive offense of the ’11 Packers, just like the Bucs defense beat up the ’99 Rams, the Giants got to the ’07 Patriots, and the Jets handled the ’10 Patriots.
  • Same goes for Rodgers.  As machine-like as he has been this season, he is a human… He will have a clunker eventually.
  • The Packers have a ton of injuries on defense… Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins is definitely out.  Linebacker Desmond Bishop is probably out.  Linebacker A.J. Hawk looks iffy, and Cornerback Charles Woodson just had a concussion last week.
  • The Raiders have the best punter/kicker combo in the NFL, which can help make up for a deficiency in yardage.
  • Hue Jackson’s bravado could lead to a gamble, onside kick or fake, that gains a possession back for Oakland.
  • Last week, the Raiders had an embarrassing road loss and the Packers had an emotional road win.  We often see NFL teams coming off those kinds of games give the opposite performance the following week.  Consider earlier this year: Following a 48-3 embarrassment in San Francisco, the Buccaneers beat the Saints, 26-20.  After an emotional 23-20 win in Pittsburgh, the Ravens lost to Seattle, 22-17.

Editor’s Note:  Greg Smith provides his X and O analysis to productions that include NFL Turning Point, NFL Network Playbook and NFL.com’s Anatomy of a Play Series. 

UPDATE 12/12/2011

Yup. Eating crow. I guess that’s what happens when a juggernaut plays like one. Seriously. The Packers played an excellent game, especially on D.

I’m pretty embarrassed by this article. But I stand by it. I really thought the Raiders would win. But should I be fired? That’s a bit harsh!

Congrats to Green Bay and the Packers fans. They’ve got an awesome team… I can make one more prediction before signing off: I won’t be picking against the Packers again.

– Greg Smith

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