1. What is wrong with the Packers offense this year?
Where should I start? Much of the issues stem from Aaron Rodgers not having Davante Adams. The Packers’ receiving corps is extremely young and the chemistry with Rodgers has not developed fully. Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are the only regulars with any significant long-term experience playing with Rodgers, and every one of the Packers’ top five wideouts has missed some time with injury this year. That lack of continuity has been a problem for the receiving corps as well as the offensive line, which was dealing with questions around David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins’ returns from ACL tears. Thankfully, the line has settled in the last couple of weeks, and it showed against Dallas on Sunday.
Another major factor has been Aaron Rodgers’ right thumb, which he hurt on a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the London game against the Giants. That game kicked off Green Bay’s 5-game losing streak, and Rodgers’ discomfort with the thumb seems to have been a big reason why the offense looked out of sync. With him feeling better last week, the Packers were more comfortable going back under center and relying on the play-action game, a LaFleur offense staple.
2. Is the Packers defense equipped to stop Derrick Henry?
Absolutely not. Green Bay’s run defense has been awful yet again this season, as Kenny Clark is really the only regular on the line who provides much of anything in run support. Rookie linebacker Quay Walker is a big, physical tackler, but he struggles with reading his keys and finding the ball carrier in traffic. Green Bay needs to hope that De’Vondre Campbell can return next to him, otherwise, they’ll be playing 230-pound Isaish McDuffie next to Walker for most of the game. I think it’s more likely than not that Henry puts up 150 yards on the ground this week.
3. Amari Rodgers was waived on Tuesday in the second year of his contract. What happened with him? Tell us about the rest of the Packers receivers.
Rodgers was rarely used on offense and was the team’s primary punt returner the last year and a half, but he fumbled the football seven times (five this year alone) in 89 total touches covering receptions, returns, and fair catches. Combined with him being unable to carve out a role on offense, even with all of the injuries at receiver, and there was no way to justify keeping him on the roster.
Leading the remaining receiver group is veteran Allen Lazard, a big, physical enforcer in the run game and a consistent, efficient receiver. Christian Watson had his big breakout last week with three touchdowns and over 100 yards, and he brings size, physicality, and a pure speed element to the offense that they haven’t had in years — he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy until Sunday’s game. Randall Cobb should be back off injured reserve this week and he remains a savvy slot option, particularly on third downs. Sammy Watkins came to Green Bay this offseason as the lone veteran addition, but he has only pitched in with a few catches per game. Then there’s 4th-round rookie Romeo Doubs, who was outshining Watson in camp and early in the season before suffering a high ankle sprain two weeks ago, and Samori Toure, a 7th-round pick who has been getting a little more action of late.
If Watson stays healthy, his speed does bring a different dimension to this offense, as we saw against Dallas. He’s really the X-factor for the offense as a whole moving forward.
4. The Titans interviewed Matt LaFleur the year they hired Mike Vrabel. LaFleur was ultimately named the Titans OC. Evaluate LaFleur as a head coach.
LaFleur was hired to jump-start the offense and revive Aaron Rodgers’ career following a downturn at the end of the Mike McCarthy era, and there’s no question that he has done that. Two straight MVPs and three straight 13-win seasons had him in a great spot coming into 2022, even if the team had a series of playoff disappointments. This is the first season that the Packers are facing sustained adversity, however, so LaFleur’s and the team’s response in the final seven games of the season will be highly scrutinized. The biggest complaint about LaFleur is around the team’s resilience when tested — it feels like when they get punched in the mouth, they go into a shell and shut down rather than punching back. That’s part of why Sunday’s win was so encouraging for Packers fans, as there were multiple situations in that game that felt familiar in recent losses. A 14-point 4th-quarter comeback feels unheard of in the LaFleur era, even when the team was at its apex.
5. The Packers are currently a 3.5-point favorite. Which side of that bet are you taking? Give us your prediction for the game.
Although I expect Henry to have a big game, I think the result comes down to how well the Titans’ defense can control the line of scrimmage in the run game. If the Packers can get Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon going, that will free up Rodgers and the play-action passing game to make big plays against a Titans defense that ranks 32nd in DVOA against deep passes. If the Titans shut down the run instead while playing with a lot of 2-high safeties, that should bog down the Packers’ offense again and keep Rodgers and LaFleur frustrated. With home-field advantage on a short week, I think the Packers manage to hit on a big play or two and pull off a close win by a field goal.
A huge “thanks” to Tex for taking the time!