I ate way too much turkey and spent too much time at Ross Park Mall watching suburban moms fight over discounted cookware. Too much to write a good introduction this week, so let’s discuss the Green Bay Packers.
A Tweet-length scouting report of Green Bay
The Packers with Aaron Rodgers = Indisputable Super Bowl contenders. The Packers without Aaron Rodgers = Non-factor in a loaded NFC.
A longer scouting report of Green Bay
As the center-most pillar underpinning Green Bay’s entire operation, Rodgers is obviously irreplaceable. Currently, Green Bay’s quarterback is Brett Hundley, who is, without hyperbole, among the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. Quarterback rating isn’t the most comprehensive metric in the world, but it is a very solid qualitative indicator. Hundley’s current quarterback rating is 63.3, placing him well below the likes of C.J. Beathard, Brock Osweiler, Drew Stanton and Tom Savage (lol). More troublingly, in four games since Rodgers suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, Hundley is responsible for 10 turnovers, which is two more than Rodgers had in 16 games last season.
Joining Hundley in the backfield will likely be Jamaal Williams, a rookie thrust into action due to injuries to starter Ty Montgomery and backup Aaron Williams. Despite battling backfield turnover, injuries and not having access to a top-flight lead horse, Green Bay has managed a respectable 102 rushing yards per game, which actually puts them in a tie with Pittsburgh for the 19th-best total in the NFL. Judging by Hundley’s performance to this point, it stands to reason that the Packers would at least try to lean on their ground game.
Then again, maybe they won’t. After all, the Packers boast a trio of receivers in Jordy Nelson, Devante Adams and Randall Cobb that stands up with any in the NFL. If Hundley eventually figures out this whole “playing quarterback” thing, he’ll have weapons to work with.
The Neatest Matchup: Pittsburgh’s ball-hawking, sack-creating defense vs. Brett Hundley
Last week against Tennessee, the Steelers sacked Mariota five times and snagged four interceptions, becoming the first Pittsburgh outfit in the last 20 or so years to post such gaudy figures. Hundley, meanwhile, was sacked six times against Baltimore and threw three bad interceptions, which makes Sunday’s game somewhat of a Godzilla-against-the-Whos-from-Whoville kind of situation.
The Second-Neatest Matchup: Pittsburgh’s no. 2 receiver vs. Green Bay’s secondary
JuJu, who has taken on a considerably more prominent role during the past few weeks, will not play on Sunday due to a hamstring injury. In his stead, the Steelers will probably boost their usage of Eli Rogers, Jesse James, Le’Veon Bell or, for the first time in a long time, Martavis Bryant.
An important storyline: Ben Roethlisberger in prime-time
We’ve discussed Roethlisberger’s home/road statistical splits at length on numerous occasions, but as a reminder, road Ben is essentially Mark Sanchez and home Ben is essentially Peyton Manning. And home prime-time NBC Ben is Tom Brady in NFL Blitz with a maxed-out turbo meter.
The most recent example of Ben’s home dominance came last week against the Titans, a game in which Roethlisberger threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns. He toasted the Packers the last time they visited Heinz Field, in fact, throwing for 503 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winner to Mike Wallace as time expired. For the sake of our collective cardiovascular health, let’s hope for a less stressful result this time around.
Prediction: Steelers 35, Packers 21
OddsShark’s algorithm is predicting a 37-7 win for the Steelers, which, based on these teams’ performances last week, is not nearly as farfetched as it looks. I think Green Bay will manage to score a few touchdowns to keep things respectable, but this game feels like it’s gonna be a wall-to-wall blowout.