The Green Bay Packers (4-3) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-5) at Lambeau Field on October 28th, 2012. It's just the fifth meeting between the two teams, who have split the first four games in the series. They last played each other in December 2008, with the Jaguars winning 20-16.
With victories on October 14th over Houston and October 21st over St. Louis, the Packers won two games in a row for the first time this season and looked pretty good in the process. Green Bay has a very good shot at three in a row against a Jacksonville team that is last in the NFL in both points per game (14.7) and in yards per game (235.8). To make matters worse for the Jaguars, they will be without Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew, who rushed for over 1600 yards in 2011 and is one of the league's premier running backs, is out with sprained foot. Second year quarterback Blaine Gabbert has an injury to his non throwing shoulder but is expected to start. Gabbert is backed up by veteran Chad Henne. The Jaguars are averaging just 144.8 passing yards per game, yet another league worst statistic.
The Jaguars' lack of a strong passing game is good news for Green Bay's banged up secondary. Charles Woodson is out until sometime in December with a broken collarbone and Sam Shields is also listed as out on the injury report as he continues to recover from an ankle injury. Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings will have the difficult task of filling Woodson's shoes. I continue to be impressed by the play of rookie cornerback Casey Hayward, who picked off his fourth interception of the season against the Rams and is doing a fine job filling in for Shields.
The Packers also have some injuries on the offensive side of the field. Wide receiver Greg Jennings has opted for surgery to repair his groin injury and is out for an extended period of time. Jennings has missed a lot of action due to this injury, but the Packers have handled that well because of their depth at receiver. This week, Green Bay may also be without Jordy Nelson, who is dealing with a hamstring problem. Nelson's playing status is a game time decision, but I'd prefer the Packers played it safe with Nelson and not risk aggravating his injury. Hamstring pulls can linger a long time, and I'd rather hold Nelson out now so he'd have a better chance of being healthy for key games against NFC Central opponents Minnesota, Detroit, and Chicago in November and December.
Even with Jennings and Nelson out, the Packers are still in better shape in terms of receivers than a lot of teams. James Jones is having a breakout year, as is Randall Cobb. This would be the perfect opportunity for Green Bay to use Donald Driver for more than just a handful of plays. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been very sharp the last two games, and can get the ball to anyone with a decent pair of hands.
Green Bay's running game took a step back against St. Louis, with a disappointing performance by Alex Green (20 carries, 35 yards). Jacksonville's run defense isn't as good as the Rams' so Green could bounce back this week. If he struggles again, I would expect to see James Starks in the backfield more often.
The Packers have some injuries to key players, but should have enough depth to cover for them. The biggest danger is complacency; the Packers must stay focused and not look past the down on their luck Jaguars.
Mark Hudziak is a lifelong fan of the Green Bay Packers and a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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