The Green Bay Packers will attempt to avoid a four-game losing streak when Matt LaFleur’s team travels east to play Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 8.
The Packers have won 13 straight primetime games, but going on the road to play the Bills – a team coming off a win over the Kansas City Chiefs and the bye week – is a whole new challenge.
Here are five things to watch and a prediction for Sunday night’s showdown in Buffalo:
Pressuring Josh Allen
Bills quarterback Josh Allen makes an off balance throw
Any reasonable pathway to a Packers win on Sunday night has to involve disrupting Josh Allen, one of the most dangerous players in football. If Allen is clean in the pocket and has time to work the ball downfield, the Packers are in for a long night. But even pressuring Allen doesn’t guarantee anything; he’s averaging almost 9.0 per attempt under pressure, and his ability to escape pressure and pick up big gains as a scrambler is nearly unmatched. This is a giant test for the Packers defense, which has folded in recent weeks against much lesser quarterbacks. Green Bay’s front needs 60 minutes of disruptive football or Allen and the Bills are going to light up the scoreboard.
Turnovers will be important on two fronts. First, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers passing game must avoid providing opportunities this ball-hawking defense to take away the ball. The Bills lead the NFL in interceptions with 10, and Matt LaFleur talked Thursday about how good Buffalo is at getting hands up and deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage. Just as importantly, however, the Packers need takeaways of their own. Last week, De’Vondre Campbell’s pick-six provided a big spark. Can the Packers get a bunch of takeaways and finally win the turnover battle on Sunday night? Josh Allen is a superstar, but he will sometimes force things in an attempt to make a play. Remember, last year in Arizona, the Packers got three turnovers (including the game-winning pick) to spring the upset.
Touches for 33 and 28
Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis.
The Packers likely won’t have Allen Lazard or Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins is still only a week removed from coming off injured reserve and rookie Christian Watson – if available – will likely be limited. The passing game will be lacking weapons at receiver, creating even more impetus for getting the ball to Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Back to last year’s upset over the Cardinals: Jones and Dillon had 38 combined touches, and Jones led the team with 11 targets and seven catches. It’s time to live or die with the two running backs. Given the personnel at receiver, it’s a necessity.
Protecting the passer
The Packers’ reconfigured offensive line better be ready for wave after wave of pass-rushers. The Bills have eight different players with at least six pressures through six games, including six with 10 or more. Von Miller and Gregory Rousseau have been one of the best edge-rushing duos in football, but the Bills are four-deep in quality edge rushers and at least three-deep in interior disruptors. The Packers offense must stay out of obvious passing situations, which means playing a lot better on first and second down. If this offense is in second-and-long and third-and-long all night, Aaron Rodgers is going to be a very sore quarterback come Monday morning. The Bills have destroyed the drop-back passing game with relentless pressure this season.
Diggs vs. Jaire
(AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
Will the Packers have Jaire Alexander shadow Stefon Diggs? If so, this will be the one-on-one battle to watch when the Bills have the football. Diggs is averaging over 100 receiving yards per game to start 2022, with six touchdowns and four catches of passes thrown over 20 yards. Alexander is coming off a personally disappointing performance against Terry McLaurin in Washington. This is elite player vs. elite player. The Bills aren’t necessarily lacking other weapons on offense, but if Alexander can limit the damage on the Allen-to-Diggs connection, the Packers defense will have a chance.
Prediction: Bills 30, Packers 17 (2-5)
The Packers need to play a near-perfect game on several fronts to win, which isn’t likely but is certainly possible, especially if the four-time NFL MVP quarterback plays a tick better and helps elevate everything around him. But everyone around the quarterback must execute at a higher level or the Bills could turn this proud football team into a smoldering pile of rubble by the end of Sunday night. Win or lose, this is a measuring stick game for the rest of the 2022 season. Can the Packers find a way to play four decent quarters on offense, defense and special teams? Or will they roll over and die at the first sign of adversity? The Bills can expose every weakness this team has, and it’s simply hard to imagine this Packers offense scoring enough points to keep up with Josh Allen in Buffalo in a big game. But this is still a chance to prove the Packers can punch back against the best team in football.