The Green Bay Packers will take the field on Sunday without Mike McCarthy as head coach for the first time since 2005 when Mike Sherman was the coach. Out of playoff contention, the Packers are still playing for themselves and their teammates. The team knows they are better than their record shows and Sunday might finally be the time it shows.
This is not to say that the team will come out and play harder than they have, or different than they have. As wide receiver, Randall Cobb put it: “I would never change the way I play because of a situation”.
Every week, players put everything they have on the line to win the game. Bluntly put, it works or it doesn’t. For the Packers, it hasn’t been working. Hence the firing of their head coach. This may be the very action that changes how the team performs. Every player realizes that in some form or another, his play has contributed to the season’s outcome and the fate of their coach.
This may be why the world sees a different Packers team that has taken the field previously this season. Interim head coach Joe Philbin reported: “We had the most guys we’ve ever had come in yesterday on their own for an optional Tuesday lift… That to me is a better indicator than me pontificating.”
Joe Philbin has never called plays for the Packers, even when he was offensive coordinator previously. This has always been in Mike McCarthy’s hands. What does this mean for the Packers offense? It may bring forth a more comfortable Aaron Rodgers.
Rumors circulated that he was changing plays that Mike McCarthy called this season, and as the team’s record shows, this back and forth tug-of-war was not working. With the playoffs out of reach, the team may find a resolution in calling a more stress-free game. Given Philbin’s lack of experience in calling plays for the team, we might see him give Rodgers the freedom to work the offense this weekend.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers will see a Falcon’s team that is equally underperforming this season. A once prolific offense has now found it scoring 20 points or fewer during their current four-game losing streak. Two years removed from an NFL MVP performance, Matt Ryan is actually on pace to throw for over 5,000 yards, a career high, and 33 touchdowns which would be 2nd highest in his career.
So what has the offense and team sputtered to produce? It could have more to do with a defense allowing the 5th highest points per game (27.8) and the loss of their starting running back Devonta Freeman. Atlanta is dead last in rushing yards per game and the only team without 1,000 total rushing yards. Without the ability to establish a ground game, Atlanta finds itself in the bottom third in time of possession and a defense constantly on the field.
Predictions: Vintage Aaron Rodgers will find his way to the field and we will see him throw for more than 300 yards for only the second time in the last six games. He will also pass Tom Brady for the most consecutive passes without an interception (358). Davante Adams will continue his career year with a one hundred yard game and at least his twelfth touchdown of the year. Aaron Jones will lead the backfield but come up short of a hundred yards but secure a touchdown himself.
Packers win this one 24-20 but Atlanta wins the spread bet +5.5. The game is also under the 49.5 point mark.
Until next time, Soosh out.