After a 24-13 win Monday night against a struggling Philadelphia Eagles team, the Packers are finally starting to resemble their old selves.
Aaron Rodgers looked like the quarterback of old, throwing for 313 yards and two touchdowns while completing 30 of 39 passes. Making quick decisions with the football all night, Rodgers was extremely accurate, putting together an exceptional performance. The Packers receiving core, who had taken a lot of heat lately for their inability to jumpstart the offense in games, performed incredibly well, picking apart an average Eagles secondary. Davante Adams looked excellent, catching five passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns, while Jordy Nelson chipped in eight catches for 91 yards. Defensively the Packers were able to restrict rookie quarterback Carson Wentz from scoring a single touchdown, and they didn’t allow a touchdown after the first quarter. It was an impressive feat considering the amount of injuries and key players that the Packers had missing from their lineup.
The Houston Texans come into Sunday 30th in the league in total offense, which bodes well for a Packers defense that has a lot of banged-up bodies. According to Wednesday’s injury report, Linebackers Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez were limited in a practice walkthrough, as well as cornerbacks LaDarius Gunter and Damarious Randall. Linebacker Clay Matthews did not participate after injuring his shoulder Monday, but the team expects him to play Sunday after playing most of the snaps in Monday’s win. Brock Osweiler has had a rough season thus far in his first year of a $72 million contract, and recent play does not provide a great deal of optimism for the Texans going forward. He is completing 59.5% of his passes this year, while averaging 5.77 yards per completion, the lowest total in the entire NFL. Even though it will be one of the weaker offensive opponents the Packers secondary has seen this season, they will need to do their best in locking down star wideout Deandre Hopkins Sunday. A big game by Hopkins could spell trouble for a secondary that has had a few subpar performances this year.
When it comes to the Texans running game, Lamar Miller has been a fairly decent back this season, but he has been limited in practice this week due to an ankle injury. If Miller is out or cannot play at 100% Sunday, the Packers job gets a lot easier. Forcing an inconsistent Osweiler to throw more could be very beneficial to a Packers defense that has struggled to create turnovers this season. For a quarterback who could benefit greatly from a consistent running game against an opposing offense that can put up points, Miller’s could prove difficult for Osweiler.
As far as defense goes, the Texans are still a force to be reckoned with. They rank fifth in total passing yards per game (209.2) and fifth as well in overall yards per game (316.7). For a Packers team that cannot seem to find much success running the ball this season, it is crucial that Aaron Rodgers performs at his best on Sunday. This Texans defense has had to bail out the offense all season thus far, and it’s quite possible they could do it again Sunday.
An area of worry for the Packers on Sunday is the health of Aaron Rodgers. In Monday’s game against the Eagles, Rodgers injured his hamstring in the third quarter, and while both Rodgers and the Packers have assured the media that he will be just fine, it’s fair to wonder if he will have any limitations to his mobility on Sunday. If Rodgers is not at 100%, the Packers will need their inconsistent running game to step up in the form of James Starks and Christine Michaels. Now that Michaels has had a week of practice and instruction under the Packers offense after being picked up on 11/23, there’s no question that he could bring a positive impact to this team on Sunday, and moving forward. James Starks is only averaging 2.5 yards per carry, and Ty Montgomery would probably much rather be catching the ball than running it. Michaels could be a big factor Sunday if Rodgers is not at his best.
If the Packers can run the ball fairly consistently and Aaron Rodgers’s play is on the same lines of their win on Monday, the Packers have a great chance to win this game. While the Texans don’t give up too many yards per game, Aaron Rodgers and the offense have been playing well lately, while the Texans defense has not been fantastic against their last two opponents (Raiders, Chargers). If the defense can create turnovers and/or force Osweiler to carry the load of the offense, the Packers will have a much easier day Sunday.