Q2: preview weeks 6-9 of the 2020 season

Kirien Sprecher | @KirienSprecher

If you missed the first installment of this 4-part series, check it out here.

Coming off an early week 5 bye, the Packers schedule ramps up with playoff worthy competition.

WEEK 6: October 18th, 3:25 PM @ Buccaneers (Raymond James Stadium)

Buccaneers Off-Season

  • Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski reconnecting in Tampa Bay has been the biggest story of the entire NFL off-season.
  • Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs (Round 1, Pick 13) was selected to protect the prized acquisition, Brady.
  • Minnesota S Antoine Winfield Jr. (Round 2, Pick 25) will attempt to patch a flawed secondary.

Key Match-Ups

Packers Pass Offense vs Buccaneers Secondary

In 2019, the Tampa Bay defense gave up 4,322 yards and 30 TDs to opposing QBs. To put that in perspective, only two QBs threw for more than 4,200 yards and 30 TDs in 2019: Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott.

While the rookie S Winfield Jr. has a bright future, he alone will not be enough to fix the Buccaneers pass defense by week 6 of 2020.

Aaron Rodgers and company must take advantage of this mismatch and attack downfield all game long.

Packers Pass Rush vs Buccaneers Offensive Line

Former Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston was sacked 47 times last year, whereas Tom Brady was only sacked 27 times. While one could argue the difference was in the offensive line, another argument could be made that Brady’s quick decision making results in less time for opposing pass rushers to reach him.

Either way, rookie OT Wirfs and the Buccaneers offensive line will have their hands full in week 6 when Za’Darius Smith (13.5 sacks in 2019) and Preston Smith (12 sacks in 2019) come to town.

Prediction – Packers 27 Buccaneers 20

Tom Brady vs Aaron Rodgers. It does not get much better than that. The media (myself included) loves to paint the ‘QB-duel’ narrative; but the truth is, NFL games are more often decided by the supporting cast than it is by the stars. In 2020, the Packers will have a better roster around Rodgers than the Buccaneers will have around Brady.

On a side note, How is this not a Prime-Time game?

WEEK 7: October 25th, Noon @ Texans (NRG Stadium)

Texans Off-Season

  • Wideouts Randall Cobb (Cowboys) and Brandin Cooks (Rams) will try to replace the production of DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals).
  • Texans hope RB David Johnson can return to his 2016 form (1,239 yards and 16 TD) and replace 2019 1,000 yard rusher, Carlos Hyde.

Key Match-Ups

Deshaun Watson vs Packers Defense

Slowing down Watson is an 11-man job. Even when the entire defense executes their assignment perfectly, Watson has a knack of pulling off magic tricks that Houdini would be proud of. Not allowing those magic tricks to weaken their discipline and execution will be the key for the Packers defense in week 7. 

JJ Watt vs Packers Offense

DE JJ Watt missed 8 games in 2019 and to say the Texans defense struggled without their star would be an understatement. In 2019, the Texans defense allowed 4.8 yards per rush (27th), 267 pass yards per game (29th) and 2.1 passing TDs per game (27th). A healthy Watt would mean a world of difference for the Texans defense in 2020, but as long as the Packers limit Watt’s damage, LaFleur’s offense will shine.

Prediction – Packers 33 Texans 23

The Aarons (Rodgers and Jones) have a big day inside NRG Stadium and the Packers defense stays disciplined.

WEEK 8: November 1st, Noon vs Vikings (Lambeau Field)

Vikings Off-Season

  • LSU WR Justin Jefferson (round 1, pick 21) will attempt to replace WR Stefon Diggs (Bills).
  • TCU CB Jeff Gladney (round 1, pick 31) will be called upon immediately to fill the void from the departure of Trae Waynes (Bengals) and Xavier Rhodes (Colts).
  • Former Raven standout, DT Michael Pierce, will replace DT Linval Joseph (Chargers).
  • OC Gary Kubiak will replace Kevin Stefanski (HC Browns).

Key Match-Ups

Dalvin Cook vs Packers Run Defense

Even after 3 straight losses (including hypothetical week 1), the Vikings will continue to rely on production from Dalvin Cook to set up their offense. Stopping the run was the achilles heel of the Packers defense last year, and Gary Kubiak will try to exploit this weakness as much as he can in 2020.

Davante Adams vs Vikings Secondary

Expect Zimmer’s defense to sell out against the run after another stellar performance from Aaron Jones against the Vikings in week 1. If the Vikings stack the box, star WR Davante Adams will have to abuse rookie CB Jeff Gladney downfield.

Prediction – Packers 20 Vikings 17

Lafluer and Rodgers take advantage of the Vikings young cornerbacks and get the season sweep of their divisional foe for a second year in a row.

WEEK 9: November 5th, 7:20 PM @ 49ers (Levi’s Stadium) Thursday Night Football

49ers Off-Season

  • South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw (Round 1, Pick 14) will be asked to contribute immediately after DT DeForest Buckner (Colts) left in free agency.
  • Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk (Round 1, Pick 25) will be another speedy, versatile weapon for HC Kyle Shanahan.

Key Match-Ups

Packers WRs vs 49ers CBs

Richard Sherman is still a very good cornerback, but Davante Adams proved he will not be outclassed in this match-up. Adams had 16 receptions for 181 yards and a TD in the two meetings between these teams last year. However, the rest of the Packers WRs only had 12 receptions for 97 yards. Which is even worse when you consider the fact that many people believe the weakest spot on the 49ers defense is the cornerback spot opposite of Sherman. WRs Allen Lazard and Devin Funchess will have to produce if the Packers are going to avenge their 2019 losses.

Packers Run D vs 49ers Rushing Attack

The Packers have to do whatever it takes to stop the run, even if it means stacking 9 in the box and leaving CBs Jaire Alexander and Kevin King alone on the outside. The Packers will tip their cap if QB Jimmy Garoppolo throws for 300 yards and 3 TDs, but they can not let the 49ers run 38 times for 286 yards (7.5 YPC) again.

Prediction – Packers 17 49ers 23

Thursday Night Football on the road against the 49ers is a nightmare situation for the Packers. It’s a closer game than the NFC Championship, but the Packers ultimately fall short against a formidable team playing at home.

On the bright side, going 3-1 through this tough stretch would propel the Packers into contenders in the NFC yet again.

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