Q3: PREVIEW WEEKS 10 – 13 OF THE 2020 SEASON
Kirien Sprecher | @KirienSprecher
The Packers have somehow managed to come out of a grueling stretch 6-2 at the halfway point. Winter is upon us with three out of the next four games at home.
WEEK 10: November 15th, Noon vs. Jaguars (Lambeau Field)
- The Jaguars off-season will be defined on how they handle the unresolved issues of their disgruntled stars — DE Yannick Ngakoue and RB Leonard Fournette.
- With much still unknown, it looks like the Jaguars will ask a trio of rookie defensive players to produce immediately: Florida CB CJ Henderson (Round 1, Pick 9), LSU LB K’Lavon Chaisson (Round 1, Pick 20) and Ohio State DT Davon Hamilton (Round 3, Pick 9).
- The Jaguars also added former Browns LB Joe Schobert in free agency to provide a veteran presence.
- Trading QB Nick Foles — and the last two years of his 4-year/$88M contract — to the Bears, paves the way for QB Gardner Minshew to be the guy in 2020.
Gardner Minshew vs DC Mike Pettine
Minshew Magic took the league by storm last year. However, the Jaguars still finished last in the AFC South. Minshew loves to take shots down the field to up-and-coming WR DJ Chark and when nothing is there he will break out the improvised scramble. The key for the Packers defensive front will be keeping Minshew in the pocket and limiting the off-script plays that he was so successful with in 2019. Pettine should be able to dial up some blitzes that will confuse Minshew and force him into risky throws downfield. The secondary must be ready to take advantage of these turnover opportunities.
Aaron Jones vs Jaguars Rush Defense
In 2019, the Jaguars surrendered 5.1 yards per carry and 23 rushing TDs, both 31st in the league. Enter Aaron Jones, who has a career average of 5 yards per carry and was the 2019 league leader in rushing TDs. This mismatch, coupled with 10 days of preparation for LaFleur, is a recipe for another star performance from Jones at Lambeau.
Prediction – Packers 24 Jaguars 14
The Jaguars defense is still very young and Minshew’s style of play is susceptible to mistakes. Coming off 10 days of rest, the Packers will control the game with their rushing attack and the defense will make Minshew uncomfortable all game long.
WEEK 11: November 22nd, Noon @ Colts (Lucas Oil Stadium)
- The Colts signed veterans QB Phillip Rivers and CB Xavier Rhodes in free agency.
- Star DE Deforest Buckner was acquired via trade (49ers) and signed to a 4-year extension.
- 2nd round picks, Wisconsin RB Jonathon Taylor (Round 2, Pick 9) and USC WR Michael Pittman Jr. (Round 2, Pick 2), will be key role players for the Colts in 2020.
Colts O-Line vs Packers Star Trio
The Colts have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, but the Packers trio of stars — Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Kenny Clark — are a force of their own. This heavyweight match-up will decide week 11. If the defense can slow down the run game, the Smith Bros can take advantage of Rivers’ immobility during obvious passing situations.
Aaron Rodgers vs Colts Star Trio
The Colts defense was led by 24-year-old phenom LB Darius Leonard, who had 5 INTs, 2 forced fumbles, 5 sacks and 121 tackles in only 13 games in 2019. LB Justin Houston was also a problem last year, he led the team in sacks (11), tackles for loss (13) and QB hits (18). Adding DE Deforest Buckner to this duo transforms the already sound Colts defense into an explosive and disruptive group in 2020. Aaron Rodgers will have to be at his best if the Packers want to escape Lucas Oil Stadium with a victory.
Prediction – Packers 21 Colts 24
The Colts are able to run the ball effectively and dominate time of possession in the first half. The Packers will battle back in the 2nd half, but a few timely sacks halts the comeback.
WEEK 12: November 29th, 7:20 PM vs Bears (Lambeau Field) Sunday Night Football
- The free agent signing of EDGE Robert Quinn is an upgrade from the release of LB Leonard Floyd and makes the Bears linebacker core one of the most talented in the entire league.
- QB Nick Foles was brought in via trade to challenge QB Mitch Trubisky for a starting spot.
- Free agent TE Jimmy Graham and Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet (Round 2, Pick 11) will provide some mismatch opportunities for HC Matt Nagy.
- The Bears also have 4 new offensive coaches in 2020: OC Bill Lazor, QB coach John DeFilippo, OL Coach Juan Castillo and TE Coach Clancy Barone
- They still suck
Allen Robinson vs Jaire Alexander
Nagy’s offense is designed to create catch and run opportunities with easy check downs or shallow crossing routes to the TE or RB. However, last year, with the Bears trailing in the majority of games, Nagy was forced to throw the ball downfield and this allowed WR Allen Robinson to flourish. In 2019, Robinson had 98 receptions, 1,147 yards and 7 TDs, including 14 receptions for 227 yards in the two games against the Packers. While the Packers won both of those games, Robinson was clearly a problem for the Packers defense. CB Jaire Alexander does not need to completely shut Robinson out but merely limit his production. If Alexander is able to do so, the Packers have a great chance of beating their division rival on Sunday Night Football.
Bears Pass Rush vs Packers Pass Protection
The trio of Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn coming off the edges and DT Akiem Hicks up the middle can devastate even the best offensive lines. LaFleur will not leave his line out to dry in 1-on-1 match-ups, he will be sure to leave a TE and/or RB in to pass protect or have them chip before releasing into their routes. It’ll take a good game plan and even better execution to keep Rodgers upright in week 12.
Prediction – Packers 16 Bears 13
The biggest question surrounding the Bears is who their starting QB will be in 2020. If I had to take a guess, I would say it will be Trubisky’s job to lose at the start of the season, but the Bears are not going to pay Foles $20M to sit on the bench of a below-.500 team. Either way, I do not think either QB makes the difference in week 12. On a chilly Sunday night at Lambeau, the Packers prove their defense is just as good as the Bears.
WEEK 13: December 6th, 3:25 PM vs Eagles (Lambeau Field)
- CB Darius Slay was added via trade with the Lions to bolster a weak secondary.
- TCU WR Jalen Reagor (Round 1, Pick 21) adds some youth to an aging WR group.
- Free agent DT Jason Hargrave was added to an already talented DL.
Packers Red Zone Offense vs Eagles Red Zone Defense
In the week 4 meeting between these teams in 2019, the Packers kicked two FGs, had one turnover-on-downs and one interception in the red zone. In a one score game, these plays get amplified tenfold. The Packers will be in a great position to come away with a victory if they are able to maximize red zone scoring opportunities without turning the ball over.
Packers Rush Defense vs Eagles Rush Offense
The Eagles moved the ball primarily on the ground in the 2019 meeting. RB Jordan Howard had 15 carries for 87 yards and 2 TDs and RB Miles Sanders had 11 carries for 72 yards. QB Carson Wentz threw for only 160 yards, but had 3 TDs in the red zone. Stop me if you have heard it before, but the Packers need to stop the run if the defense is going to take the next step.
Prediction – Packers 24 Eagles 23
Even if it was a loss, the 2019 match-up was one of the most entertaining games of the Packers 2019 season. The Packers win the turnover battle and force the Eagles into FGs, avenging their only loss at Lambeau last year.
The Packers will go into the home stretch 9-3, in position to battle for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.