NFL Preview - Green Bay (10-3) at Buffalo (7-6)
By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Green Bay Packers have never won a game in Buffalo.
They have a chance to pick up that first victory in Western New York on Sunday versus the Bills and it's one that could punch the streaking club's trip to the postseason.
The 10-3 Packers are tied with the Arizona Cardinals for the best record in the NFC and picked up their fifth win in a row with Monday night's 43-37 shootout win over the visiting Atlanta Falcons.
Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdown passes in his 100th career start, improving to 68-32 over that time. He went 24-for-36 passing with 327 yards, giving him 16 touchdown passes and zero interceptions with a 127.1 passer rating over Green Bay's five-game win streak.
"It's been fun. Been a great 100 games started," said Rodgers. "We've said around here you can't start talking about the playoffs until you get to 10 wins. It's starting to come together."
It will fully come together for Green Bay this Sunday if the Packers beat the Bills and the Dallas Cowboys lose at night to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Packers are also a game ahead of the 9-4 Detroit Lions for first place in the NFC North. They visit Tampa Bay next Sunday before ending the regular season at home versus Detroit.
Jordy Nelson caught eight passes for 146 yards with two touchdowns versus the Falcons, while Eddie Lacy rushed for a score and also caught a TD pass while totaling 106 yards from scrimmage.
Green Bay had 502 of the combined 967 yards of offense in the game as head coach Mike McCarthy matched Vince Lombardi for second in franchise history with 98 regular season and playoff wins.
A 99th win for McCarthy would improve the Packers to 1-5 all-time in Buffalo. The Bills lead the all-time series 7-4, though Green Bay has won two of the last three. That includes a 34-7 home win when the clubs last met on Sept. 19, 2010.
The Bills are hosting the Packers for the first time since 2006, a 24-10 win, and are looking to rebound from last Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Buffalo forced three turnovers and held Denver quarterback Peyton Manning in check, but gave it away three times as well and committed 11 penalties for 98 yards.
"At the end of the day, we weren't good enough to win," Bills head coach Doug Marrone said. "That's my fault. It falls on me."
The Bills fell to 7-6 on the season as they failed to win three in a row for the first time since 2011.
Kyle Orton threw for 355 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for the Bills. He completed 38 of his franchise-record 57 pass attempts while also running for a one-yard touchdown with 55 seconds to play.
Denver, though, recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Sammy Watkins caught seven passes for 127 yards and lost a fumble near midfield on Buffalo's opening drive as the Bills were denied winning eight games in a season for the first time since 2004 (9-7).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
After doing a more-than-respectable job against Manning, the Bills defense will now try to slow down Rodgers, which again is no easy task.
Rodgers leads the NFL with a 119 passer rating, having thrown 35 touchdown passes to just three interceptions. One silver lining would be that all three picks have come on the road.
The 31-year-old Rodgers has logged 27,520 passing yards, 222 touchdown passes, a TD/INT ratio of 4.11 and a 107.3 passer rating over his first 100 starts, all NFL records for that span.
Rodgers' ability to keep possession of the ball has allowed Green Bay to not have a turnover in four straight games and he is in the midst of his second five-game stretch without an interception this season.
Green Bay's offense, which leads the NFL with 423 points, has also gotten more balanced thanks to Lacy, who should be okay after coming out of Monday's game in the fourth quarter as a precaution due to a hip injury.
Lacy has posted over 100 yards from scrimmage in six straight games, posting 773 yards and seven touchdowns -- four rushing and three receiving -- over that time.
Lacy, James Starks and John Kuhn have all provided Rodgers will solid check- down options in the passing game this season.
"It's great when you throw a two-yard pass and they break a bunch of tackles and turn it into a big one," said Rodgers.
Nelson, meanwhile, is tied for the NFL lead with 12 receiving touchdowns.
Green Bay will need to control the line of scrimmage this weekend as the Bills lead the NFL with 48 sacks and are the only team with three players having posted more than nine sacks.
Defensive end Mario Williams is leading that charge with 12 sacks, with 6 1/2 in his past five, Marcell Dareus leads all NFL defensive tackles with 10 sacks and linebacker Jerry Hughes needs just a half sack to record his second straight 10-sack season.
Hughes has 8 1/2 sacks with three forced fumbles over his last nine games.
That trio helped snap Manning's streak of 51 straight games with a passing touchdown, three shy of the NFL record, though Buffalo did not sack the Denver quarterback in the game.
"Obviously, they're both great quarterbacks and Rodgers is probably playing as well as anybody in the league has been playing this year," said Marrone. "I think the dimension that he brings -- not only can he make all the throws, but he can extend plays two ways. Obviously, he has unbelievable pocket presence."
The Bills are fifth in the league with 311.9 yards allowed per game and fourth with just 18.5 points yielded per game.
"They really get after you with their four-man rush," said Rodgers.
Offense has been a little harder to come by for the Bills, who sit 19th at 21.6 points and 22nd with 327.2 yards per game.
Watkins, though, has lived up the billing of his draft selection, with his 58 receptions setting a club rookie record. He is 22 yards shy of passing Lee Evans' club rookie mark of 843 receiving yards set in 2004 and 178 short of becoming the ninth rookie since 1992 to hit the 1,000-yard mark in a season.
Only Watkins has more catches this season for the Bills than running back Fred Jackson, who jumped up the team's chart with a career-high 10 receptions versus the Broncos. Jackson was held to only 72 scrimmage yards, but it was enough for him to join Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas as the only Bills with at least 5,000 rushing yards and 2,500 receiving yards in a career.
Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews paces his club's 28th-ranked defense (374.4 YPG allowed). He had a sack on Monday night and has gotten to the quarterback four times with three forced fumbles in his past six versus the AFC. He also had three sacks the last time Green Bay faced Buffalo.
While the playoffs are pretty much a lock for the Packers this season, they remain focused on finishing strong and putting themselves in the best position come postseason time.
"We're keeping an eye on Buffalo this week. We know if we win we can clinch a playoff spot if some other things happen. Our main goal is to get a home playoff game, especially the way we are playing at home," said Rodgers.
The Bills are in their own fight and a loss here may be the one that all but ends their postseason dreams. That means Buffalo will throw everything it has in to slowing down Rodgers, but he may be playing at a level even above Manning this season.
Rodgers' ability to avoid the rush should help the Packers' high-scoring offense get the better of the Bills' strong defense and keep Green Bay rolling.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Packers 30, Bills 24
12/14 09:26:55 ET