NFL Preview - Jacksonville (1-5) at Green Bay (3-3)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - If the Green Bay Packers have symptoms, the Jacksonville
Jaguars -- whom the Packers will host this Sunday at Lambeau Field, where the
hosts have lost once in two seasons -- have the full-blown disease.
The suddenly resurgent Packers (4-3) have won two straight and three of four
since a brazen Monday night theft in Seattle in late September, and, while
they'll be without veteran defensive back Charles Woodson after he broke his
clavicle last week, coach Mike McCarthy isn't exactly in panic.
The same might not be true about Jacksonville boss Mike Mularkey.
Already offensively challenged to begin with, the Jaguars (1-5) took a big hit
last week when Maurice Jones-Drew sprained his left foot at Oakland -- and the
compact running back is definitely unavailable this weekend in Wisconsin.
Additionally, quarterback Blaine Gabbert went out in the first half with
what's rumored to be a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which has his status
is some doubt.
The incumbent starter was replaced by Miami Dolphins castoff Chad Henne, who
completed nine of 20 passes for 71 yards and was sacked three times against
the Raiders, who rallied from a 14-point deficit to win in overtime.
Gabbert was in uniform for practice on Wednesday and is expected to start
Sunday, but Henne would go if he has a setback.
However, if the Jaguars can't stop the Packers' pass rush -- Green Bay leads
the NFL with 24 sacks -- neither of the two might emerge unscathed.
"We were very inept in a lot of the things we did. A lot of frustrating things
offensively," Mularkey said. "We've got to protect (the quarterback) obviously
better. (Henne) had some chances finally to throw the ball down the field and
got real clean runners right at him where he had no chance.
"It's hard to give a guy a grade when the protection is not up to the
standards that we need to win."
Jones-Drew will again be replaced by Rashad Jennings, who ran 22 times but
gained just 41 yards, with one TD, against the Raiders. Jacksonville is
averaging an NFL-worst 235.8 total yards per game.
Green Bay's Woodson, now 36, broke the left-side clavicle in a 30-20 defeat of
St. Louis last week -- the same injury he had when the Packers defeated
Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl after the 2010 season -- and will likely miss at
least six weeks.
Morgan Burnett, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings will compete for time in
the veteran's absence.
"Obviously, Charles is a leader. He's been a very productive guy on the field
and that's the way you develop into a leader. I think there's an awful lot of
respect for him," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Now, we've got to
have some other guys step up and produce.
"That's one of the reasons our first six draft picks were on defense. You have
to have someone to turn to. One thing about youth is they have a lot of
energy. There are a few bumps in the road because they haven't seen the things
Charles Woodson has seen, but they improve as you go along."
On offense, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers has completed 71.4 percent of his passes
with 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the 3-1 stretch since
Seattle. Against the Rams, he was 30-of-37 for 342 yards and three TDs, two to
Randall Cobb. Jordy Nelson caught eight balls for 122 yards and one score.
"Winning is fun," Nelson said. "That's why we play games. It's great to win
back-to-back games, it sounds great to say that for the first time this year,
but we've got to stack success."
The Packers lost running back Cedric Benson to injury in a loss at
Indianapolis two weeks ago. Replacement Alex Green ran 20 times for 35 yards
against St. Louis, and is averaging 2.4 yards per carry in two starts.
Still, Jacksonville is just 29th in the league against the run and allows
147.3 yards per game, though it did limit Oakland to only 69 on the ground.
The Jaguars have lost 11 of their last 13 away from home, but did win in Green
Bay, 28-25, in 2004. The teams have split four all-time series meetings.
McCarthy lost his lone meeting with Jacksonville in 2008. Mularkey has never
faced the Packers.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Truth told, the Jaguars would have been up against it if both Jones-Drew and
Gabbert - who account for a third of the offense - were in the game and 100
percent effective. Without one or both of them, however, offensive coordinator
Bob Bratkowski may be prompted to mix up formations and personnel packages to
give the Packers some unexpected looks.
Jones-Drew and Gabbert have combined for 99 of Jacksonville's 143 rush
attempts, leaving Jennings (34), Henne (4) and four others with one apiece.
Three receivers will play who have double-digit catches, including Marcedes
Lewis (17), Justin Blackmon (14) and Cecil Shorts (12).
Playing the way they've been since the replacement referee swan song, the
Packers at home would be favored against nearly every team in the NFL. So, the
idea that they go in against Jacksonville as a prohibitive favorite is not
alarming. Insert a substitute Henne and remove an effective Jones-Drew, and
the case for the Jaguars is even harder to make. Bottom line, this could be
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 38, Jaguars 13
10/26 14:09:33 ET
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