KEYS TO SUCCESS: PLAYERS TO WATCH FOR SUNDAY’S NFC NORTH BATTLE
On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers season is coming to an important crossroads. They will either lose their fourth straight game and fall two games behind the Minnesota Vikings, or they will right the ship, so to speak, and put themselves back on top of the NFC North.
Win or lose, this season is far from over, but this Sunday is an extremely important game in the standings and to the psyche of a beat up, underachieving team. Can the Packers play any worse than they have the last three weeks? That’s debatable. We all know they can play better, for sure.
Three key players for the Packers may make the difference against a suddenly confident Vikings team.
Is he ready or is he not? I have no idea how he performs in practice, but what I do know is that the game in which he played the most snaps of the year, he led the team in tackles. He plays the run extremely well and has a nose for the ball.
With Adrian Peterson running the ball as well as he ever has, I will take my chances with Jake Ryan over Nate Palmer. For whatever reason, the coaching staff doesn’t seem to think Ryan is ready for full time duty, but after watching the film from last Sunday, I’m hoping they think twice on who lines up alongside Clay Matthews versus Peterson and the Vikings.
Eddie Lacy, RB
At some point this year, Eddie Lacy is going to break off one of his trademark, bruising, bone-crushing runs that is going to jump-start this Packers running game. I just don’t know when that is going to happen. A good time for Lacy to get going would be this Sunday, even if he will be coming off the bench to spell James Starks.
Let’s face it, Starks is a great running back, but if this team is going to be successful in December (and hopefully January), they are going to need Eddie Lacy to get rolling. If he can get going on Sunday, it will take some heat off of Rodgers and the passing game, which has struggled for the last month. With Aaron Rodgers nursing a sore shoulder now, getting the running game going would be a really good thing.
Tim Masthay, P
This may come as a surprise to some fans, but to me it is a no-brainer. This Packers offense has clearly become stagnant, if not “predictable” at times, and is struggling to move the ball with any consistency. This game could come down to field position.
If the offense doesn’t move the ball or convert on 3rd down, the Packers punter is going to be called on quite a bit. Last week in the loss versus Detroit, Masthay punted on 9 straight possessions. While he did land three of those punts inside the 20-yard line, a 41.3 yard average will need to be improved upon against a team like Minnesota. If this game plays out like I think it may, Masthay is going to have to put up a stellar performance for his team.
There will be some other important players to watch this Sunday as well and I have put three more on my secondary watch list. I think these three guys can also be keys to the Packers game plan: Jeff Janis, Jayrone Elliott, and Justin Perillo. It will be interesting to see if any of these three are called upon for bigger roles this week, other than on special teams.
Jeff Janis, WR
The hot topic this week (and every week) on social media, Jeff Janis seems to be in line for more of a role on the offense this week, especially with the injury to WR Jeff Abbrederis and the unknown status of rookie WR Ty Montgomery. He has been lights out on special teams all year, but it’s just not known if he can be trusted in the offense on a consistent basis. At this point, just like many Packers fans, I would actually like to see what he has to offer.
Justin Perillo, TE
Perillo provided a late spark to the offense in the fourth quarter against the Lions and gave Aaron Rodgers a big weapon down the middle of the field. Does he get more snaps this week and overtake Richard Rodgers at the tight end position?
Jayrone Elliott, LB
Jayrone Elliott should be on the field this Sunday, plain and simple. He played absolutely zero (0) snaps on defense last week and for a team that has lacked a pass rush (zero sacks in the previous 3 games), something has to give. He has shown in the past that he can make big plays (remember Kansas City?). I don’t see how Mike Neal is getting 47 more snaps than Jayrone Elliott at this point.
Whether or not any of these players are given opportunities this Sunday, let’s hope the rest of the team comes ready to play and takes back the lead in the NFC North.
Go Pack Go!!!