Green Bay are killing layers this season. They are 7-2 against the handicap and their unbeaten 9-0 record doesn’t appear to be in much danger this week.
The Packers are also throttling bad teams and their victory margin is 14.8 points per game.
It will be interesting when they finally come up against a team with a good defence, because a quick look at the teams they have played shows that they have faced just one team who are ranked in the top 10 in the category of yards per game conceded (San Diego, whom they beat by seven points) and only one team ranked above 14 in the total points per game allowed (Chicago, whom they beat by 10 points).
In short, they haven’t faced a good defence yet.
No wonder quarterback Aaron Rodgers is having a stellar season.
The Packers do not have too many road blocks on their way to completing an undefeated regular season, either. The only team on their schedule with a defence that ranks in the top 10 in yards per game is Detroit (conceding 318.4ypg). They square off in the Thanksgiving Day clash in the Motor City on Thursday and again in Wisconsin on January 1.
Before that they host Tampa Bay at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Tampa have regressed from the side that went 10-6 last season. That is in part because last season’s schedule was much softer.
But the biggest issue with Tampa is simple. The interior of their offensive line is awful and their defensive line is worse. If you can’t make a couple of stops occasionally, it puts huge pressure on your offense and quarterback Josh Freeman is still learning.
It is easy to say that Freeman has take a huge step back, but if you look closer, circumstances have not gone his way this term.
He doesn’t have receivers who run crisp routes and neither do they have consistent catching ability.
His statistics say he has regressed from last year, having thrown 13 interceptions (the second-highest total in the league) and just nine touchdown passes. That comes after throwing 25 touchdown passes and just six interceptions last season.
The interceptions are typically occurring in the fourth quarter with the Buccaneers behind. The wide receivers are not getting open and he is forcing plays because he has to.
This has become worse since running back Earnest Graham, who was used in passing downs, was sidelined for the rest of the season through injury. Seven interceptions have come in the past three games since Graham went on the Injured Reserve list.
Kregg Lumpkin is simply not as good as a check-down option. So with Buccaneers leading the league in dropped passes and penalties, it is no wonder Freeman is looking worse than he is.
Tampa have little chance of beating Green Bay at Lambeau Field and while there isn’t too much to suggest that the Packers should not cover a lofty handicap, Tampa are one of the few teams who have fared well there historically.
Not once in their last eight visits has there been more than 14 points between the sides and the Bucs have won eight of their last 12 overall against the Packers, including the last three.
While it goes the grain of conventional thinking – and certainly this season’s form – the Bucs might be worth taking with the points, especially since the Packers will have more than one eye on Thursday’s clash in Detroit, effectively their third game in 10 days.
Rhythm is the basis of Detroit’s attack and they don’t appear to be in touch with their inner metronome right now.
As we know, rhythm is everything. Fortunately, The Boss still has plenty…
The Lions have fallen three games behind Green Bay in the NFC North and now find themselves in a battle for a wild card spot after dropping three of their last four games.
The remedy is a visit from the Carolina Panthers who are giving up 361 yards per game and an average of 26.3 points per game. They haven’t won on the road since Madonna was a virgin and despite Cam Newton putting up some headline-grabbing numbers, the Panthers are going nowhere.
Detroit’s pass defence isn’t bad and they may well add to Newton’s 10 interceptions this season.
The hosts look a good bet to cover a seven-point handicap and there should be plenty of points in the game, too.
San Diego have had a couple of extra days to put the disappointment of a home loss to Oakland behind them. There is little margin for error now if they hope to make the playoffs, but winning the AFC West is still possible.
Their hopes will be boosted if they can win in Chicago who are surging. The Bears’ pass defence, in particular, appear to be near the level that took them to the NFC Championship game last season.
San Diego have ruined their season with stupid mistakes and are 0-4 against teams who possess a winning record.
The Chargers’ defence are only getting off the field on third down situations 46% of the time – which ranks them 31st of the 32 NFL teams – and their running game is struggling, averaging just 4.05 yards per attempt.
While it would not be a great surprise to see the Chargers steal a win on the road, there’s plenty of statistical evidence to support the view that Chicago should win this more easily than expected.
Tampa Bay +14
Follow Simon Milham on Twitter: @simonmilham
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