The Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers will star in one of the most fascinating match-ups of the coming weekend.
Why is this game so interesting? Well, largely because of the schizophrenic nature of the Chargers, and the post-bye week potential lackadaisicalness of the defending champions.
For all intents and purposes, let’s just assume that the Chargers will be what they always have been. You know, a supremely talented team that theoretically should be stomping teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, but inevitably ends up losing to them 23-20 as they did this past Monday night. A team that ranks fourth in the league against the pass giving up a tick under 186 yards per outing, but somehow allows Matt Cassel to carve it up for 261 yards in the last game.
A team that, two weeks ago, was completely incapable of holding a six-point third-quarter advantage over the New York Jets only to come back and cough up the subsequent week’s outing against the Chiefs in similar choker-ish fashion.
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Yes, let’s assume that they’ll be those Chargers.
The question then becomes: how much did this week-long break that the Packers just had hinder their momentum?
Here’s the deal. Green Bay boasts the best offense in the league spearheaded by the best offensive player. This isn’t even open for debate. The team’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, currently leads the NFL in most quarterback categories boasting 20 touchdowns on a 71.5 competition percentage and a passer rating of 125.7. He's a beast, and he’ll come out with a vengeance on Sunday – as head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t hesitate to tell the press this week.
"He is playing at an extremely high level," coach Mike McCarthy said. "The numbers speak for themselves, but this week will be a challenge for us in San Diego."
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So Rodgers’ productivity is a given. The problem is, as a quarterback, he can only do so much. If the rest of the offense is feeling a little sluggish coming into this weekend, the Packers defense may not be good enough to compete with an offense like the one Phillip Rivers and the Chargers boast. Even in last week’s mind-boggling loss to the Chiefs, Rivers was productive with a 26-of-41, 369 yard showing. Despite his league-leading 11-interceptions, Rivers is a perennial Pro Bowler for a reason – he’s always a threat.
Couple that threat with a Green Bay defense, which ranks 31st against the pass this year -- giving up an atrocious 288.9 yards per game -- and you suddenly see why San Diego has a shot.
Now, to be fair, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers did say this past week that he’s trying to adjust the defense, so maybe that’ll improve. And, of course, one should never discount the Chargers’ propensity for failure.
But something about the Packers vs. Chargers game this week feels like an upset-in-the-making. The combination of Green Bay coming out rusty and San Diego hungry for a win after a devastating loss seems like just enough to topple the defending champs and give them their first loss of the year.
Then again, history is on the Packers’ side. As it stands, they’re 8-1 all-time against the Chargers and have won the last five match-ups.
Will the streak continue?
We’ll find out soon enough.