For those that are still alive in their suicide pool and haven't yet picked the Green Bay Packers, Week 8 would seemingly be the time to do so as they'll be the biggest favorites for any game during the 2012 season when they play host to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While injuries have ravaged both teams, the Packers have managed to find some momentum recently, including an impressive 42-24 defeat of the Texans. Where the Packers have had momentum, the Jaguars have had none, as they lost their third straight with a 26-23 loss to the Raiders in overtime of Week 7.
Interestingly, the recent history of the matchup has been in favor of the Jaguars, as they earned the win in each of the last two matchups between the teams including the most recent meeting in 2008. Maurice Jones-Drew scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in that game to erase a 13-7 Packers lead and give the Jaguars a 20-16 win.
Meet the Packers
In the past two games for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers had been red-hot, racking up 680 yards and nine touchdowns without throwing an interception. The combined passer rating for his games against the Texans and Rams is 140.8 and he'll look to make it a fifth straight game with a 100+ passer rating against the Jaguars. He may have to do so, though, without his usual targets as Greg Jennings is still out with a groin injury and Jordy Nelson is questionable for the game with a hamstring problem.
Defensively, the Packers have plenty of players that are good at making big plays, but will be missing both Sam Shields and Charles Woodson in the secondary on Sunday. They'll need rookie Casey Hayward, tied for the NFL lead in interceptions, and Tramon Williams, the league leader in interceptions since the 2010 season with 15, to step up in the place of the secondary. Also, they have the NFC's top pass rusher, Clay Matthews, who leads the conference with nine sacks through seven games.
Meet the Jaguars
Despite tearing the labrum in his non-throwing shoulder during the second quarter of a loss to the Raiders, Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert is still expected to start for the Jaguars in Week 8. While Gabbert has only a 77.1 quarterback rating in 2012, he has a 98.4 passer rating on the road and a 135.6 passer rating during the fourth quarter of road games this season. He won't have the help of Jones-Drew, though, as the reigning rushing champ is out for Sunday's game with a foot sprain and will be replaced by Rashad Jennings.
Both of the starting cornerbacks for the Jaguars are questionable for Sunday's game, including Derek Cox, who recorded interceptions for the Jaguars in each of the last two weeks. Typically across from him in the starting lineup is Rashean Mathis, the Jaguars' career leader in interceptions with 30. The Jaguars anemic pass rush that has recorded just five sacks so far in 2012 came to life some against the Raiders in Week 7, as Jeremy Mincey recorded his first sack of the season and Austen Lane provided consistent pressure all game.
Local Takes: Packers
Devin Shanley from Acme Packing Company says this about the matchup between the Jaguars secondary and Aaron Rodgers:
Moral of the story is that this is a winnable game for Aaron Rodgers and the high powered passing attack of the Packers. The main key to this game is keeping focus. No matter how badly these players rank on any given stat they are still professional football players. They are paid too. If you take any team lightly then they can, and will, beat you. It's time to buckle down, stack success, and regain that killer instinct.
Local Takes: Jaguars
Alfie Crow from Big Cat Country says that the Jaguars will need to dial up the same type of pressure from their defensive line that they did against the Raiders:
Against a banged up offensive line in Oakland, the Jaguars were able to blitz and manufacture pressure to affect Carson Palmer and the Raiders passing game. It's likely the Jaguars will need to employ the same type of things against the Packers. If they can't get pressure on Rodgers behind that woeful Packers offensive line, they're going to be in for a really long day.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Acme Packing Company, Big Cat Country, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Acme Packing Company, @AcmePackingCo
Quite enjoying the unraveling of the Vikings' season.— Acme Packing Company (@acmepackingco) October 26, 2012
Big Cat Country manager, @AlfieBCC
Hey, the Jaguars offense has thrown the least amount of interceptions in the NFL, tied with Pittsburgh and New England. So, there's that.— Alfie Crow (@AlfieBCC) October 26, 2012
Packers beat writer, @TyDunne
Down at WR, McCarthy also says that Jarrett Boykin knows all four positions and it's been "exceptional" the way he's picked up the offense.— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) October 25, 2012
Jaguars beat writer, @RyanOHalloran
Chick remains on PUP and Mularkey said he's healthy enough to play but injuries at other spots may prevent move. #jaguars— Ryan O'Halloran (@ryanohalloran) October 26, 2012
Who allowed this game to happen? Did the schedule makers think the Packers could use a midseason scrimmage? Aaron Rodgers is in midseason form, just in time for the middle of the season. Jacksonville will be without Maurice Jones-Drew, but they will have Blaine Gabbert, which doesn't matter at all. The one tangible benefit here is that just maybe Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville's first-round pick this year, gets a look at what happens when receivers actually care about their jobs.
The pick: 38-12, Packers
The Packers are favored by about 15 points on average, according to Oddsshark, which makes the game the largest spread of the season for any game.
The Week 8 game is the first of two home games for the Packers before their bye as they'll host the Cardinals in Week 9. The Jaguars will stick with the theme of the NFC North when they travel back to North Florida to play host to the Lions.