A-Rod, Packers take aim at banged-up Jags
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, but Henne would go if he can't.
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 ugly.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 38, Jaguars 13