Final Thoughts on Packers challenging matchup with Bills

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers talks to Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers during overtime against the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field on October 02, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers talks to Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers during overtime against the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field on October 02, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

At 3-4 and on a three-game skid, the Green Bay Packers face their toughest test of the season up to this point, having to travel to Buffalo to take on the Super Bowl-contending Bills, who are among the best in all three phases of the game.

As always, before these two teams take the field, here are my final thoughts on the Packers’ very challenging matchup with the Bills.

– Any chance that the Packers are going to have in this game begins with a consistent ground game, which hopefully leads to some success. The Bills are a team that primarily rushes just four — as Washington did last week — which should provide Green Bay with some lighter boxes to go up against. Consistency in the run game will help the Packers win the time of possession battle and potentially open up the passing game. Even at three yards per rush, a pair of runs set up third and four–which is manageable. It won’t be pretty, but it’s a necessity.

– In addition to the run game, we need to see the Packers doing the little things correctly–which means being aligned the right way, limiting drops, not missing blocking assignments, having no turnovers, running the right routes, and more accurate passes from Aaron Rodgers. If they can’t execute this, then the play calls don’t really matter.

– If the Packers’ defense is expected to play from behind and their offense can’t stay on the field, they have no chance to keep up with the Buffalo offense. The Bills are just too good, and when they have the entire playbook at their disposal, I’m not sure how the Green Bay defense can be expected to hang with them for four quarters.

– If the Bills rush just four, that means there will be seven in coverage, so moving the ball through the air won’t be easy. This would also again mean that another opponent doesn’t really fear this Green Bay offensive line.

– Get Aaron Jones the ball. I don’t care if it’s tough sledding on the ground–give him the ball.

– The Packers have to find success on first downs. This offense facing second and third and long situations when the playbook shrinks and they become one-dimensional is a recipe for disaster.

– The offensive line has to improve if the Packers are going to turn this season around, and that feels like an impossible task if Green Bay is without David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins–both of whom are questionable. I know the offensive line allowed just one pressure last week, but the playbook was limited with three players in new positions. Tight ends had to chip, the quick passing game was the only offense, and running the ball wasn’t easy.

For an offense looking for a spark, why not give Josiah Deguara more opportunities? He’s played only 15% of the snaps this season, and his versatility can give this offense some different looks.

– With no wide receivers being added to the game-day roster from the practice squad, it looks like Christian Watson will play. His speed as the motion man certainly helps in the run game by creating lanes with the attention he draws, but I really want to see him used more as a traditional route runner. Send him on some verticals and crossers, and let’s see what happens.

– From front to back, this Bills’ defense is loaded. They rank among the best in the NFL in yards per rush attempt, total pressures, turnovers generated, and fewest missed tackles.

– Relying heavily on the quick passing game and YAC will be a lot tougher against such a sound tackling team. Aaron Rodgers can’t just throw the ball downfield for the sake of doing so, but they’ll need to take more risks than last week, where the play calling was very conservative.

– Pressuring Josh Allen is only step one; limiting him even from that point is an entirely new challenge. Allen is averaging a whopping 8.9 yards per attempt when under pressure and leads the Bills in rushing per PFF ($$). Setting strong edges by the edge rushers — something they haven’t been the best at — will be a must.

The last two weeks, Jaire Alexander has primarily traveled with Garrett Wilson and Terry McLaurin; I would expect the same today against Stefon Diggs. But in addition to Diggs, Gabe Davis can cause some big issues as well. He is averaging over 27 yards per catch this season. Also, look for Khalil Shakir out of the slot, who could give Rasul Douglas some fits.

– I guess if there is a silver lining for the Packers’ defense, this Bills offense hasn’t been great at running the ball, which is a major weakness for Green Bay. Buffalo passes the ball a ton, playing into the strength of the Packers’ defense. Now, of course, that doesn’t mean they’re going to get stop after stop, but in terms of matchups, this lines up better for the Packers.

– I wouldn’t expect to see much man coverage either because of Josh Allen’s ability to run with the ball. That mobility is easier to defend from zone. I also wonder if we see Quay Walker as a QB-spy to try to limit Allen on the ground.

– In addition to having one of the top offensive and defensive units in the NFL, the Bills are also very good on special teams. This will be a total team test for the Packers.

Will Amari Rodgers be back returning punts? The coaching staff still seems to have faith in him but I’m not sure how they can continue putting him back there. Possible replacements include Christian Watson, Samori Toure, Romeo Doubs, and Keisean Nixon.

– At 3-4, and for a team that was supposed to be a contender, there are no moral victories at this point of the season for the Packers. Although Green Bay is a heavy underdog, losing in a close game doesn’t make it any better.