Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 7:00 AM
Two weeks ago in Minnesota, it looked like the Green Bay Packers had figured things out. They weren’t as impressive as the 30-13 final score made it seem. But, a three-game losing streak had ended…and the Packers were 7-3 and in good shape in the NFC North race.
Then came Thanksgiving night vs. Chicago!
Another home divisional loss not long after a debacle vs. Detroit dropped Aaron Rodgers and company to 7-4 in the standings. That’s a game behind Minnesota (tie breakers don’t matter if you can’t chase a team down from behind!). But, more importantly, it was a 1-4 stretch over five games that included TWO losses at HOME to rivals with losing records.
Green Bay lost at home to Detroit 18-16
Green Bay lost at home to Chicago 17-13
And, the second felt like a delayed-replay of the first. The Packers struggled the whole way on offense…then failed to do what was needed in the final moments to bail themselves out. You do that on the road vs. top teams…and that’s acceptable. You do that at home to the Lions and Bears…and you’re clearly NOT playoff caliber, let alone championship caliber. You can’t even imagine Carolina, Arizona, New England, or Cincinnati losing consecutive home games like that.
So, entering this Thursday’s night’s rematch with the Lions, we know that Green Bay “at its best” can play with anybody…but that “at its best” has become surprisingly fickle. Plus, the Packers are clearly WAY behind Carolina and Denver (who beat the Broncos badly)…two teams who seemingly have more legitimate Super Bowl hopes at the moment.
Was Green Bay just a pretender all along? Is this a “must-win” game with more than a month left? Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats say about Round Two of Packers/Lions 2015…
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Green Bay: 7-4 (#11 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)
Detroit: 4-7 (#3 ranked schedule according to Sagarin)
Over the full season…that’s a clear edge to the Packers of course. But, RECENTLY, Detroit’s certainly in the same class. They won at Lambeau, scored a Thanksgiving blowout of Philadelphia, and has generally been playing competitive ball after the front office housecleaning. Maybe against a league average schedule they’d still be in the Wildcard hunt. You can think of Green Bay as 7-4 for the season, or 1-4 over their last five. Your choice!
Green Bay: 5.4 on offense, 5.5 on defense
Detroit: 5.3 on offense, 5.6 on defense
Not much difference here. Particularly after you adjust for schedule strength and recent form. If you read last week’s preview…you’ll recall that Green Bay was dead even with Chicago. That was much closer to predicting what actually happened than the market price. Both teams have negative differentials. Green Bay’s per-play offense has just disappeared in recent weeks.
Green Bay: +6
This is the difference-maker in the standings…and possibly part of what created early season illusions with the Packers. Rodgers was very efficient during the easiest part of their schedule. It’s been tough since, and the team has been pretty generic. If you MUST have turnovers to be a playoff threat, then you’re not really a playoff caliber team. Detroit has stopped the bleeding from their early disaster. Only one TOTAL giveaway the last three weeks in wins over Green Bay, Oakland, and Philadelphia. Again, “recent form” is out of whack with the full season numbers.
Green Bay: 6-5 ATS (3-8 to the Under)
Detroit: 4-7 ATS
Green Bay’s offense continues to be very overrated. That’s at the heart of the 3-8 mark to the Under. Even when the team scored 30 at Minnesota, it was on just 4.6 yards-per-play and less than 200 passing yards. Another category with a recent form headache. Green Bay is 1-4 ATS its last five after a 5-1 ATS start. Detroit is 3-0 ATS since its bye week, after going 1-7 ATS prior.
Current Line: Green Bay by 3, total of 46.5
Obviously the key to picking this winner is making the right call on how important recent form is going to be. Frankly…this should probably be pick-em if you’re only talking about the past month! Maybe Detroit should be a small favorite. That’s hard to swallow…but the numbers speak for themselves. Heck, Detroit won at Green Bay! Will the Packers ever get it back together? Will divisional revenge be the instigator? Or, a bounce back off the Thanksgiving night loss?
The best of Green Bay was a 10-point favorite in the first meeting…and can win by at least that much here if things click. The worst of Green Bay might continue limping all the way out of the playoff picture if they fall to 7-5…
CURRENT NFC WILDCARD RACE (top two qualify)
Green Bay 7-4
NFC East runner-up 5-6
Tampa Bay 5-6
It’s not exactly a murderer’s row below Seattle. But…7-5 is far from a safe record at the three-quarter pole for a team that’s been floundering in the mud for more than a month.
JIM HURLEY sees the potential for a blowout cover. He’ll be working around the clock with his full team of expert handicappers to find the right way to play this one on Thursday. Build your bankroll between now and then with great basketball. Then, kick off another big football weekend with Packers/Lions! If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours Tuesday or Wednesday.
Big game previews continue this weekend in the NOTEBOOK to give you a taste of the full week feast. Here’s what’s ahead…
*College Football TV Preview…#1 Clemson vs. #8 North Carolina in the ACC title tilt
*NFL Sunday Night TV Preview…Indianapolis at Pittsburgh
*NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Dallas at Washington
*NFL Thursday Night TV Preview…Minnesota at Arizona (big one!)
The only current NFC division leaders with winning records are Carolina, Arizona, and Minnesota. Two of those three square off in that big Thursday nighter next week!
Keep reading the NOTEBOOK for handicapping tips…and keep linking up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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