The Green Bay Packers return home this Sunday to face the New York Jets in an interconference game. The Jets are off to a surprising 3-2 start despite playing without their starting quarterback for the first three games of the season. The Jets are a team with young, talented players who are still learning but they do appear to be headed in the right direction.
The Packers are coming off a tough 27-22 defeat to the New York Giants in London. The Packers held a 20-10 halftime lead that slipped away and saw their record fall to 3-2 on the season. The Jets crushed the Dolphins last week 40-17 when facing Miami’s third-string quarterback. They are also now 3-2 on the season.
The Packers trail the all-time series between these two teams going 5-8-0 against the Jets. These two teams first met back in 1973. The two teams have never met in the postseason. Green Bay has won the last three meetings between these two teams including 44-38 overtime win on the road in 2018.
Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game in Lambeau:
- Get Pressure On Zach Wilson
Zach Wilson is starting his second season in the NFL. After missing the first three games of the season after suffering a preseason injury, Wilson returned to the lineup in Week 4 and led the Jets to two straight victories.
Wilson has a strong arm and so far, this season is reading defenses better than he did a year ago. He still struggles with accuracy at times, especially when he is under pressure. Give Wilson time to throw and he will make big plays. Get defenders in his face and he is struggles to find receivers and is prone to turn the ball over.
The Packers will need Rashan Gary and Preston Smith to get pressure on Wilson. Jarran Reed and Kenny Clark have also gotten to the quarterback from the defensive line at times and if they can disrupt Wilson’s passing lanes and pressure him from the interior, it can further take the former BYU star off his game.
- Stick With the Run
When the Packers have been successful running the football but they get away from the running game too quickly and when they do, it hurts the offense.
Green Bay is averaging 134.8 yards per game on the ground thus far this season and the duo of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon gives them two quality backs with complimentary skill sets.
Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers need to keep calling a steady diet of running plays even if they aren’t getting chunk plays early on. Running the ball keeps the Packers in second and third and short situations and prevents the Jets pass rushers from teeing-off on Rodgers.
Jones is averaging 6.4-yards per carry thus far this year and is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Dillon is a tough, inside runner who provides a complimentary style of running and is tough to tackle one-on-one.
The Packers win when they run the ball. The Jets run defense is 16th in the league in yards allowed per game and opponents are averaging 4.0-yards per rush against them. The Packers still need to run the football enough to ensure their two best offensive weapons are an integral part of the game plan.
- Protect Aaron Rodgers
The Jets have 10 sacks through five games and they have some talented young pass rushers on their roster. Quinnen Williams leads the team with three sacks. Jon Runyan, Jr. will have the primary task of containing Williams and this matchup will be critical for the Packers offense.
The Jets may try to move Williams around and have him line up opposite right guard Royce Newman at times as Newman is the weak link of the Packers offensive line and has trouble picking up stunts and blitzes.
Packers right tackle Elgton Jenkins will have the task of slowing down Carl Lawson who is second on the team with 2.5 sacks. Jenkins struggled in pass protection early in the season but appears to be returning to form. He had his best game in pass protection against the Giants last week and needs to have a similar performance on Sunday.
If Rodgers has time to throw, he should be effective in the passing game if he spreads the ball around and doesn’t try for too many splash plays at inopportune times.
- Contain Breece Hall
Hall is the Jets top running back although Michael Carter isn’t far behind in the number of times he carries the ball. Thus far, Hall is averaging 4.9-yards per carry which is roughly what the Packers defense is giving up per rush.
The former Iowa State star is a patient, one-cut runner who follows his blocks and gets quickly through the hole. The Packers defense will have to stay in their lanes and keep contain to prevent Hall from cutting back and picking up solid gains.
Hall is also a good receiver and he’s made 17 receptions for 213 yards and a touchdown.
If the Packers can keep Hall from being a major factor in this game, they can force the Jets into more obvious passing situations. That will allow the Packers pass rushers to concentrate on putting pressure on Wilson and get him off his game.
- Emphasize the Short Passing Game
The Packers offense moved the ball in the first half of the Giants game last week when the placed an emphasis on shorter, quick release passes. In the second half, they got away from those passes and attempted to throw the ball downfield more often with poor results.
Aaron Rodgers missed practice on Wednesday due to an injured thumb. He is expected to play Sunday against the Jets but will the thumb injury hamper his accuracy especially on deep passes?
Rodgers has consistently missed on his deep throws although he’s been close so often it’s tempting for him to keep trying. They need to limit that desire and stick to runs and shorter, quick release passes to limit the pass rush and keep the chains moving.
- Win the Turnover Battle
The Packers defense has not been creating turnovers this season. Through five games, the Packers have intercepted only one pass and recovered three fumbles. They have not won the turnover differential battle in any of their first five games this season and are minus-three for the season.
The Packers passive style of pass defense is partially responsible for the lack of turnovers created this season.
The Jets have already intercepted seven passes this season and recovered two fumbles, but they also turn the ball over more than the Packers and they are even in turnover differential.
The team that wins the turnover battle will have a good chance of winning this game.
This looked like an easy home win on paper when the schedule was first released but now it looks like a tough game since the Packers are struggling and the Jets are playing better than expected.
The two head coaches, Matt LaFleur of the Packers and Robert Saleh of the Jets are long time friends and that will add a little spice to the matchup.
The Packers need to get back on track after playing poorly in the second half in London and letting a lead slip away. The Jets are confident coming into this game and are a team on the upswing.
If the Packers don’t have a hangover from the traveling and time zone switch from last week’s London trip, they should win this game but it won’t be easy.
Packers 24, Jets 21
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