David John makes Alshon Jeffrey his focus for Thursday night’s NFL showdown between Green Bay and Chicago.
Chicago at Green Bay (Friday 0125BST)
“I will have a scotch and watch the film.”
That is what quarterback Aaron Rodgers told the media after Green Bay’s insipid 30-16 weekend defeat to an improving Dallas as the scrutiny on the Packers became that little more intense.
Former Super Bowl winner and Future Hall of Famer Rodgers has not been himself this season with everyone seemingly having an opinion as to what has gone wrong with his team now 3-2 and trailing unbeaten Minnesota in the NFC North.
While it is a little bit early to suggest Rodgers is on his way out, a number of reasons for his sub-par performance have been put forward – he is struggling from a mechanics perspective, the chemistry with his receivers is missing, some strange play-calling by head coach Mike McCarthy – or probably a combination of the three.
Whatever is going on, this is not what the faithful in Wisconsin have been accustomed to and the boos could be heard reverberating around as Lambeau Field started to empty part way through the fourth quarter.
A quick turnaround for the hosts might not be a bad thing in the grand scheme of things and a streamlined playbook put in place on a short week for Rodgers to work from could help him start to regain that legendary rhythm.
The leader in the locker room that Rodgers has become means he is happy to shoulder plenty of the responsibility but the Packers current plight is not completely down to him.
He may have favourite target Jordy Nelson back after a serious knee injury but their ability to stretch a field has been absent and even though we are still in the early stages of the campaign, the longest passing play Rodgers has managed is just 49 yards.
He has missed a few throws but there have been dropped passes as well while a middle-of-the-road running game led by Eddie Lacy (still looks overweight and is now carrying an ankle injury) lacks real punch with Green Bay forced to trade this week for Kansas City back-up Knile Davis to add some depth.
Green Bay may hardly inspire confidence for punters at the moment but the fact they are in the region of 2/7 to win this game emphasizes what sort of trouble Chicago find themselves in with a 1-5 record.
One of the most iconic franchises in the history of the game have been in hum-drum form for a number of seasons and another one looks like sliding away before we even get out of October.
The Bears managed to blow a 14-point advantage in the fourth quarter against Jacksonville last weekend and second-year head coach John Fox summed things up succinctly: “We just don’t play well enough right now.”
The defense still remains rather unconvincing but the offense has managed to move the ball efficiently with Brian Hoyer under centre while Jay Cutler nurses an injured thumb – the former had a fourth straight game with over 300 passing yards and no interceptions in the loss to the Jaguars.
That sort of form is good enough to see them ranked seventh currently in Total Offense but the problems has been scoring points with just nine out of 19 trips inside the red zone ending in a touchdown this season.
This particular issue has not been lost on wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, who produced a foul-mouthed soundbite for the media as to what the offense needed to do – I won’t repeat it but Jeffrey now becomes the focus for the best bet in the game.
He had a productive first half against Jacksonville but went missing after the interval and it may be a surprise to hear that has yet to have a touchdown catch in 2016. Then again, it may not.
That can change on Thursday night though as in all honesty it does not require a great deal of imagination to picture Hoyer at last finding the end zone with their best offensive player on the other end.
The original spread on this game saw Green Bay made favourites by 9.5 points but that has been forced right into 6.5 with the gambling community seemingly having little faith the hosts will immediately turn a corner.
The Bears should make a game of it but I will let the outcome sort itself out and stick with a small bet on there being some light relief for Jeffrey as he does what Chicago pay him a handsome sum to do.
Verdict: Chicago 20 Green Bay 22