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NFL forecast: Why bet on Hundley, Packers?

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

November 5, 2017 07:22 AM
The bye week arrived at the right time for Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, who can tailor a better game plan for quarterback Brett Hundley, who gained extra prep time for his second NFL start.
© USA Today Sports Images

If Mike McCarthy is any sort of shrewd mastermind behind the Green Bay Packers’ success, it’s time to prove it. It’s time to show something.

Many consider McCarthy to be the dope riding shotgun and falling asleep with a sandwich in his lap while Aaron Rodgers drives the car. The Packers are on the road to nowhere without Rodgers — that’s the perception until we see otherwise.

Monday night is the time for McCarthy to show us something. Is he just another buffoon coach riding his starting quarterback’s coattails or can he win a meaningful game on his own merit? Is he more Chuck Pagano or Bill Belichick? Most likely, the truth lies in the middle, but this is the ideal scenario for McCarthy to prove his worth.

For the first time in his career, Detroit's Matthew Stafford will take the Lambeau Field stage as the better quarterback and the favorite. For the second time in three weeks, Green Bay is a home underdog without Rodgers.

Enough time has passed for the Packers to deal with reality and better prepare Brett Hundley to seize control of the offense. After stating his confidence in Hundley, McCarthy showed little faith in his young quarterback on Oct. 22, when conservative play-calling contributed to a 26-17 loss to New Orleans. Green Bay, a 4-point ‘dog, blew a 14-7 halftime lead on a day when Drew Brees was not playing all that well.

Hundley hit on 12 of 25 passes for 87 yards, with only one completion to Jordy Nelson. Hundley did run three times for 44 yards, and rookie Aaron Jones rushed for 131 yards, but it was plain to see the Packers needed to make something more happen with their passing attack. Hundley has a good arm, and he’s capable of making plays, yet McCarthy’s take-no-chances game plan backfired.

Why bet the Packers on Monday? Why will things be different?

The bye week arrived at the right time for McCarthy, who can tailor a better game plan, and for Hundley, who gained extra prep time for his second NFL start. Following surgery on his broken right collarbone, Rodgers returned to team meetings this week to help to tutor Hundley.

Green Bay (4-3) faces what is essentially a must-win NFC North game against Detroit (3-4). The Lions, who have dropped three in a row, have their own problems.

Despite totaling 482 yards against a tough Pittsburgh defense last week, Detroit settled for five field goals in a 20-15 loss. Matthew Stafford passed for 423 yards, but the running attack was useless and Jim Caldwell made more of his typical coaching blunders.

Here’s one more reason to bet the Packers: The Lions are 1-25 in their past 26 trips to Lambeau Field, finally stopping a 24-year losing streak in Green Bay in 2015.

Of course, this is not Rodgers or Brett Favre quarterbacking the favorite. This one is on Hundley and McCarthy. All things considered, play the Packers getting 2½ points, and here are four more picks for Week 9 (home team in CAPS):

* EAGLES (-7) over Broncos: Despite recent appearances, Denver is a quality team, and a quality underdog is usually attractive. Still, Philadelphia is in impressive current form, putting together a six-game win streak, including five straight point-spread covers. Carson Wentz is tied for the NFL lead with 19 touchdown passes, and the Eagles rank No. 5 in rushing offense (129.3 yards per game), No. 6 in total offense and No. 4 in scoring (29 points per game). Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount will form what is arguably the toughest running tandem in the league. The Broncos rank 24th in scoring (18.1 points per game) and are minus-10 in turnover margin in their past five games. It’s highly unlikely Brock Osweiler is the answer. This is also a play on a good number. It’s not a play at 7½ or more.

* Redskins (plus-8) over SEAHAWKS: Kirk Cousins has his back to the wall. Washington’s offensive line is depleted and tight end Jordan Reed is out. But the Redskins are getting back to full strength on defense, and the same cannot be said for Seattle, which will miss safety Earl Thomas. With the line inflating to 8 at the South Point and Westgate this morning, the ‘dog might have some value. Most likely, Russell Wilson will put makeup on the Seahawks’ flaws and find a way to win a tight game that ends with a Cousins interception.

* Chiefs (plus-2½) over COWBOYS: The Ezekiel Elliott saga made this a tricky decision. Kansas City was a more appealing pick when it appeared Elliott would be suspended. In the past three games, Elliott totaled 88 carries and rushed for 150 yards against Washington, 147 yards against San Francisco and 116 yards against Green Bay. The Chiefs were flipped from small road favorites to ‘dogs. The Dallas defense, which ranks 15th against the pass, needs to plug some holes in the secondary with Alex Smith set to strike. Kansas City ranks No. 3 (behind New England and New Orleans) in total offense and No. 3 (behind Houston and the Los Angeles Rams) in scoring offense at 29.5 points per game. Smith, who has 16 touchdown passes with no interceptions, is more of a threat than ever with running back Kareem Hunt, wideout Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce capable of stretching the field vertically. The Chiefs have been more consistent with an error-free Smith operating a more versatile offense.

* Raiders (-3) over DOLPHINS: After dropping five of six, Oakland’s season is on the line in Miami. So, it’s beat Jay Cutler or forget about the playoffs. It’s far from an impossible mission to beat Cutler or the Dolphins, who were just humiliated 40-0 by a bad Baltimore team and traded their top running back. Derek Carr should be embarrassed by his team’s offensive ineptitude and he should outplay Cutler. This line is no bargain, but it helps that Raiders coach Jack Del Rio kept his team in Florida all week to prepare.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread

Season: 21-17-2

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