When the Green Bay Packers lose, it’s never Aaron Rodgers’ fault.
Disclaimer: The previous sentence is intended to be sarcasm, though many fans and media cheerleaders seriously believe it. Rodgers probably believes it, too.
Rodgers is the best part of the Packers 90-plus percent of the time, but that was untrue a week ago in a loss at Washington and it needs to be true Sunday at Buffalo -- if not, Green Bay’s ugly start to the season will go from bad to worse.
Rodgers is a double-digit underdog for the first time in his career, and his inconsistent play is a contributing factor. The Packers (3-4) are also in this predicament because the Bills (5-1) power rate as the No. 1 team in the NFL.
The league MVP in 2020 and 2021, Rodgers is not going to three-peat. The quarterback he’s opposing this week, Josh Allen, is the MVP favorite for good reason. Allen is averaging 330 passing yards per game with 17 touchdowns and also leads the team with 257 rushing yards.
Buffalo boasts the league’s top scoring defense (13.5 PPG). The Bills have won their two home games against Pittsburgh and Tennessee by an average of 34.5 PPG while allowing a total of 10 points.
There is no shortage of bad news confronting the Packers, whose problems are mostly on offense. Rodgers produced only 10 points in a loss to the Jets the week before he put 14 on the board -- Green Bay’s defense scored on an interception return -- in a 23-21 loss at Washington. After the collapse against the Commanders, Rodgers made public comments that placed the blame on some teammates when he said players who are making mistakes should not be on the field.
It’s fine for a team leader to call out the slackers. However, a review of the game film showed Rodgers making a few bad decisions and missing several throws to open receivers. It is Rodgers’ offense, and the play-calling must be better. Packers coach Matt LaFleur is smart enough to let Rodgers run the show yet not sharp enough to know the answers to what’s wrong. Green Bay needs to find its lost running attack and feed the ball more often to Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, who combined for only 12 carries and 38 yards against Washington.
Injuries complicate the picture. Wide receiver Allen Lazard is out with a shoulder injury, and left tackle David Bakhtiari is questionable with a sore knee. And that’s just the most important part of the Packers’ lengthy injury report.
Prior to a bye week, the Bills pulled out a 24-20 win at Kansas City that sets them up to earn the AFC’s top seed. Most handicappers assume the bye is a positive, due to extra time to get healthy, but the layoff sometimes disrupts the timing of a hot offense. Green Bay has to hope the Allen-led offense is a little off because the Packers need all the help they can get to stay competitive into the fourth quarter.
Rodgers has a 13-game winning streak in prime-time games — the longest by any quarterback since 1970 — with 36 touchdown passes and two interceptions. This is different because now he’s riding a three-game losing streak. The betting public might be right to expect another Buffalo blowout, but Rodgers and the points are a take for contrarian cappers and ‘dog lovers.
Pick: Packers + 11
Four more plays for Week 8:
Jaguars (-2) over Broncos: It might be wise to sleep in Sunday morning. Expect this game to be low scoring and ugly, which has been the trend for Denver with its tough defense (No. 2 in scoring, 16.4 PPG) and terrible offense. Jacksonville is a difficult team to bet on because of Doug Pederson’s questionable game-management calls and quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s inconsistency. The Jaguars do have experience playing in London and actually winning there, posting a 4-4 record. It’s probably better to fade the Broncos until coach Nathaniel Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson prove they can put together a good performance.
Steelers (+ 10.5) over EAGLES: Philadelphia features an impressive run-pass balance to an offense that ranks No. 5 in yards per game (394.5) and No. 4 in scoring (26.8). It’s tough to find a weakness on either side of the ball, but if the Eagles have a flaw it has been their tendency to race to big first-half leads before the offense slows considerably in the second half. When a team is rolling, a bye week sometimes interrupts that rhythm, so Philadelphia must overcome that possible hurdle. With the exception of a 38-3 loss at Buffalo, the Steelers have been within one score in the final two minutes of their other six games. Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett is improving, and the Pittsburgh defense allowed only 34 total points in the past two games.
Patriots (-2.5) over JETS: New England’s defense was exposed Monday by the Bears’ running attack and their mobile quarterback, Justin Fields. This will be a much different type of game, and Jets quarterback Zach Wilson has not been much of a threat – running or throwing. A season-ending injury to explosive rookie running back Breece Hall is a big setback to the New York offense. The Patriots were beginning to play at a high level before this week’s fiasco in Foxborough, but they should get back on track here with either quarterback — Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe.
BROWNS (+ 3.5) over Bengals: Nick Chubb, the league’s leading rusher with 740 yards, probably gives Cleveland half of what it needs to win this game. The other half is a pass rush to put pressure on Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow. The injury absence of Ja’Marr Chase takes away Burrow’s favorite target, so that’s a big factor in siding with the Browns — especially with 3.5 still available at a few books — in the battle for Ohio.
Last week: 2-3 against the spread