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Five Good Questions: Slew of injuries make Packers vulnerable to resurgent Raiders

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Ahead of Raiders game in Green Bay on Sunday, we spoke with Jason Hirschhorn of SB Nation Packers site Acme Packing Company.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Oakland Raiders Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Back again getting some insight into the Raiders next opponent with five good questions. This time it’s the 5-1 Packers who will be looking to hold off the 3-2 Raiders coming off two straight wins and a bye week.

Let’s do this.

1. The game Monday night was pretty controversial with several really bad calls going against the Lions. It seemed as if the Packers would have lost that game if not for the bad officiating. Is that a sign of major issues on the Packers or just the Lions being a good team?

Both takeaways have validity. The Packers started to figure things off offensively when wide receiver Davante Adams suffered his turf toe injury at the end of Week 5’s matchup with the Eagles. Though past Green Bay receiving corps featured a varied and deep group of pass catchers, this year’s version doesn’t have a true field-tilting presence outside of Adams. That issue didn’t crop up during the following game against the Cowboys due to the emphasis on the ground game, but it held back the Packers this past week. Geronimo Allison dropped multiple passes for first downs while Jimmy Graham and Aaron Jones dropped would-be touchdowns. At least until someone steps up, the passing game has a defined ceiling.

But the Lions deserve credit as well. They took away most of the easy downfield throws the Packers have schemed in previous weeks and forced Aaron Rodgers to complete highly difficult bucket throws such as the 25-yard reception to tight end Marcedes Lewis or the 35-yard touchdown to wideout Allen Lazard. Obviously, Rodgers has the skill to complete those passes, but it generally doesn’t make for a consistent passing game.

2. We know Aaron Rodgers is the straw that stirs the drink in Green Bay. But is there any other area that is not getting enough credit for doing their part in their 5-1 record?

Rodgers and the improved defense certainly have received attention for their exploits this season, and for good reason. They deserve the lion’s share of the credit for the Packers’ 5-1 start, especially after both struggled for large stretches of last year.

But the Packers have also received stellar play from punter JK Scott, without whom the team probably loses one of their early contests. Scott’s overall numbers look great -- 48.6 yards per punt gross, 44.8 net -- but his field-flipping bombs against the Bears helped negate some of the team’s bad offensive possessions.

3. The only team that beat the Packers this season was the Eagles who put up 34 points while the Packers still managed to score 31. It is simply winning a shootout that is the key to beating the Packers or is there more to it than that? In other words, how else might a team beat the Packers, assuming Aaron Rodgers is going to get his?

Given the state of the receiving corps, forcing the Packers to play from behind and move away from the run can give opponents the best chance of success. Green Bay leaned heavily on the ground game against the Cowboys because of their early lead and the absence of Adams essentially didn’t matter. Against the Lions, when the Packers trailed by 13 points before the end of the first quarter, the game plan shifted considerably. Obviously, teams can’t just plan on establishing early leads, but doing so would help the Raiders out considerably.

4. What a find Preston Smith has turned out to be. Putting up 7.0 sacks in six games. He had three against the Broncos while the Vikings and Eagles were the only two teams to hold him without a sack. How did he go about destroying the Broncos and how did the other two teams stop him (if they did)?

Until last week, Preston Smith hadn’t finished a game with less than four pressures. Against the Lions, he produced only three, but two turned into sacks (1.5 officially credited to him). He does such a good job at timing the snap that even a capable pass protector will have trouble staying in front of him.

But slowing down Smith involves more than just containing one player, as the Packers have done a great job of using him and fellow free-agent signing Za’Darius Smith in tandem. In obvious passing situations, Za’Darius Smith will kick inside with Preston Smith working next to him on the edge. That approach and the stunts the two will run when lined up together have proven extremely effective at pressuring quarterbacks this season.

5. A few weeks ago the feeling surrounding facing the Raiders might have equal to that of having a bye week. I assume after their past couple games that is no longer the case. What exactly is the feeling over there about facing a now 3-2 Raiders team coming off their big win over the Packers’ division rival Bears in London?

Because of the new coaching staff and the challenges facing a first-time head coach like Matt LaFleur, I don’t think the Packers have overlooked any opponent. The fact the Raiders come off a bye week adds to that. Even without Oakland’s win in London, it seems unlikely Green Bay would treat this game as an easy win.

See my answers to his questions here