NFL Handicapping: Green Bay Finally has Running Game
by Darin Zank - 10/9/2013
Every NFL season offers up a few early surprises. This year, we've got the Kansas City Chiefs, who are off to a 5-0 start, and the Cleveland Browns are tied for first place heading into October.
In another shocking development, the Green Bay Packers may have found themselves a running game to complement their potent passing attack.
Think of the implications.
Here's a stat that might have Packers fan salivating -- or saying “about #@$%&!' time;” Green Bay ranks fifth in the league in rushing at 141 yards per game.
That stat might also have the rest of league saying “uh oh.”
So far, it's been a three- and even four-headed effort for Green Bay on the ground. But whatever the case, the Packers have posted three straight 100-yard efforts.
Oft-injured James Starks started things off by rambling for 132 yards in a 38-20 romp over Washington in Week 2.
The following week rookie Johnathan Franklin bolted for 103 yards, 51 of which came on one play, against Cincinnati. Franklin also, however, as rookies sometimes do, coughed the ball up at a most inopportune time, basically costing Green Bay a victory.
And last week, with 99 yards from rookie Eddie Lacy and 67-yard scamper by scat-back Randall Cobb, the Pack ran for a buck-eighty in a grind-it-out victory over Detroit.
If not for that Franklin fumble against the Bengals, the Packers would probably be 3-0 both SU and ATS in their three games of rushing for more than 100 yards.
Aaron Rodgers and his receiving crew, one of the very best in the league, were already a handful for defenses. Now defenses might have to deal with a capable Green Bay running attack.
Maybe it's Rodgers who's doing the drooling.
The Long-Term Implications
The Packers most immediate goal, other than to win one game at a time, is to host playoff games in January. But to be successful in January in Green Bay, it's nice to be able to run the ball.
I think back to the Packers' playoff loss at home to the Giants two Januaries ago when Green Bay receivers dropped numerous balls on a cold day at Lambeau Field.
Passing games – duh - can be affected, detrimentally, in cold and windy weather. Without a running game, the Packers had no home-field advantage that day.
On the Other Side of the Ball ...
The only cold water on this feel-good moment for Green Bay is Clay Matthews' broken thumb, which apparently will keep him out for a month or so. It will be interesting to see how DC Dom Capers deals with Matthews' absence and who might start stepping up to make the big plays on D.
Updated Packers Super Bowl Odds
Let's get to what's really important; the Super Bowl XLVIII (that's 48, for all you non-Romans out there) betting odds.
The Packers went off this year getting right around 12/1 on most Super Bowl betting boards, and as of earlier this week those odds had held very steady. Both Bovada and Sportsbook.ag were still giving 12/1 on Green Bay to bring home another Lombardi Trophy this season.
But futures bettors might be wise to get down on Green Bay quickly before they reel off six or seven victories in a row. The Packers are in Baltimore this Sunday to play the 3-2 Ravens; from there they host the Browns, Bears, Eagles, Vikes, Falcons and Steelers, and play at Minnesota, the Giants, Detroit, Dallas and Chicago.
At the moment, none of those games seem unwinnable for Green Bay.
And what will the Packers' Super Bowl odds be when they're 9-3 rolling into December? Half of 12/1?
As for this week's action, most NFL betting outlets were listing the Packers as three-point road favorites over the Ravens.
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