The hot new game is out, just in time for Christmas. All the cool kids are playing it. Aren't you? Goes something like this: When will the Green Bay Packers lose?
The Packers have been the NFL's lone undefeated team since the middle of last month, and everyone who thinks this isn't a 16-0 team wants a piece of the action. First candidate: The San Diego Chargers, who are on a short week after a deflating loss on "Monday Night Football" but are 4-3 and a long trip away for the Packers.
This game has emerged as a trendy upset pick. Most recently, Sports Illustrated's Peter King suggested the Chargers will minimize the Packers' offensive possessions by successfully running against the Packers' defense. So I wanted to be sure to point you toward a different analysis from Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz, whose ESPN Insider piece develops a profile for type of team most likely to beat the Packers in 2011.
According to Schatz, that team will have:
A strong defensive line that can pressure Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers without blitzing.
A solid run defense to prevent Rodgers from successfully checking into runs against four-man fronts.
A passing game that can turn the yards the Packers typically give up into maximum points.
Schatz notes, and I agree, that the Chargers don't really fit that profile. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has been unusually ineffective this season, calling into question whether he'll avoid the turnovers and red zone failures that the Packers' defense has excelled at creating.
The Chargers have a mid-level pass defense, based on opponents' passer rating, and they're tied for No. 26 in the NFL with 13 sacks. Schatz also suggests the Packers will have an easier time running the ball on the Chargers than vice versa, ranking the Chargers as the league's eighth-worst run defense based on how it compares to the league average.
We, of course, should note the on-any-given-Sunday caveat. But if Schatz is right, another NFL team on the Packers' schedule is in better position to end their unbeaten streak. The Packers play them twice, in fact. It's the same team that beat them once last year and lost a second game by two points.
We'll get to their 2011 matchups in due time. For now, I'm aligning myself with those who think the Packers will be 8-0 a few days from now.