Monday Night Football: Rodgers to prove he's still the leader of the Pack

Aaron Rodgers
Friends reunited: Aaron Rodgers and his oval buddy can effectively get back to work
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Romilly Evans expects Aaron Rodgers to find his feet in Monday Night Football, and sow the seeds of recovery at Lambeau Field after Green Bay's stuttering start

"Mike McCarthy’s men have only failed so far in the key column of team cohesion"

San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers
Start-time: Tuesday, 01:15
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
 

Green Bay's offense set for a red-letter day against the Niners

The initial Vegas handicap line may have shifted a point towards the San Francisco 49ers in the intervening week. However, the received wisdom remains that the Green Bay Packers will emerge comfortable victors here, at home against an embattled Niners outfit. And it's hard to disagree.

For all Green Bay's own personnel issues, they're still in control of a surprisingly wide open NFC North and seem to getting some good reports from the treatment table. Talisman Aaron Rodgers has been playing with an injured knee for the past few weeks, while the quarterback's receiving corps and even more banged-up.

Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison have been struggling with persistent niggles but both are game-time decisions here, while Davante Adams continues to be mercifully injury-free and must lead the crew tonight.

In other upbeat news, running man Aaron Jones is back in rude health after his suspension, averaging six yards per run over his last three outings, so Rodgers will enjoy a better balance on offense. Regardless, the moustachioed maverick has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,572 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one pick (with two or more touchdown passes in eight of his last 11 games) so this is no time for panic at Lambeau Field.

If Green Bay can stay undefeated at their storied stronghold, I'm backing them to take the division and maintain a postseason push. And then, once they're in play-off country, anything can happen. After all, General Rodgers has made a career out of keeping his troops alive when the big-game bullets start to fly.

On the other hand, you can stick a fork in the 49ers. They're done. Seeing as they're struggling to snap a three-game losing streak and rebound from a 1-4 rut, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. Plus breakthrough road wins (San Fran have lost eight of their past 11 away) don't typically arrive in the cold comforts of Wisconsin.

More specifically, C.J. Beathard is levelling off for touchdowns and interceptions, with four apiece. That's never an encouraging sign for self-belief. Although George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk, who have recently combined for combined for somewhere north of 500 receiving yards and two touchdowns, do provide Beathard with some stealth potential. Mostly because no defensive co-ordinator saw them coming this term, particularly Juszczyk at full back. His surprise-package status could endure here, as no-one seems to give him the time of day in coverage.

Stats are firmly against San Francisco rallying tonight

Nevertheless, clutching at such straws is about as good as it gets for 49ers fans this evening. Last week, they even laid an egg against supposedly the worst offensive team in the league, Arizona's House of Cards. That said, they're not getting hammered (their four defeats have come by an average of under eight points) and that coincidentally is the head-start they receive from Green Bay.

So maybe you'll draw some solace from the fact that the Niners are a staggering 25-6 "against the spread" in their last 31 MNF handicaps? However, if you do, you should lie down before you hurt yourself.

A series of "one-off" Monday Night stats are pretty irrelevant. More akin to using statistics as a drunkard uses a lamp-post -- for support rather than for illumination. So to quash any hope, rely on more salient trends like: the Pack have won 10 of their last 12 regular-season versus the 49ers, including six of seven contests at home.

More tellingly perhaps, Mike McCarthy's men have so far simply failed in the key column of team cohesion. There's no stat for that. However, the Packers have the third-most penalties (43) and second-most penalty yards (413) in the league, not to mention a low-light reel of eight turnovers, featuring six lost fumbles.

Is this an example of poor discipline or bad luck? I would venture the latter, especially on the notoriously fickle fumbles front, coupled to the uncertainty of some lingering injuries which are now belatedly clearing up.

The Packers head coach was San Francisco's offensive co-ordinator back in 2005, and loves to get one over on his old Niners compadres. McCarthy can once again deliver a tactical masterclass in the primetime spotlight, with a revitalised Rodgers at the helm. Even if you've got to feel for San Francisco's Kyle Shanahan, foundering under the burden of expectation by following in the footsteps of his illustrious father Mike.

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