With so much attention given to Davante Adams, it's easy to forget about Packers WR Jordy Nelson. After missing the 2015 season because of a knee injury, Nelson, a ninth-year pro, leads the Packers with 61 receptions and nine touchdowns. That's three more catches and one more touchdown than the stellar numbers compiled by Adams. Nelson has a touchdown catch in four of the last five games. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Lambeau Field. TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson.
SERIES HISTORY: Fourth regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 2-1. The interconference opponents are playing for only the second time in Green Bay. The Texans' lone win in the series came at Lambeau Field, a 24-21 comeback victory in 2008 decided by Kris Brown's 40-yard field goal as time expired. That game also was played in December. The Packers rolled to a 42-24 victory at Houston in the teams' last meeting in 2012, highlighted by Aaron Rodgers' career-high six touchdown passes (three to Jordy Nelson).
KEYS TO THE GAME:
The Packers feel they are just getting started on getting a big late-season roll after ending their four-game losing streak with a 14-point victory at the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
Though Green Bay should benefit from staying at home on the short week, the matchup with the Houston Texans isn't ideal. The Texans are an uncommon opponent that the Packers last played in 2012. And, Houston is tied for the lead in the AFC South, a division that has caused fits for Green Bay this season.
Green Bay's recent malaise included a demoralizing five-point loss to the Indianapolis Colts when the Packers last played at home, followed by a further embarrassing 22-point setback at the Tennessee Titans.
While the Texans are smarting from back-to-back losses to the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, the Packers may go into Sunday's game with their star duo of quarterback Aaron Rodgers (hamstring) and linebacker Clay Matthews (shoulder) still nicked up from injuries sustained Monday.
Rodgers' season-best streak of three games with 300 or more passing yards will be challenged by Houston's exceptional pass defense, which ranks fifth in the NFL with an average of just 209.2 yards per game.
Green Bay's defense, which played OK against the Eagles after a run of bad performances during the losing streak, must contend with the Texans' top-five rushing attack led by Lamar Miller. Even though the Packers still have health issues at key spots at linebacker and in the secondary, the Texans are woeful throwing the football, never mind the big-play presence of DeAndre Hopkins at receiver. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers should make liberal use of his pass rush, as he did with success against Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, to force the Texans' Brock Osweiler into some mistakes.
Osweiler, whose 72.2 passer rating is worst among full-time quarterbacks this season, has thrown a league-high-tying 13 interceptions with just 12 touchdowns. The Chargers picked him off three times in their win at Houston on Sunday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Packers defensive line vs. Texans RB Lamar Miller. Green Bay still ranks among the stingiest in the NFL against the rush, ranking seventh with an average of 90.2 yards allowed. However, when the Packers have been challenged by a prolific rushing attack, the defense has invariably been gashed. That happened against Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys (191 yards), DeMarco Murray and the Tennessee Titans (154 yards) and Robert Kelley and the Washington Redskins (151 yards). Next up, Lamar Miller and the Houston Texans. Miller has been a renaissance man in his first season with the Texans, piling up 881 yards on the ground to rank fifth in the league. Miller has three 100-yard games, powering a Texans offense that is the league's fifth-best rushing team with an average of 121 yards per game.
--Packers punt-return unit vs. Texans punt-coverage unit. Almost a full two calendar years have passed since Green Bay returned a punt for a touchdown. The last such occurrence was by Micah Hyde against the Detroit Lions on Dec. 28, 2014. Though the Packers rank 10th in the NFL this season with a punt-return average of 9.9 yards, they continue to seek a spark from someone, anyone. Four players have at least one return. Veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb, who previously flourished on punt returns (one touchdown each in 2011 and '12), has been handling the duties in recent weeks. Yet, Cobb has averaged only five yards in his two runbacks, the latter of which resulted in a muff in Monday night's game at Philadelphia. There's hope, however, the Packers could spring a big return because opponents are averaging 11.7 punt-return yards against the Texans, who also have allowed a touchdown. Houston punter Shane Lechler is among the league's best with an average of 48.4 yards per punt, but his net average plummets to 39.6.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT:
--Out: DE Jadeveon Clowney (elbow, wrist), RB Tyler Ervin (ribs), LB John Simon (chest), WR Jaelen Strong (ankle)
--Questionable: RB Alfred Blue (calf), LB Brian Cushing (back), S Andre Hal (illness)
GREEN BAY PACKERS
--Out: LB Kyler Fackrell (hamstring), CB Demetri Goodson (knee)
--Doubtful: G T.J. Lang (foot), C J.C. Tretter (knee)
--Questionable: Blake Martinez (knee), LB Clay Matthews (shoulder), QB Aaron Rodgers (hamstring), LB Jake Ryan (ankle)
Packers WR Jordy Nelson. With so much attention given to Davante Adams, it's easy to forget about Nelson. All the ninth-year pro has done after missing the 2015 season because of a knee injury is lead the Packers with 61 receptions and nine touchdowns. That's three more catches and one more touchdown than the stellar numbers compiled by Adams. Nelson has a touchdown catch in four of the last five games.
Houston QB Brock Osweiler is 3-1 vs. the NFC North.
Since 2014, Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins ranks seventh in the NFL with 3,341 receiving yards. He has a receiving TD in two of the past three games vs. the NFC North.
Texans LB Benardrick McKinney had 12 tackles and a sack last week. He is the only player in the NFL with at least 100 tackles (101) and four sacks (4).
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers completed 76.9 percent of his passes for 313 yards and two TDs last week. It was his third straight 300-yard game. In two career games vs. Houston, he has 633 passing yards, eight TDs and an interception.
Packers WR Davante Adams caught five passes for 113 yards and two TDs in Week 12. He has five TD catches in the past five home games.
Rodgers is hot and should outduel Osweiler at Lambeau as the Packers try to get back in the NFC playoff race.
OUR PICK: Packers, 27-17.