Rare Lambeau Matchup
Green Bay, WI - Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is probably getting more blame than he deserves for the Green Bay Packers' problems.
Matt Schaub, meanwhile, can't take any credit for two straight Houston Texans wins.
With Rodgers getting some heat for losing close games, the Packers look to bounce back from their latest defeat Sunday when they host a Texans team that may be set to put Schaub back in the starting lineup.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Packers -6 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 79% of bets for this game have been placed on the Packers -6 (View NFL Football bet percentages).
Green Bay (5-7) is 1-4 in games decided by five points or fewer after making a habit of winning close games in its charge to the playoffs last season. It's been convenient for Packers fans to blame Rodgers after Green Bay traded Brett Favre to the New York Jets in August, but coach Mike McCarthy knows his starting quarterback's play is probably the least of his worries.
"I think you have to look at all of the elements that have happened throughout the course of a game," McCarthy said. "Our quarterback position, I think, has played at a very high level this year. I don't think it's an issue at all."
Rodgers did throw an interception with 1:19 left in Green Bay's 35-31 loss to Carolina last Sunday, but the Packers also allowed three straight big plays after taking a 31-28 lead with 1:57 left. They gave up a 45-yard kickoff return to Mark Jones, a 54-yard pass to Steve Smith and a 1-yard touchdown run to DeAngelo Williams.
Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said closing out games will be a point of emphasis for coaches heading into Sunday's contest.
"We talked to our guys about it: The one thing we have to do better, that we haven't done, is close out a ballgame," Philbin said. "It's still hanging over our head, so to speak, and there's no easy answer."
Philbin has helped Rodgers develop into a solid replacement for Favre. Rodgers has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 2,897 yards and 20 TDs against 10 interceptions.
Green Bay certainly has more pressing issues than Rodgers' play.
The Packers continue to have trouble stopping the run or rushing the passer, ranking 27th in run defense with 141.8 yards allowed per game and 26th with 20 sacks.
There's also the punting problem, which Green Bay addressed by releasing the inconsistent Derrick Frost Monday without immediately announcing who would replace him against the Texans (5-7).
Houston has won its last two despite mediocre play from quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who has thrown two TDs while getting picked off three times in that span.
Schaub is expected to return Sunday, barring any setbacks in the recovery of his injured left knee. He has missed the last four games after injuring his medial collateral ligament early in Houston's 28-21 loss at Minnesota on Nov. 2.
"I think if everything goes OK this week the expectations are that he goes back into his role as our starter," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.
Schaub has thrown for 1,762 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven games this season. Rosenfels has 10 interceptions and six touchdowns in five starts in his place. The Texans have gone 2-2 since Schaub's injury, winning with defense and a strong running game.
Rookie running back Steve Slaton has emerged as a threat on offense, and should help ease Schaub's transition back into the starting lineup.
Slaton had two fourth-quarter TDs to lead Houston to a 30-17 win over Jacksonville on Monday night after telling Kubiak at halftime that he wanted the ball more.
"I wanted to let him know that if he needed someone to count on, it was me," said Slaton, who has tied a Texans rookie record with eight rushing TDs.
On defense, Houston is enjoying its best stretch of the season, holding its last two opponents to a combined 23 points.
Mario Williams, the top pick in the 2006 draft, had a season-high three sacks and forced a fumble versus the Jaguars. He has 11 sacks, but only three in six road games.
The Packers won their only meeting against the Texans, 16-13 at Houston on Nov. 21, 2004.
Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
GREEN BAY is 0-0 against the spread versus HOUSTON since 1992
GREEN BAY is 1-0 straight up against HOUSTON since 1992
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries
No significant injuries.
[RB] Kregg Lumpkin IR - Hamstring - 10/11/08
[LS] JJ Jansen IR - Knee - 08/30/08
[LB] Nick Barnett is expected to miss the rest of the season. - Knee - 11/10/08
[WR] Donald Driver injured last game, "?" - Toe - 11/16/08
[DE] Cullen Jenkins IR - Chest - 10/01/08
Posted: 12/3/08 3:44 PM ET