Saturday, October 09, 2010

Packers vs. Redskins Preview

The Green Bay Packers go into Sunday's game with the Washington Redskins as a wounded team. A rash of injuries beginning in game #1 has led any number of pundits who were onboard the Packers Super Bowl train to now say...well, maybe not. Two starters, RB Ryan Grant and S Morgan Burnett, are done for the year. LB Nick Barnett is out for Sunday's game and may be done for the season pending the decision on wrist surgery. Barnett Tweeted Saturday afternoon that, "Just finished another scan.. We are getting very close to putting together a plan... Meet with dr.. So.. Things are getting closer". Hmmm...

Other injured starters and key backups on both sides of the ball mean the eight-cylinder engine is now firing on six (not exactly a football metaphor, but you get the point). LB Brandon Chillar, FB Quinn Johnson, CB Sam Shields are all listed as out for Sunday, as well. T Mark Tauscher is listed as doubtful, but most reports are projecting rookie Bryan Bulaga will get the start. To fill the other spots, such players as Desmond Bishop, Charlie Peprah and others who usually get their playing time on special teams will be called upon to fill mighty big shoes. It's their chance to show what they can do. And it will likely be that way for a while. Bishop, for his part, says he's ready.

As the Pack goes into a stretch of games starting with an improved Washington team, followed by Miami and Minnesota at Lambeau, then at the Jets, and finally back home to face the Cowboys before heading into their bye week, this game shapes up as a rather pivotal game. If the Packers can play even a semblance of a complete game on offense, they should win this game against the 'skins. Because it's likely going to take lots of points to do so given the state of the defense.

With a depleted secondary and linebacking corps, the Packers are exposed against Washington's underneath passing game using their tight ends, as well as the downfield passing game when QB Donovan McNabb wants to take his shots with their limited wide receiver corps. And, let's not forget the problem that the Packers have trying to corral scrambling quarterbacks. McNabb has generally played well against the Packers in the past and there is no reason to suspect he won't play well Sunday. The question is whether he'll have an emotional letdown after the 'skins big victory in Philly last weekend.

Washington comes in much healthier than do the Packers. The only starter out for the 'skins is RB Clinton Portis. DT Albert Haynesworth will also reportedly miss the game; his younger brother, Lance, was killed in a motorcycle accident late this last week. (Our sincere condolences to the Haynesworth family.)

The current line on the game has the Packers favored by 2-1/2 points. This is a difficult game to predict given the Packers' narrow victory at home over the Lions last weekend. Yes, the Lions are an improved team. But the Pack played very poorly in almost every phase of the game. Fortunately, the Packers were finally able to get a grind-it-out running game going to eat up the clock at the end to preserve the victory. According to all reports and comments from coaches and players alike, the feeling in the locker room afterward was one where they had to be reminded that they won the game. Perhaps that will be the motivation they need to start playing the type of football they are capable of playing, and which we have yet to see this season. Even with the injuries, players need to step up. Coaches have made it clear they are not going to change schemes because of who is and who isn't available. Do we really buy that?

The Pack will have to make to do. Whether that will be good enough to get them a win in Washington or not...?

Check here for the complete Packers "Dope Sheet" on the match up.

Check back here Sunday morning to get my final prediction. This is one I definitely need to sleep on.