Sunday, September 15, 2013

Week 2: Packers vs. Redskins Preview

Fans of the Green Bay Packers have had the last week to wail and nash our collective teeth over the loss (again...third in a row) to the San Francisco 49ers. It's another week, another game, and another read-option quarterback who may -- or may not -- give the Packers defense trouble. In the season home opener at Lambeau Field today, the Packers will see if they can keep QB Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins from having them start the season at 0-2.

Pictures of Lambeau Field - Attraction Photos
This photo of Lambeau Field is courtesy of TripAdvisor

If that happens, Packer fans, the road to the Super Bowl becomes very difficult indeed. According to people who's job it is to calculate such odds (that would not be me, just to be clear), only 22 NFL teams since 1990 (11.5 percent) have made the playoffs after starting 0-2. Only three teams that opened the season 0-2 have won the Super Bowl: the 1993 Dallas Cowboys, the 2001 New England Patriots and the 2007 New York Giants.

So, is this a must win for the Packers? If you have to ask, you shouldn't be reading this fact, the very task of reading this article would likely be beyond your abilities...move along, please.

But don't fret, Packer fans. According to an article by Bob McGinn, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's uber-Packers beat reporter, at least one unidentified NFL team executive actually upgraded the Pack after last week's loss to the Niners. That exec said: "After watching that game I'd be shocked if the Packers don't go 12-4. I was guessing they were a 10-6 team before that. They were very consistent on offense, like they always are. But the difference this year from last year was the passion that the defense played with. I thought they played hard on defense."

Was this guy watching the same game as the rest of us? Watching the secondary get torched for more than 400 passing yards by the Tattooed Wonder, Colin Kaepernick? Apparently, he liked the defensive line and acknowledged the big hit the secondary took without S Morgan Burnett and nickel back Casey Hayward in the lineup. Still, this guy says the Niners will beat the Packers in the NFC Championship and go on to win the Super Bowl. One man's view.

McGinn had another NFL personnel man evaluate the Packers relative to the league. McGinn states in his article that, "By his estimation, seven of the 32 teams have no chance for a winning season. At the same time, he ranked Green Bay among nine teams with a chance to win the championship." So...the Packers have that going for them. Which is nice.

But all that conversation seems a bit premature when you're 0-1 and need to get to 1-1 today. So, let's just focus on that for a moment, shall we?

Keys to the Game

Let's start on offense for the Pack. The Packers offense is not a problem. Let's state the obvious. The revamped offensive line held its own against perhaps the best defensive line in the NFL last week. There were a few breakdowns, sure. But the young tackles performed well, which was a concern. They still need to create some running room for Eddie Lacy and the other backs, however. With the call for a chance of rain for the game today, being able to sustain drives on the ground, and keep the ball out of the opposing quarterback's hands, will be a definite plus. QB Aaron Rodgers and receivers will do what they need to do, regardless of conditions, especially against a somewhat porous Redskins defense. Last season, their defense gave up 281.9 passing yards per game, 30th in the league. They were also dead last in third down defensive efficiency. While Washington has changed both its safeties, this bodes well for the Packers to rack up yards and put up points, with or without a sufficient running game today.

As to the Packers defense, it's not known at the time of this writing whether S Morgan Burnett will be seeing any playing time today or not. He did practice a bit this week and was testing out the hamstring. No doubt this will be a game-time decision. Let's hope he can be on the field at least some of the time because we saw last week what happened without him...not pretty. The Packers defensive front must play as aggressively as they did last week and there's no reason to suspect they won't. Given RGIII's shaky start in the 'Skins season opener, and the desire to still protect his rebuilt leg, we'd expect to see more passing from him than running. He's got a heckuva arm, although his mechanics were terrible for about three-fourths of the game last week. If the Packers secondary plays as badly as it did against the Niners, it could be another shoot-out. We don't want that. But at this stage of the season, anything is possible.

For Packers special teams performances, the return game is still the weak link, with some bad decision-making on display at San Francisco. You have to figure that will get cleaned up. Having P Tim Masthay handle the kickoffs is a very good thing; he booms 'em and this perhaps gives K Mason Crosby less to worry about...just make the dang field goals!


To the sound of the drum roll, we predict it will be: Packers 34 - Redskins 24.

Go Pack Go!!!