Sunday, January 10, 2016

Wildcard Playoff Game: Packers vs. Washington

The Green Bay Packers, following two straight losses to end the 2015 regular NFL season, including the NFC North Division title game loss to Minnesota at Lambeau Field last weekend, travel to Washington, D.C. today to take on the Redskins, who are coming into this game having won four straight and averaging 33 points per game during that stretch.


Packer fans know how we got here: the Pack started the season strong -- despite the exhibition game and season-ending loss of WR Jordy Nelson -- going undefeated in their first six games. Then the bye week arrived. In the 10 games following the bye, the Packers went 4-6 and struggled to get any type of offensive consistency going. Special teams and the defense became the strengths of the team. Thank goodness, or making the playoffs might not have happened at all.

Packers LB Clay Matthews and the entire defense will have to shut down Washington's offense today to have a chance to win.
(Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

So, the Packers limp into this Wildcard round against a hot Washington team, with a young quarterback in Kirk Cousins who's been on a roll the last month or so. He has confidence in himself and those around him. They're making plays. It will be up to the Packers defense to slow down that offense. Not an easy thing, particularly if the Packers offense can't stay on the field and put up points. But it's what they need to do for the Pack to have a chance today.

The Packers offense will have opportunities against the league's 28th-ranked defense. Washington's secondary is banged up, missing three starters. This is the type of situation QB Aaron Rodgers and his receiving corps used to be able to exploit with few difficulties. But of late, the offensive line's inability to protect Rodgers, the receivers' inability to get separation from defenders, the running backs' inability to consistently gain yardage and/or hold on to the ball, and Rodgers' seeming lack of confidence in the whole system mean the Packers have been battling themselves as much as their opponents. If that continues today, they are one and done in the playoffs.

Can the Packers win this game? Yes. The oddsmakers are calling this game a toss-up. Past performance is a good predictor of future performance. Given thant, for 10 weeks, we haven't seen much that gives us confidence that the Pack will win this game. They'll be missing CB Sam Shields again as well LB Jayrone Elliot, both of whom could definitely help in holding down the Washington offense. LT David Bakhtiari is questionable for the game, meaning the banged up and sieve-like O-line will once again be performing at a less than ideal level just in terms of personnel let alone performance.

The Prediction
My head tells me that the Packers haven't shown enough to tell me they will somehow flip a switch and perform differently and at a higher level than they have over the past 10 weeks. But, I'm also a Packers shareholder and fan. My heart tells me they can get out of their own way for at least this game and win a close one.

We're calling it 23-20 in favor of the Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!