If you had asked Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy, and the entire Packers’ organization if they would’ve thought they’d be taking to the road on Wild-Card weekend back in August, they likely all would have scoffed at that idea. Green Bay, as if often the case, was once again the prohibitive favourites in the NFC North. But some shoddy play, injuries, and inconsistency cost them their division, and now they’ll need to travel to Washington to take on an upstart Redskins team primed for some post-season football. With Aaron Rodgers clearly not himself, and a banged-up offensive line, these really aren’t the Packers we have come to expect in recent years.
For Washington, they enter riding a huge wave of momentum and are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. Kirk Cousins has been excellent under centre, and full kudos to the Redskins for taking advantage of a fairly soft schedule and coming through when it mattered the most. Still, they’re taking on the Green Bay Packers, and for all of their recent struggles, this is a unit that still boasts a ton of playoff experience and pride. The Redskins’ flaws have been masked and/or seemingly ignored in recent weeks, but playing Green Bay in the wild-card round will represent a significant step up for Kirk Cousins and this Redskins’ organization – whether they can cope with the challenge remains to be seen. This promises to be yet another great Sunday NFC showdown on Wild-Card Weekend. Can the Packers snap out of their funk with their backs against the wall? Read on below to find out with a detailed game breakdown and official selection for Packers/Redskins.
Packers vs. Redskins Betting Odds:
Green Bay Packers +1 (-110)
@ Washington Redskins -1 (-110)
Over 45 (-110)
Under 45 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Packers vs. Redskins Pick:
Right now, this is a tale of two teams headed in opposite directions. The Packers started the year alright, but just hung on down the stretch to even get to this game. Washington is essentially the opposite, as the ‘Skins started out poorly, but really came on hot in December to capture the NFC East divisional crown. Now though it’s an entirely new season, and as we’ve seen in the past, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have been very good about flipping that proverbial switch, and turning it on when the games matter most.
Much of Green Bay’s offense demise has been overstated. Their perceived offensive decline has looked far worse than it has actually been, because of the high-level of denses they’ve had to go up against. Green Bay this year took on six of the top 7 defenses in the entire NFL. Since Week 10, the only below-average defense the Packers took on were the Bears. They’ve drawn the short end of the stick of late, and going against a sub-par Redskins’ stop unit should be a welcome change for the coaching staff and Aaron Rodgers. In fact, Sunday’s game represents a huge opportunity for Rodgers to bust out of this slump, and do so in a big way. Washington doesn’t boast the best of pass rushes, and that won’t put pressure on a sketchy offensive line of the Packers. If that O-Line can hold up, and give Rodgers some extra time and space in the pocket, he can do some real damage to a porous secondary. Rodgers this week told reporters he “needs to let it fly a little more” and this is absolutely the defense to try that against. Washington struggled at initially getting pressure, and ranked 24th in defending against the deep pass. Both of those areas are ones in which the Packers will exploit on Sunday afternoon. And even though the Redskins have been better of late, Green Bay can burn them on the ground as well. Washington ranks 30th in the NFL with their run defense, and they’re dead last once running backs get into their secondary. They’ve surrendered a whopping 5.4 yards per carry over the past month, and expect both James Starks and Eddie Lacy to be licking their chops as they prepare for the Redskins. With this, expect a dominant ground attack to really open things up for the Packers on offense. Green Bay is poised to beat the Redskins defense in so many different ways, that I really don’t think Rodgers & Co. will have any issues moving the chains on Sunday.
On the other side of the ball, limiting the red-hot Kirk Cousins will need to be a priority for the Packers. He has looked very good of late, although he’s seemingly taken full advantage of playing a weak schedule and getting great protection. Cousins has been great when he has time and space, however when he’s pressured or hurried, he drops back to the below-average quarterback we all secretly suspect he is. Green Bay doesn’t boast a great pass rush, but it is good. And on Sunday, expect it to be good enough to disrupt Cousins and not give him the comfort he has been accustomed to over the past month or so. If Green Bay can get to Cousins with any form of regularity, it’s going to be a long day for the Redskins and their offense. Where Washington could struggle is if their deep passing game isn’t working, they are poorly equipped to exploit Green Bay’s key weakness of stopping the run. They are very vulnerable to conceding long running plays, but Washington simply doesn’t have the personnel out of their backfield to take advantage of this.
Washington enters in-form and riding a lot of momentum, while it appears as if Green Bay is firmly the opposite of this. When you factor in however match-ups against one another, and strength of schedule, both of these trends are vastly overstated. Ultimately expect both offenses to outplay the opposing defense – this should be a high-scoring game. But in a tight fourth quarter, expect Aaron Rodgers to fully utilize his arsenal of weapons to beat Washington in a variety of different ways. This unit can be thrown on or run on, while Green Bay’s defense should provide a bit more resistance. Expect Washington to become one-dimensional on offense, desperately seeking the long bomb to DeSean Jackson. When that doesn’t work, look for the Packers to take control, en route to a big Wild-Card victory.
PICK = Packers +1 (-110)